Milwaukee Bucks Role Players Who Must Step Up in NBA Playoffs

Jordan RodewaldContributor IIApril 7, 2013

Milwaukee Bucks Role Players Who Must Step Up in NBA Playoffs

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    Despite the Milwaukee Bucks finally clinching a playoff berth Saturday night, their hopes of winning a playoff series—or even pushing a team to the brink—grow dimmer with each completed game due to poor play.

    In order to do either of the aforementioned, they'll need strong performances from certain role players this postseason.

    Plagued by inconsistency and a complete lack of effort defensively in recent games, the Bucks haven't been able to get over the hump and claim the seventh seed—or better.

    And while the team as a whole needs to find a way to come together and start playing better basketball, the Bucks won't get anywhere without their role players stepping up.

    Some will—and need—to be more productive than others.

    But who will those players be, how will they increase their roles and what will an increased impact mean to the team?

5. Samuel Dalembert

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    Laugh if you want to, but the play of 31-year-old veteran Samuel Dalembert will have a big impact on how the Bucks fair this postseason.

    In 16.3 minutes per game, Dalembert is averaging 6.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. Those numbers—given his playing time—aren't bad and show the aggressiveness that he brings to the floor.

    Starting center Larry Sanders has been known to get into foul trouble, pick up technical fouls and rack up ejections. When those things occur, Dalembert's importance becomes even more vital.

    Nothing he does is spectacular, but the little things make a big difference.

    If Dalembert can make use of his minutes by rebounding, scoring the occasional basket and, most importantly, playing defense, he will have done his job.

    Milwaukee's defense is its weakness, and if Dalembert—who has been a good defender most of his career—can make his presence felt, the team will be all the better for it.

4. Ekpe Udoh

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    Much like Dalembert, nothing Ekpe Udoh does is usually worth putting into a highlight reel or enough to get Twitter buzzing.

    But what Udoh does bring to the table is hustle, defense and rebounding.

    A key for the Bucks—especially if they face the Heat—will be to control both the offensive and defensive glass. Preventing any team from getting second-chance opportunities is a must, but it gets amplified if it's a team like Miami.

    Udoh has great strength and isn't easily pushed around. Coming off the bench, he provides great energy and can be a spark for his team while still playing smart.

    In other words, he knows what he's good at, and he knows what his limitations are.

    Occasionally, Udoh will explode and have a great game like he did recently against the Oklahoma City Thunder when he scored 14 points, hauled in 11 rebounds and blocked two shots.

    While that example certainly isn't commonplace, consistent contributions on offense from Udoh will help alleviate the pressure on Sanders.

    If Udoh can do the small things on offense while providing the Bucks with another physical player, they become even more formidable and intimidating defensively.

3. Luc Mbah a Moute

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    Luc Mbah a Moute continues a theme that should be fairly obvious by now: defense.

    Despite some inconsistencies, the Bucks don't have a problem scoring the ball, as evidenced by their 99.2 points per game—which ranks 12th in the league.

    Where they struggle is on the defensive side of things. In fact, the 100.5 points per game they allow opponents to score puts them 21st in that category.

    Unlike Dalembert and Udoh—who primarily guard the rim—Mbah a Moute is much more versatile.

    In addition to being able to defend other small forwards, he's quick enough to guard some shooting guards and at 6'8" is long enough to defend certain power forwards.

    And while calling him a defensive stopper might be stretching it a bit, Mbah a Moute is the best one-on-one defender the Bucks have.

    If he can play solid defense against elite offensive players in the playoffs while scoring and rebounding right around his averages, Milwaukee has a chance to challenge whoever its first-round opponent turns out to be.

2. Mike Dunleavy

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    Much like almost everyone else on the team, Mike Dunleavy has suffered from inconsistent production on offense.

    On the season, he's averaging 10.3 points per game, which is down two points from last season. In addition to his scoring, he's providing the Bucks with 3.9 rebounds per game.

    Those numbers aren't bad for a guy coming off the bench, but they could be better.

    Dunleavy also probably wouldn't mind having the month of March back, seeing as he averaged just 7.4 points per game on 37.2 percent shooting from the field.

    Part of that struggle might have had something to do with the acquisition of J.J. Redick at the trade deadline and the team trying to adjust, but that shouldn't be an excuse.

    In order for the Bucks to make a postseason run, Dunleavy will need to revert back to his 2011-12 form.

    Why?

    In Milwaukee wins this season, he's averaging 12.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game with a 47.1 field-goal percentage while connecting on 49.6 percent of his three-point attempts.

    Simply put, when he scores and shoots the ball well, the Bucks are successful.

1. J.J. Redick

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    When the Bucks acquired J.J. Redick from the Orlando Magic at February's trade deadline, they did so with the expectation that the former Duke standout would provide them with needed shooting.

    So far, that hasn't been the case.

    Since arriving in Milwaukee, Redick's percentages have dropped, and his scoring has taken a hit.

    In 22 games, he's averaging 12.1 points and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 42.4 percent from the field and 33.6 percent from behind the three-point line.

    And while those aren't far off his career averages, they're certainly not what the Bucks traded for.

    The possible explanation for Redick's struggles since putting on the green and red can be debated.

    Is he still trying to figure out how to mesh with Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings? Is his constant movement on offense wearing him down as the season comes to a close? Are defenses keying on him more?

    All are reasonable questions, but there isn't really a clear answer.

    What is clear is that if the Bucks hope to push the Heat—or any potential playoff opponent—in a seven-game series, they'll need Redick to consistently contribute like he was with the Magic.

    Whether it's running pick-and-rolls with Larry Sanders or knocking down open threes, Redick needs to be more aggressive and figure out why his shot hasn't been falling.

    If he—and the rest of the players on this list—can, the Bucks might have a run in them.