Indiana Pacers – Winners
The Pacers have been without All-Star and All-Defensive guard Victor Oladipo for all but 13 games this season, yet they still occupy the fifth seed and are just two games behind the Heat in fourth position. Having nearly four months off Oladipo should be back to full fitness. If that is the case, the Pacers could be one of the toughest teams to draw in the playoffs. The Brogdon-Oladipo backcourt could prove to be one of the most lethal in the league, both players are knockdown shooters and defensively versatile. Furthermore, the leap that Demontis Sabonis has made this season has sealed his place in the debate for most skilled big man in the league; he is now a very capable passer, scorer and defender. Whilst Indiana lacks a true star, they do have incredible depth and three All-Stars or borderline All-Stars to call upon.
Cause for concern: Lack of starpower. The Pacers are incredibly disciplined, brilliantly coached and almost perfectly balanced on offence. The thing that hurts them the most is that they do not have ‘the guy’ – someone who in a game 7 could go for 40 or go toe-to-toe with a Giannis or Embiid. They are a superstar away from being a championship team. This year a first or second round exit seems the most probable course.
Milwaukee Bucks – Losers
The Bucks have been arguably the best team in the NBA this season. If they struggle in the postseason this year the shutdown will almost surely be to blame. The Bucks currently sit at 28-3 at home this season; with all the teams now playing at a neutral location they have lost the home court advantage that they have worked towards all season. Milwaukee had done a great job of resting their best players over the course of the season, however the shutdown has allowed the teams that have been less proactive to make sure they are also at peak fitness.
Reasons for hope: The Bucks have sailed through the majority of the Eastern Conference. They are currently on pace to have the fifth largest average margin of victory in NBA history. Giannis Antetokounmpo is having one of the best individual seasons in the last decade, and has started to shoot the three more. If he can continue to develop his shot then in the postseason he, and the Bucks by extension, will be all but unstoppable. The Milwaukee Bucks will likely still enter the playoffs as prohibitive favourites in the East.