NBA Playoffs: 3 X-Factor Bucks who could surprise us, 2 who could fall flat

Apr 2, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 2, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /
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The drama is over, the board is set – the road to the NBA Finals runs through Milwaukee for the Eastern Conference. The final playoff picture is still up in the air and won’t be decided until after the play-in tournament concludes, but you can bet the Bucks coaches and players are already building out game plans for who they might face.

This isn’t new territory for Milwaukee, far from it. They’ve made deep playoff runs each of the last four seasons with the obvious highlight being their title run in 2021. They know how to handle themselves in the heat of the postseason and after an up-and-down start to the season, this group really started to meld and look like the title contender we had all hoped they would be.

There aren’t many new faces on the Bucks for this playoff run. The core cast of characters – Giannis, Khris, Jrue, Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis, Wesley Matthews, and Pat Connaughton – have all done this before. But there are some newcomers who could play a pivotal role.

The NBA is a star-driven league, and as much credit as the supporting cast deserves, this team’s fate will ultimately be decided by how far their three stars can take them. But everyone is going to play a role. Across the roster, here is who might step up and surprise us and who might fall flat.

Joe Ingles could play a pivotal role for the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Playoffs

I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical of how big of a role Joe Ingles would play when he signed with Milwaukee this summer. He took a bit to ramp up, but once he got comfortable, the impact he could have on this team was abundantly clear.

A savvy veteran, willing passer, and lethal 3-point shooter, Ingles can operate as the hub of the Bucks’ offense when asked to. It shouldn’t be the Bucks’ de facto operating mode, but fans shouldn’t be surprised to see Ingles take over to either stave off a run or blow a lead open in the playoffs.

The results can be special when the Bucks pair Ingles with players who are comfortable waiting for him to create opportunities for them. The trio of Ingles, Brook Lopez, and Khris Middleton has been particularly efficient.

The three don’t spend a ton of time on the floor together, but in those minutes they’ve been lethal. Give Ingles two willing and capable 3-point shooters, and he’ll find them. The trio shoots almost 40 percent from the arc when they’re together.

The Lopez – Ingles pick and roll is a threat in and of itself. You’ve got an absolute mountain of a man who can also shoot three’s setting screens for a crafty passer and steady 3-point threat. It’s not a surprise that the combo has worked out. But just look at this.

The Bucks are going to tighten their rotation in the playoffs, and Ingles might not play that much. But in the minutes he is on the court he can make a serious impact. That could be a deciding factor for Milwaukee in a series or two.