How the Bucks Stack up Against Philly


Most fans agree that the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers have the best road maps to reach the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals. The Bucks lost just Malcolm Brogdon while adding several intriguing complementary players. Philadelphia lost Jimmy Butler but tweaked the roster to maintain an effective, if Frankensteinian, playoff squad. The last two rounds of the NBA playoffs are the most memorable, so for the sake of argument Bucks Lead will fast forward to examine a tense Bucks-Sixers semifinal showdown.

Point Guard

Ben Simmons vs. Eric Bledsoe

Critics often lambast Simmons for a lacking jump-shot, but not every player needs to be a three-point wizard. Simmons greatly improved in tough situations from his rookie to sophomore season. In the 2018 playoffs, his total +/- was -21. This season, it was +39 while shooting 62.1% from the field. Bledsoe was an extremely effective player in his new city. His playoff +/ was +85, although his three-point percentage was just 23.6 percent. (Which was still better than Simmons). He struggled in three critical losses in Toronto, however. In Canada, he shot just 25% with a +/- of -16. Both are talented players, but Bledsoe’s playoff troubles restrain optimism, leaving Simmons the victor in this Bucks-Sixers matchup.

Advantage: Philadelphia

Shooting Guard

Josh Richardson vs. Wesley Matthews

Richardson averaged 16.6 points a game for the mediocre Heat with a net +/- of +.9. Matthews, an 11-year vet, wasn’t as effective in his final Indiana stop last season. Matthews averaged a -2.2 +/- with the Pacers while shooting a near-identical number of threes. Richardson averaged more (3.6 to 2.5) rebounds and more (4.1 to 2.3) assists while playing more (34.8 to 31.5) minutes. This Bucks-Sixers matchup is a close judgment, but Richardson’s skills are improving while Matthews’ are historically erratic.

Advantage: Philadelphia

Small Forward

Tobias Harris vs. Khris Middleton

Middleton preceded his mega-contract with a fabulous playoff performance. He earned a startling total +/- of +105. However, this was surprisingly divided into a +109 at home and -4 away from Milwaukee. Simmons played almost identically well at home in the postseason but was a significant 3.1 points per game worse on the road. This data is enough to favor Milwaukee by itself, but also consider Money Middleton’s clutch gene. From a half-court game-saver in Boston to a redeeming equalizer in a tight Toronto setback. Milwaukee’s sentimental favorite can’t be topped.

Advantage: Milwaukee

Power Forward

Al Horford vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Almost an uncontested election, this might be the most lopsided Bucks-Sixers comparison. Granted, Horford does have some factors in his favor. The three-team, 12-year expert has experienced an impressive 120 playoff games. However, he faded in two home losses to Milwaukee with an average +/- of -7.5. One should note he will play an important role with a young and mostly unproven Philadelphia roster. Meanwhile, the 2019 NBA MVP thoroughly dominated, turning the field into a defeated abyss. The Greek Freak averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists in the 2019 postseason. The only shortcoming was that he, like Middleton, struggled in Toronto, shooting just 41.2 percent overall and 48.1 percent on the freebie line in front of jeering haters. However, there’s no need to fret about small demerits when looking at a talent who’s still only 24.

Advantage: Milwaukee


Joel Embiid vs. Brook Lopez

Embiid played very well overall in the season-ending series loss to Toronto. However, due to various injuries, he averaged just 33.9 minutes. When all was on the line, he earned a +/- of +10 in game seven in 45 minutes, somehow in a losing effort. Lopez shot 187 threes last regular-season, good for 17th in the association while playing just 2.7 minutes a game. His lightning-bolt barrages could quickly turn a game, but occasional cold games frustrated. His total playoff +/- was a satisfying +96, but Lopez was only a total +1 in the East finals. Brook had a more aesthetically pleasing season but had a questionable role in the playoffs. At the same time, Embiid played better than widely credited. Lopez wins a narrow victory because he beautifully adapted hist playing style to the Bucks’ modern three-point system, while a “yeah-but” closely follows every Embiid triumph.

Advantage: Milwaukee


Milwaukee lost Nikola Mirotic but recently added longtime sharpshooter Kyle Korver. Korver launched 348 threes last year in Cleveland and Utah and landed 138, a 39.7% success rate; he’s not a washed-up ring-chaser. George Hill contributed 21 minutes/game off the bench and nearly propelled the Bucks to a 3-0 series lead in Toronto. Ersan Ilyasova is an important glue player (when healthy), and the brotherly additions of Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Robin Lopez should keep Giannis and Brook happy.

For the 6ers, Mike Scott appears to be the biggest role player. He contributed 19 minutes a game in the postseason and 24 in the regular season, critical for a team limiting starter’s minutes. Most impressively, he won a critical road playoff game with a late three. Zhaire Smith recovered from a frightening allergic reaction last season to dominate the 2019 Summer League. He has intriguing potential as a backup shooting guard. Kyle O’Quinn played limited minutes with Indiana, as the Pacers sank him in the depth chart. This season, however, he can be an adapt backup to Embiid.

Both these teams have benches that project productivity. But the swagger displayed by recent Bucks recruits suggests there’s a bit more bounce in their euro-steps.

Advantage: Milwaukee


Brett Brown vs. Mike Budenholzer

Brown patiently suffered through four dreadful process years before he was instructed to start winning. Philadelphia conceivably could have won the NBA title last season if it wasn’t for Kawhi Leonard‘s quadruple bounce dagger. He has a difficult task this season as he must motivate a complicated combination of ages and egos. For Budenholzer, he’s already done most of the hard work. He helped modernize the Bucks’ 90’s-style physical system and made the most of a previously underachieving franchise. Unfortunately, he appears limited with postseason adjustments as Cleveland swept his 60-win Hawks, and Toronto stormed back from down 0-2. But Budenholzer’s system passes the eye test, and Brown faces an unenviable challenge.

Advantage: Milwaukee


Milwaukee is ahead with Lopez, Giannis, and Middleton. Philadelphia edges the cream city with Simmons and Richardson. Both coaches are skilled, and one can’t accuse either team of roster shallowness. But Milwaukee wins the Bucks-Sixers series with intangibles the stats can’t display. Giannis and Middleton are driven to succeed for their beloved newfound home. Giannis won’t be stopped short of the finals in a conference with few teams nearly as talented as Milwaukee’s. Philadelphia thwarts Brandon Jennings‘ prophecy again but in vain.

Bucks In 7

RELATED: Raptors Won’t Beat Bucks Either

Stats courtesy of nba.com. Follow us on Twitter @BucksLead for the latest Bucks news and insight.


About Jeffrey Newholm

"Jammin Jeff" Newholm had been a basketball fanatic since his high school days, and remained a casual fan as a student in Whitewater. Wishing to check in as an active participant, he also completed a writing certificate program at UWM. He loves seeing Bucks games more than any other activity in hometown Milwaukee and especially screaming really really loudly to get someone to miss a free throw. Twitter: @JeffreyNewholm

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