The Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks begin a seven-game series Wednesday with a trip to the NBA finals at stake (!!). Before tip-off, the Peachtree Hoops staff answers three roundtable questions. Today, we take a look at which matchups will be the biggest challenge for the Hawks throughout the series.
Zach: Matching up with Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton in the absence of De’Andre Hunter will be a challenge. Both players are highly skilled on each end of the floor and present real issues for opponents. How the Hawks deal with those guys likely determines the outcome of the series, because Giannis is probably going to get his regardless of what they do.
Graham: I think Milwaukee’s front court depth/quality may cause some issues in this series. Between Giannis and Brook Lopez, the Bucks have a very large presence in the paint (when Lopez isn’t shooting threes), PJ Tucker is going to disrupt defensively and even Bobby Portis had a strong regular season against the Hawks in the season series. The Hawks went to their big lineup of Capela, Collins and Gallinari in the Sixers series and I think we’re only going to see more of it here too.
Wes: The Hawks struggled with defensive length last series despite advancing, and length is something the Bucks possess in spades. While the Bucks tend to stay home and crowd the paint more than the Sixers — who preferred to wreak havoc with perimeter players — Atlanta will have to contend with perennial DPOY candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo and professional on ball defender Jrue Holiday even before accounting for the imposing Brook Lopez near the rim.
Glen: It’s their current lack of wing depth. The roster was built around good size and complimentary skills among the group of wings, but De’Andre Hunter and (presumably) Cam Reddish are out. It’s hard to know what you expect from Bogdan Bogdanovic. Tony Snell hasn’t looked like himself since missing a few games with an injury late in the regular season. They got by the Sixers, partly because Philadelphia plays smaller guards. The Bucks don’t. And that’s going to be tough.
Rashad: I hate to be so dense here, but I’m going to say Giannis Antetokounmpo. I don’t think the Atlanta Hawks have anything to stop him, and with that can open many more options for Milwaukee offensively. When he has it going, he can dump it off to Brook Lopez, hand it off to Khris Middleton or Jrue Holiday, or kick it out to PJ Tucker in the corner. There’s just so many options for the Bucks’ offensively when Antetokounmpo has his way.
Andrew: I think Milwaukee’s interior length tends to give Atlanta problems, disrupting air space on Trae lobs and getting good contests at the rim. They also do a good job of boxing out and denying second chance points. And I’m particularly concerned about Atlanta’s transition defense against Giannis as well.
Tony: Who is going to guard Khris Middleton? Collins and Capela will probably split time on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez. Most likely one of Bogdan Bogdanovic or Kevin Huerter will have to guard Middleton. It will most likely be Huerter given Bogdanovic’s injury status. Huerter has the length, but will he be able to keep Middleton’s three-level scoring in check? Questionable. Will be curious to see how quickly McMillan opts for Hill, if at all.