The Bucks’ 2-guard position could be a hole in their path to the NBA title

A great team is only as strong as its weakest link. At least that’s the consensus of every motivational speaker I’ve ever heard. But due to space constraints, this also applies to NBA contenders. I’ll examine the vulnerabilities in some of the NBA’s most ironclad lineups heading into the 2023 season, from top-ranked teams with recycled players playing key roles to coaches cut out of cardboard.

On Monday, Damian Lillard couldn’t stop chewing as he, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton posed for a Media Day photo shoot. “I’ve never been in a photo like this man,” Lillard beamed.

This Bucks foursome marks the first time that Dame wasn’t the underdog, but was conspicuously absent from Milwaukee Four Horstman was the fifth player to start and finish games for the Bucks. Golden State’s for years Five-person death lineup was the holy grail that every squad pursued.

The Milwaukee Bucks’ move from Jrue Holiday to Lillard was the most significant in the NBA since Golden State traded Harrison Barnes for Kevin Durant in the summer of 2016. It was sparkling. The NBA community was so confident that Lillard would end up in Miami, ESPN cameras during Colorado’s late night Caught matchup against Colorado State Kyle Lowry, who could have been a throw-in given his exorbitant salary, and Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups They may have performed light manipulations before retreating to separate corners as if being pursued Cheater’ Joey Greco.

The only thing keeping Lillard and Antetokounmpo from being considered a perfect union is the divideN their wing between Lillard and Khris Middleton. The 2-guard has been a dead center in the Bucks foundation for years. Milwaukee still hasn’t fully recovered from the original sin of trading Malcolm Brogdon for a trio of firsts. But now that the Bucks are taking center stage as Vegas’ title favorites, their warts are getting even bigger, and the hole on the sidelines looks even deeper under the microscope.

It is becoming increasingly common to find a number of shooters who can accept dribble handoffs and shoot 40 percent. It’s really difficult to find a guard who can defend and shoot. That’s why Klay Thompson was more valuable than CJ McCollum for so long. Milwaukee currently has neither.

For his part, Jrue Holiday spent a third of his defensive possessions Attached to the striker’s shoe with Velcro. Teams will make the effort to switch Lillard to a stronger forward or a winger Dynamo. Luckily, he’s surrounded by stoppers and one of the league’s best on-ball defenders in The Greek Freak.

Holiday wasn’t the only loss Milwaukee had to deal with defensively. One year ago, Grayson Allen and Jevon Carter were the other point-of-attack defenders in Budenholzer’s best perimeter defensive formations. However, Carter quietly signed with the Bulls this summer while Ted Cruz replicant clone was shipped to Phoenix as part of the three-way trade for Lillard.

Allen’s final game as a Buck was an ill-fated outing that ended with time running out in Game 5 and the season. Allen started most of the Bucks’ games alongside Holiday over the past two seasons, but in the void he left, new head coach Adrian Griffin has a selection of subpar decisions.

There’s long-time Buck reserve Pat Connaughton who does all the dirty work and plays with more energy than a power plant, but would probably have been even more desirable NBA free agent pitching prospect as a swingman who doesn’t create shots for himself or others or take open shots at a high rate. However, Connaughton played the fifth-most minutes among the Bucks over the last two seasons, and Budenholzer’s proven emergency starter will likely be used again.

Newly signed guard Malik Beasley belongs to the NBAHe’s a pure shooter, but also a low-effort defender who has tunnel vision and can focus on getting his own shot off. But like most high-volume shooters, its efficiency can vary wildly.

The Bucks The most recent draft pick is MarJon Beauchamps, a 2022 first-rounder selection, and Andre Jackson Jr. could step up, but he hasn’t proven they’re ready for prime time yet, nor should they be expected to. Jackson shined as a ready-made playmaker for national champion UConn, making him a better fit alongside Lillard’s shot than he would have played alongside Holiday. More importantly, he is a serviceable defender. All of this could become moot if a senior fullback or 3-and-D specialist ends up on the block at the deadline and the Bucks could acquire Beauchamps or Jackson as trade assets. Despite the uncertainty, Milwaukee is in an enviable position.

Defensively, Lillard can be a liability. But he’s no more problematic than Donovan Mitchell, who plays alongside Darius Garland for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ No. 1 defense. This unit had the advantage of being complemented by the duo of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, who led a Cavs defense that made it possible fifth lowest field goal percentage within eight feet of the bucket. Milwaukee’s defense was third.

Milwaukee has done more with less before. In 2021, Milwaukee won a title with Donte DiVincenzo barely scrape by logging double digits Scoring averages and minimal game buildup. The level of concern is minimal. On one Scale of Pothole to crater, their lack of options is a pothole, but the expectations are huge for whoever deserves that final spot.

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