How deep should the Milwaukee Bucks’ playoff rotation go?

Jul 8, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Jul 8, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /

Many things change from the regular season to the playoffs. The refs put their whistles away, the game transitions to more halfcourt offense, and teams scout you even harder. Another issue that the Milwaukee Bucks will face is shortening their rotation.

Teams go away from their lesser players to play their stars heavy minutes, especially as they get deeper into the playoffs. It can certainly change series-to-series for who plays and who doesn’t. The Bucks had a couple of great examples last year when Bryn Forbes torched the Miami Heat in the first round but didn’t play much in the following rounds. Bobby Portis was instrumental in their final two series but was benched for the end of their second round meeting against the Brooklyn Nets.

They’ve got some great contributions from their role players lately, but who will have to sit come playoff time?

How short will the Milwaukee Bucks’ playoff rotation look?

The short answer is that it will likely depend on the opponent, just as it did during the championship run. I’ve looked at what the fully healthy rotation would look like but the playoffs are a different beast.

Of course, there are locks for who will absolutely play in the playoffs, no matter what. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen, Bobby Portis, Brook Lopez, and Pat Connaughton are basically all guaranteed rotation minutes.

That’s seven guys, pretty much what the Finals rotation looked like, outside of some spare minutes being tossed out to guys when needed.

That leaves George Hill, Wesley Matthews, Jevon Carter, and Serge Ibaka as the guys who could be on the outside looking in. They can’t all play in every game of every series, an eleven-man rotation deep in the playoffs would be unstable.

No disrespect to those guys, but I’d rather the big three get more minutes at their expense.

But there is an argument for each one of them to play and have some sort of a role. Hill is a solid veteran ball-handler, Matthews is a trusted veteran wing defender, Carter has proven to be a fantastic defender, and Ibaka has come into his own as a Buck and his defense would be very valuable.

For as good as Carter has been, he seems most likely to get squeezed out if push comes to shove. Hill is a more proven commodity and can still get it done defensively, even if he doesn’t pick up full court like Carter.

Next would probably be Ibaka. If Lopez is back and healthy, it’s hard for me to see what kind of role Ibaka will have. However, there is a world where Ibaka gets solid minutes if Lopez isn’t feeling good enough to handle his regular workload by then. He’s been great as of late and I’d like to see him get rewarded, but it looks like it will be difficult for him to fit in.

Matthews has a built-in role, especially after the injury to DeAndre’ Bembry, as the only wing defender off the bench. His shooting has fallen off an absolute cliff lately and I don’t know how head coach Mike Budenholzer could justify playing him if the defense can ignore him from deep.

I don’t know who would take that over, but Matthews is a big x-factor down the stretch and into the playoffs with how his shooting has gone.

If I had to guess, the rotation would max out at eight guys deeper into the playoffs and who gets that extra spot would depend on the matchup. Nine guys would probably be stretching it in the Finals or even the Conference Finals, but they could get away with it in the early rounds.

Next. 3 reasons why the Milwaukee Bucks should start Brook Lopez. dark

It’s a blessing and a curse to have solid role players that do their jobs very well and it absolutely will be a curse for the Milwaukee Bucks when deciding who doesn’t get to play.