The Bucks are not a team of heroes. They aren’t a collection of misfit toys either. They’re so young that they haven’t had the chance to become heroes or misfits just yet. They’re like heroes that are being focused grouped still. Does MCW shoot enough threes to qualify? Does Giannis have the isolation game? Does Ersan’s penchant for charge disqualify him from being a playoff basketball hero?
But if Milwaukee wins tonight, we’ll likely find a guy or two to classify as the hero, even if it will truly be a team effort. (It’s always a team effort with the Bucks.)
Team effort or not, I can’t help but wonder which players are most likely to be heroes.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
This is the dream.
Fans seem on board with patiently observing the development of Milwaukee’s great Greek hope. No one really cares that he hasn’t become much of a threat outside of 10-feet from the basket just yet. Why don’t they care? Because he’s done enough inside 10-feet and on the opposite end of the court to buy himself all the time he needs to develop a jump shot.
Most fans don’t expect Giannis to step up tonight and lead the team to victory with a 30 point, 15 rebound effort or anything like that. Maybe in a few years, but not just yet. But the fact that Bucks fans hope some day he’s going to be the guy who has those performances is a big deal, and that hope exists because of games like game three.
Another huge night isn’t out of the question. The talent exists within Giannis more than it does in any other player on this roster. Him dropping a huge night like that in game six would add a potentially dangerous amount of fuel the Giannis hope fire. I’m all for the danger. Here’s hoping that thing burns bright tonight.
2. O.J. Mayo
He’s not Paul Pierce. I shouldn’t even be bringing up the name of Paul Pierce. But he is Milwaukee’s version of a veteran guy who can talk a little trash and potentially back it up. Mayo is a notoriously streaky player and he’s shot only 34.8% this series, so betting on him seems like a risk.
It’s fun to imagine him as the veteran shooter who steps up when the moment gets big and lets the opposition know about it as it’s happening. Maybe this is more of a hope or a figment of my imagination than it is reality, but let me have it for at least one more night.
Maybe this is more of a hope or a figment of my imagination than it is reality, but let me have it for at least one more night.
3. Khris Middleton
If we more strictly invoke reality into this exercise then Middleton is actually the correct number one option. He was the leading scorer on this post-February 20th version of the Bucks in the regular season and is by far the best 3-point shooter on the team. He’s stepped up in a variety of important micro-moments this year. Like when he beat the Suns with a banked in three at the buzzer or when he put the threat of the Miami Heat to rest with this dramatic three.
Middleton will also likely have to help keep Jimmy Butler in check, at least for part of the night. His hands will be full on both sides, which gives him ample opportunity to be Milwaukee’s hero in their improbable quest to rally back from a 3-0 playoff deficit.
4. John Henson
Henson has arguably been Milwaukee’s playoff MVP. He’s averaging 9.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 27.8 minutes per game this series. Defensively he’s been a part of most of Milwaukee’s best units. He’s wrestled away big man closer duties away from Zaza Pachulia – no small feat, as Pachulia looks like an actual professional wrestler.
He’s rarely going to score more than 15 or so points in a game, so it’s hard to envision Henson as hero unless he goes out there and blocks something like ten shots.
I refuse to rule that out as a possibility though.
5. Michael Carter-Williams
Let’s be fair: last game was the aberration of his series so far. That’s not to say he can’t do it again, but it is to say that he has had four mediocre to bad games this series and one great game. So, while he’s coming off a great game, it’s still tough to expect MCW to play the hero once again, score 20 points or dish out nine assists.
But the ball is in his hands an awful lot, and he did some things around the hoop in game five that it wouldn’t be crazy to envision him doing again. The process behind his 22-point game five effort wasn’t so different than his other games; he just executed better. If he continues to finish well, he very well could be tonight’s hero.
6. Jerryd Bayless
The pros? Already did it once. Takes no guff.
The cons? Has not made a 3-point shot in the past 20 days. Has only attempted four 3-point shots in the past 20 days.
7. Jared Dudley
I would have put him ahead of Bayless, had Bayless not been the hero finisher of game four. Dudley was the hero passer, but passers never get the credit they truly deserve. Dudley’s been a good 3-point shooter this series and has held up juuuust well enough as a power forward to play about 20 minutes per game.
Given Milwaukee’s success being so closely tied to stopping Chicago inside around the hoop though, it’s hard to envision him playing more than 20 minutes against Chicago’s big front line in an elimination game.
8. Zaza Pachulia
He’s not the hero type. He’s the working man. He’s the dude who plugs away behind the scenes to make everything look beautiful. That’s not the role of a hero. Zaza is too selfless.
And he relies too much on that arcless 13-foot jumper that he somehow makes about 40% of the time. Heroes shoot threes and dunk, Zaza.
9. Ersan Ilyasova
PROVE ME WRONG.
10. Miles Plumlee/Jorge Gutierrez/Tyler Ennis/Johnny O’Bryant
What a story it would be if one of these guys came out of nowhere to win game six for the Bucks. I’ve written their names in order of most likely to make an impact to least likely to make an impact. Even in my wildest dreams or nightmares – nightmares probably – no scenario comes to mind in which Johnny O’Bryant could lead the Bucks to victory tonight. Sorry JOB.