The 2021 NBA Finals are finally here. Although we have endured far too many injuries, the postseason has been fantastic. Ultimately, it would be hard to argue that the better teams in the league didn’t make it to the Finals. Honestly, the only argument might be the Brooklyn Nets. Regardless, here we are. The Phoenix Suns are set to hold homecourt in the NBA Finals.
The Milwaukee Bucks won their last title in 1971. At that time, they were in the Western Conference and had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson on their team. Yes, it has been a while. However, this Finals trip has been a long time coming. They committed to building around Giannis Antetokounmpo and it clearly has worked.
The Phoenix Suns have never won the NBA Finals. In fact, they haven’t even been good this last decade. Since they went to the Western Conference Finals in 2009-10, they only had one winning season prior to this year. Enter Chris Paul.
Let’s start by saying who knows who starts at the two for the Bucks. For these purposes, we will say Khris Middleton. Between Middleton and Jrue Holiday, the Bucks start two Olympians in the backcourt. Holiday is one of the best defenders in the league. Ask any superstar that he covers. He can go from guarding someone like Kevin Durant to someone like Chris Paul. Middleton is a bucket. He is the guy that finds his groove for three quarters and then when the Bucks call on him in the fourth, he goes bananas. Ask the Hawks.
As for the Suns, they also start two Olympians in the backcourt. Paul is going down in history as one of the best point guards ever. There is a legitimate argument to say he is the best ever. Alongside Paul, Devin Booker has shined. For whatever reason, he has always flown under the radar. However, he can score at will at four levels and has a nice clutch gene.
While the Bucks are loaded in the frontcourt, the Suns have just a tiny bit more. If the Bucks guards play better than the Suns’ duo, the Suns cannot win.
The Bucks have a fantastic frontcourt. It all starts with Antetokounmpo, of course. As a two-time MVP, he has shown the ability to dominate the lane and is a tough cover. However, his health is the question, as he is listed as doubtful for game one. If he is unable to play in this series or is not close to 100 percent, the Bucks have an uphill battle. Alongside Antetokounmpo are Brook Lopez and PJ Tucker. Tucker is a lockdown defender that can make some open threes. Lopez is the swiss army knife that can dominate the lane or step out and knock down jumpers. He carried the Bucks to a game five win over the Hawks.
The Suns are much more inexperienced in the frontcourt. It all starts with Deandre Ayton. Ayton destroyed the Lakers in the first round and followed that up with two more solid series. He has been one of the clear-cut winners of the postseason. The Suns also have Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder. Bridges is one of the best young two-way wings in the league. He is a monster defensively with his length and can score decently well. Crowder will bring energy and effort. Along with Paul, Crowder gives the Suns some toughness.
The Bucks have too much experience and too much length. However, if Antetokounmpo does not play, the edge goes to the Suns. Bridges will make life really hard for Middleton and Ayton can hang with Lopez. Crowder will be the X-factor because anything he adds offensively is gravy.
To put it gently, the Bucks have no bench. Bryn Forbes and Pat Connaughton are both incredibly streaky. Connaughton is very athletic and brings a ton of energy. However, they both are relied on to make jumpers which they haven’t done. The one guy that has been fantastic off the bench is Bobby Portis. The issue is, if Antetokounmpo is out, Portis starts which means they have even less of a bench than usual.
On the other hand, the Suns have a solid bench. Cameron Payne has broken out during these playoffs giving Paul a rest. Cameron Johnson is a great shooter and a good defender. Torrey Craig provides a really nice spark off the bench as well. They are limited in the frontcourt off the bench though. If Dario Saric struggles then Ayton may not be able to come off the floor.
Mike Budenholzer catches a ton of heat for his lack of coaching in Milwaukee. He made some adjustments in the Hawks series but that is quite rare for him. He definitely does not win this coaching battle. However, the Bucks have the edge with experience. While they don’t have any champions on the roster, they have a ton of playoff experience. This is a battle-tested team. Luckily, they finally started making jump shots in the Eastern Conference Finals. It was the first time they shot over 50 percent in the playoffs.
Monty Williams is one of the best coaches in the league. He is also a perfect fit for Chris Paul. They form quite an intelligent partnership. The playoff experience of Crowder is also very important. He is coming off an NBA Finals appearance with the Miami Heat last year. That goes a long way.
The Phoenix Suns win this series in seven games. Chris Paul wants to win this series more than anything. The added benefit for him is the guys around him don’t know any better that they aren’t supposed to be here yet. Additionally, Monty Williams will make adjustments when he needs to.
Milwaukee still has a huge chance. If Antetokounmpo can get healthy, they can win this series. The best case would be to split in Phoenix without him, have him come back to Milwaukee, and get his sea legs. If they can get the series to 2-2 with a 90 percent healthy Giannis, they can win the series. I just think it is Phoenix’s time. Either way, we are in for a show.
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