With LeBron James leaving Cleveland and taking his talents to Los Angeles, the NBA’s Eastern Conference became wide open. Toronto is still a player in the East with the addition of Kawhi Leonard, and the Boston Celtics have the best team on paper. However, the Milwaukee Bucks have been the team to beat in the Eastern Conference this season.
Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee has more than 50 wins this season, and it leads the way home court advantage in the playoffs. The team just got stronger by signing Pau Gasol, after he was waived by San Antonio earlier this season. Gasol is a two-time NBA champion, and his signing makes the Milwaukee Bucks a virtual lock to make the Eastern Conference finals.
The Bucks could use depth on their bench as they head toward the home stretch as injuries seem to pile up during the long 82-game season. Gasol doesn’t have a lot of wear on his tires this season, as he averaged a just over 10 minutes per game in San Antonio. He hasn’t seen much time in his first few games with Milwaukee, but we expect him to become a reliable player on the second unit.
Scoring in the post
One thing Gasol can still do at 38 years old is score the ball in the post. He can still use his length and height to beat out smaller players for offensive rebounds, and he has a variety of moves to use and finish in the paint. Gasol will benefit from having Milwaukee Bucks standouts Giannis and Kris Middleton at his side. Both players can make the defense converge on them, leaving Gasol open for easy dunks and wide open jumpers.
The Bucks currently have Brook Lopez as their starting center, but he is used as a three-point shooter more than a traditional post up big man (even though it was one of his strengths coming out of Stanford). Giving Gasol the ball in the post could throw defenses off, and allow the Bucks offense to find a third option during late stretches.
The final thing Gasol brings to the table is his championship pedigree. After starting his career in Memphis, where he was an All-Star caliber player, Gasol was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Immediately he was viewed as a player who could help Kobe Bryant win a championship without Shaquille O’Neal, and Bryant’s respect for international basketball players helped.
The Lakers became a very good team and the duo of Bryant & Gasol would go on to win two championships in Los Angeles. Gasol has been on a number of lengthy postseason runs, and he knows what it takes to win a seven-game series in the most important games on the basketball calendar.
He can provide valuable insight and also come up with ways to keep the younger players on the team composed when the Bucks face a ravenous road crowd.
Will the Milwaukee Bucks win the East?
Signing Pau Gasol made the best team in the Eastern Conference a notch better, as he can provide a number of valuable qualities to a team without a lot of playoff success or experience. How far do you think the Milwaukee Bucks will go in the playoffs this season? Will they run into a buzzsaw in Boston? Will Joel Embiid become an unstoppable force in the paint, resulting in an early exit for Milwaukee? We’ll have to watch the playoffs to find out the answer.