Bucks

Craig, Portis Add Much-Needed Youth, Toughness to Bucks

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The names aren’t going to jump off the page: Torrey Craig and Bobby Portis.

But two of the newly-minted Milwaukee Bucks provide toughness that seemed to be absent against Miami in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. They also add some much-needed youth, as the Bucks were the oldest team in the NBA last season.

A season ago, I wasn’t a fan of the Robin Lopez addition. Not a great fit and limited athletically. I am also a big fan of utilizing Giannis at the 5, particularly come playoff time.

Bobby Portis is a perfect fit next to Giannis as a big who can space the floor at one end and provides toughness on the boards at the other end.

The 6-foot-10 Portis enters his age 25 season with career averages of 10.1 points and 5.1 rebounds to go along with 36 percent shooting from 3. Also, he punched Nikola Mirotic when the duo were with the Bulls, which should garner some fans in Milwaukee from the get-go.

Then there is Torrey Craig, who will be the youth version of Wesley Matthews. Craig is a rugged defender who will guard the opposing team’s best offensive wing player. Craig will be going into his age 30 season and while he may not be part of closing lineups, he should be a pivotal pickup.

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With Matthews guarding the best opposing wing last year, it allowed Khris Middleton to have the best offensive season of his career. I don’t think that was a coincidence.

Enter Craig, who is a younger version of Wes defensively. Craig isn’t a great 3-point shooter at 32 percent last year, but that is good enough given the tenacious defense he plays.

The Bucks needed to replace Wes and they did so. Craig only averaged 18.5 minutes per game last year in Denver and averaged 5.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. He may receive slight upticks on those minutes.

The need for wings was apparent after the Eastern Conference Semifinal loss to the Heat last year. The other thing that was missing: toughness. Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder were bullies at both ends to the Bucks.

Craig and Portis solve the toughness portion. With other trade, free agent and draft acquisitions, the Bucks’ lineup versatility and ability to matchup with more athletic teams.

The Bucks can go with a two-PG lineup, as Jrue Holiday is big enough to guard 2s. They can go big perimeter with Jrue at the point with three wings and Giannis at center or go with a Giannis/Portis frontcourt.

Milwaukee might need some time and might not win 60 games again, but this team seems better equipped to make a deep postseason run in the increasingly tough Eastern Conference.

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About Mitchell Skurzewski

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