Milwaukee Bucks: Why Brook Lopez needs a bigger role in NBA Finals

Jul 8, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
Jul 8, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Milwaukee Bucks‘ quest for an NBA championship is certainly being tested as they have fallen into a 2-0 hole to the Phoenix Suns.

Save for a few big exceptions, nothing has gone according to plan for the Bucks and defending their home court is their only option for fending off a Suns team that is intent on winning their first championship in franchise history. It’s not a matter of going back to the drawing board as it is just regrouping just as they have in various spots over the course of their run to the NBA Finals.

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Whether that factors in veteran Bucks big man Brook Lopez is among the biggest questions of the series so far.

Lopez hasn’t been as big of a factor as we’ve seen throughout this run in part due to the minutes reduction he’s seen against the Suns. After playing nearly 23 minutes in the Bucks’ Game 1 loss to the Suns, Lopez saw a slight increase of nearly 28 minutes of run in Milwaukee’s 118-108 loss to the Suns.

It hasn’t been a matter of Lopez not being productive, at least that was the case more so in Game 1. Lopez finished with 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting (3-for-5 from three) as well as six boards before trailing off with eight points on 4-of-10 shooting (0-for-2 from deep), nine rebounds, two steals and two blocks in Game 2.

Even with that in mind, the Bucks and head coach Mike Budenholzer has gone away for Lopez during opportune moments of their series with the Suns so far after having relied on Lopez for their playoff run. And with the Bucks in need of all they can get from their supporting cast at the moment, perhaps turning to Lopez for more minutes or even maximizing his role further moving forward.

Milwaukee Bucks have to maximize Brook Lopez’s role and minutes in the NBA Finals

Yes, Lopez has had his fair share of moments of having to guard in space and hold his own against the likes of Chris Paul and Devin Booker. The Suns’ star backcourt and their exceptional shotmaking ability has been on full display when Lopez has had to step up on the perimeter and try to use his size and length to deter shots to little or no avail.

That’s been reflected in the Bucks’ defensive rating being at 123.4 points per 100 possessions over the 51 minutes Lopez has been on the floor, per That’s the third highest mark of any Bucks player who has played this series and that number trickles down to 110.6 points per 100 possessions in the 45 minutes Lopez has been on the bench.

Lopez hasn’t exactly painted himself in glory over his minutes this series and the same can be said for any Bucks player not named Giannis Antetokounmpo so far. However, what the Bucks have gained in versatile, speed and the ability to switch more when Lopez is off the court, they have lost a key ingredient that Lopez brings to the table along the way.

The Bucks’ small ball lineups have, unsurprisingly, been able to replicate the rebounding success that have been standard to Bucks teams under Budenholzer. To that point, Lopez’s rebounding metrics this series show quite the disparity as he holds the highest offensive rebounding percentage (36.7 percent) and total rebounding percentage (54.1 percent) of any Bucks player to see time on the floor.

Without Lopez, the Bucks have a 18.6 offensive rebounding percentage and a 46.5 total rebounding percentage. This comes with the territory of drifting towards smaller lineups and as we’ve seen so far this series, the Bucks’ size advantage has yet to really make an impact or create a sizeable advantage that can carry them to success.

All of this illustrates the complicated point Lopez and the Bucks are at in this series. The big man is instrumental to the Bucks’ identity and success over the last three years and just as the Bucks have evolved in, so has Lopez and he’s been willing to take any role that is asked of him over this playoff run.

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As his minutes have taken a hit to what he previously posted in past series, Lopez’s usage and value to the Bucks has gotten lost in the process. Now with their backs against the wall as the Finals shifts back to Milwaukee, it’d behoove the Bucks to find their way again and do so in ways that empowers Lopez more than we’ve seen to this point in the series.