The Milwaukee Bucks may not appear like a capable team come the 2013 NBA Playoffs. Believe it or not, they have much more spoiler potential than you think.
Yes, their record is an unimpressive 36-37, and they'll most likely be the team with the worst regular-season record in the playoffs.
Furthermore, they'll likely be matched up against one of the Eastern Conference's best, probably the Miami Heat. There's certainly a chance the Bucks will get waxed in the first round and look like a team who doesn't belong.
On the other hand, it wouldn't be shocking if the Bucks stretched a series against a high-caliber team to six or seven games—perhaps even winning it.
This is the type of team Milwaukee is. Nothing should surprise you. With their personnel and playing style, they can beat anybody or lose to anybody. These are the types of teams that are scary come the spring because they can catch fire and pull some major shockers.
There are numerous reasons why the 2012-13 Bucks possess spoiler potential—reasons all worth highlighting as we ramp up toward NBA playoff time.
Remember the 2007 Golden State Warriors?
We begin this conversation by remembering a team from six seasons ago. The current Bucks feature some peculiar similarities to the 2006-07 Golden State Warriors, who ousted the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the opening round.
This Warriors squad contained numerous trigger-happy guards who scorched the nets during this matchup. Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Jason Richardson and (ironically) Monta Ellis carried Golden State to this emphatic series upset.
The Bucks' core of Brandon Jennings, Ellis, Ersan Ilyasova and newcomer J.J. Redick all have the capability of catching fire on any given night. This poses problems for opponents because such a core is unstoppable if they each find a groove.
If this happens, then the Bucks could write history similar to the Golden State bunch who shocked the world in 2007.
The Jennings and Ellis Combination
The Jennings and Ellis combination should never be overlooked. On some occasions, they look like an awkward mesh of talent who should be playing on separate teams. On other occasions, the Bucks' guard play looks unprecedented because both players are cashing jump shots and creating for others.
The bottom line here is that Jennings and Ellis can both dominate games. They can get crazy hot, and they naturally ignite fear in their opposition. If they both find a flow in a playoff series, this could spell doom for anybody.
The sky's the limit with Jennings and Ellis running the show. If they're in rhythm and flourishing alongside each other, they can easily combine for 50-plus points and 15-plus assists.
Success Against Elite Teams
Perhaps the biggest factor in this discussion is Milwaukee's success against quality Eastern Conference opponents, namely the Heat and Indiana Pacers.
On the season, the Bucks are just 1-2 against the Heat, but one of those losses came in overtime in Miami. What's more, their win was a shellacking, as they routed the Heat in late December. Milwaukee clearly has the ingredients to adequately compete with the star-studded cast from South Beach.
Against Indiana, the Bucks are an even 2-2. This reveals that if the Bucks slide into the seventh slot and meet the Pacers, they can most definitely make it a quality bout.
What's evident is that the Bucks aren't a team who has merely beat up on poor opponents while getting pushed around by the league's best. They've hung with the league's elite on a regular basis, and with their potent arsenal, top-notch teams like Miami and Indiana shouldn't glance over what's brewing in Milwaukee.
Nothing to Lose
The last facet to consider is the reality that Milwaukee will have nothing to lose. As a seventh or eighth seed, nothing remarkable is expected. Everyone expects them to lose in four or five games and begin looking toward June's NBA draft.
With such expectations, the Bucks can enter the playoffs with a light-hearted mental mindset, in which they can thrive off their potential spoiler role.
This means they can take chances offensively (i.e. shooting threes in transition) and defensively (i.e. gambling by going for steals). This type of recipe could very easily backfire, but it could also result in a success story in which Jennings and Ellis spark numerous offensive runs as well as transition lay-ins off steals.
Feeling the weight of pressure surely won't accompany the Bucks in the playoffs, and sometimes this mindset is exactly what a team needs to excel.
With all of this in view, it remains illogical to actually pick the Bucks to beat a team like Miami or Indiana in the first round. In Miami's case, it's doubtful that they'll lose to anybody.
But, don't expect the Bucks to be a pushover. They are scarier than what their record reads, and they have the unique makeup to make noise come late April and early May. They could very easily extend a series to six or seven games, and perhaps they'll become the story of the 2013 playoffs by bouncing a top seed and emulating the 2007 Warriors.