NBA Staff Picks: Can Milwaukee Roll Past Atlanta Into The Finals?

NBA Staff Picks: Can Milwaukee Roll Past Atlanta Into The Finals?

This article is part of our NBA Roundtable series.

With Round 2 of the NBA Playoffs wrapping up Sunday night, we're now down to the final two teams in each conference. While we won't get Game 1 between the Hawks and Bucks until Wednesday night, the league moved forward with the Western Conference Finals beginning Sunday afternoon, as the Chris Paul-less Suns outlasted the Kawhi Leonard-less Clippers.

Our panel was asked to submit their picks after Game 1, so Phoenix's victory is factored into each pick.

Here is how the RotoWire NBA staff predicts the Western and Eastern Conference Finals will play out:

(3) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks

Nick Whalen: Bucks in 5

The Bucks showed they were plenty vulnerable in Round 2, but making it past the Nets – injuries or no injuries – felt like a massive stepping stone for a franchise that's failed to get over the hump so many times. If Milwaukee takes Atlanta lightly, they'll find themselves in trouble. But the Bucks have to like the individual matchups – especially with De'Andre Hunter sidelined. The Bucks should also be able to count on a much better series from Jrue Holiday, while the Hawks' second-best scorer, Bogdan Bogdanovic, may not be at 100 percent.

James Anderson: Bucks in 5

On the one hand, Trae Young is a tough matchup in pick-and-roll for the Bucks, as they aren't good at switching, so that should be an effective set for Atlanta. However, the worst matchups for the Bucks are teams that can go small enough with five shooters to play Brook Lopez off the floor, and the Hawks won't be able to do that without going to a lot of John Collins-at-center lineups, which seems unlikely. I think this Bucks team is quite vulnerable, but the Hawks don't have quite the scheme versatility to take advantage.

Jeff Edgerton: Bucks in 5

Neither of these teams should be here. The Nets would have wiped the floor with any East team if they had been fully healthy, and the Sixers were simply overconfident.  That being said, I think the Bucks have the talent advantage to keep Atlanta from becoming this year's Miami Heat.

Mike Barner: Bucks in 5

I've felt all along that whoever won between the Bucks and Nets would win the East. The Bucks might have an even easier path now with the Sixers out of the picture. Trae Young can carry the Hawks to one win, but I think Giannis and company will have a relatively easy path to the NBA Finals.

Alex Rikleen: Bucks in 6

I think this just comes down to the Bucks having a better team with better players. I think the Bucks gained some important confidence last series – I was impressed by the way Khris Middleton rebounded following his pathetic Game 5 and the way Jrue Holiday came through in the clutch late in Game 7 despite a terrible first 40 minutes. The Hawks have the coaching and shooting advantage, but I think the high end talent gap insulates the Bucks from those deficits

Ken Crites: Hawks in 7

Somebody is going to give Nate McMillan A LOT of money this off-season. He deserves it, after getting dumped by Indiana and then turning around the Hawks. After hack-a-Simmons worked in Round 2, I can only imagine what Atlanta has in store for Giannis. The underrated match-up is Clint Capela versus Brook Lopez. Will Capela's athleticism and ability to run in transition be too much?

Jacob Lebowitz: Hawks in 7

Although I am impressed with how the Bucks were able to beat the Nets, I'm more surprised by how the Hawks beat one of the best Sixers teams in a while. In the regular season against the Bucks, all three games were close. The Bucks won a close first game when many of the Hawks' typical starters were out. In their second game, the Bucks again had a narrow victory but this time the Hawks were without key sixth man Danilo Gallinari. In the final matchup of the regular season, the Hawks were able to win without Trae Young. The Bucks had all their key players in every matchup and yet the Hawks kept it close in each game. I expect the Hawks to continue to fight adversity and take down the Bucks in Milwaukee in a Game 7 that plays out similarly to Sunday's win over Philly. 

Kirien Sprecher: Bucks in 6

I have been impressed by the ability of the Hawks' frontcourt to limit Julius Randle and Ben Simmons from getting easy buckets at the rim, but I just don't see that holding up against Giannis Antetokounmpo. I expect the Bucks to be efficient offensively and to protect the rim defensively. If the Hawks can catch fire from three (I'm looking at you Bogdan Bogdanovic), they can steal a few games, but I just don't see Trae Young being able to get to his spots with Brook Lopez and Antetokounmpo in the paint.

(2) Phoenix Suns vs. (4) Los Angeles Clippers

Nick Whalen: Suns in 4

Hey, why not? The Suns won without Chris Paul in Game 1, and I don't see why they can't do the same in Game 2, which would be their ninth consecutive win. Paul figures to be back in the near future, and as long as he looks like a reasonable facsimile of the player we saw in Round 2, Phoenix has more than enough weapons to take down the Clippers without Kawhi Leonard. I know Los Angeles has been cagey about Leonard's condition, but I'm not expecting him to be back at any point in this series.

James Anderson: Suns in 5

The Suns are riding an eight-game winning streak, and the fact that the Clippers couldn't knock them out in Game 1 without CP3 doesn't bode well for the Clippers' chances when the Suns are at full strength. I'd expect LA to steal one of these next couple games (if CP3 is still unavailable), but Phoenix is really locked in right now and shouldn't face a real test until they matchup with the Bucks in the Finals.

Jeff Edgerton: Suns in 5

The Clippers may be able to take one game at home, but the loss of Kawhi Leonard is going to be the difference-maker in this series. Chris Paul will be back by Game 3, and judging from how they handled LA without his services, we may very well see a sweep.

Mike Barner: Suns in 6

The absences of Paul and Leonard kind of negate themselves, but the difference is that we'll likely see Paul at some point in this series. The Leonard injury seems to be serious, possibly one that impacts him into next season. As well as Paul George and some of the Clippers' role players have performed, asking them to defeat this hot Suns team is too much.

Alex Rikleen: Suns in 5

If Chris Paul isn't back by Game 2, or Kawhi Leonard returns early, I'll extend this to Suns in 6. But the Suns are the better team and they consist of more talented players. Maybe Paul George is as good as, or slightly better than, Paul or Devin Booker. But with Leonard out, the Suns' No. 2 is better than the Clippers' 2, their 3 is better than L.A.'s 3, and so on down until, what, something like DeMarcus Cousins vs. Frank Kaminsky in the battle between the 10th-best players? I understand  it was a quick turnaround for the Clippers, but I thought they needed to take Game 1 when Paul was out to have any chance in this series.

Ken Crites: Suns in 6

Phoenix is already up 1-0, and while these Clippers have gone down 2-0 twice and managed to win both series, I still can't believe they got past Utah after Kawhi Leonard went down. The magic will run out at some point, assuming Leonard doesn't come back.

Jacob Lebowitz: Suns in 5

The Clippers have played surprisingly well since losing Kawhi Leonard, and while his status for the rest of the Western Conference Semifinals isn't clear, I'm starting to think he'll miss the remainder of the series. As for the Suns, Chris Paul shouldn't be in quarantine for too much longer and I expect him to return by Game 4, at the latest. With Paul back, the Suns have a complete team that's built for a championship and won't be beaten by a team without its best player. Game 1 of this series was fairly close until the Suns pulled out to a late lead thanks to Devin Booker's 40-point triple-double. I expect the Clippers to take a game at home, but Paul's return will end up tipping the series momentum far in the Suns' favor. 

Kirien Sprecher: Suns in 7

I see this one as dead even, as all Conference Finals should be, with both teams playing their best ball at the perfect time. The biggest matchup in this series is Deandre Ayton versus the Clippers' small-ball unit. The Clippers hit their stride against the Jazz when they went with Nicolas Batum playing as the stretch big so it'll be on Ayton to take advantage of those mismatches. If Ayton is able to force the Clippers to play Ivica Zubac or DeMarcus Cousins, then Devin Booker will be able to exploit them on the perimeter. This series will take a massive swing if Chris Paul or Kawhi Leonard is able to play, and seeing as Paul is a lot closer to returning than Leonard I have to give the edge to the Suns. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
James Anderson
James Anderson is RotoWire's Lead Prospect Analyst, Assistant Baseball Editor, and co-host of Farm Fridays on Sirius/XM radio and the RotoWire Prospect Podcast.
Mike Barner
Mike started covering fantasy sports in 2007, joining RotoWire in 2010. In 2018, he was a finalist for the 2018 FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year award. In addition to RotoWire, Mike has written for Sportsline, Sports Illustrated, DK Live, RealTime Fantasy Sports, Lineup Lab and KFFL.com.
Alex Barutha
Alex is RotoWire's NBA Assistant Editor. He writes articles about daily fantasy, year-long fantasy and sports betting. You can hear him on the RotoWire NBA Podcast, Sirius XM, DraftKings Live and other platforms. Vince Carter and Alex both first dunked during their respective sophomore years of high school.
Ken
An early RotoWire contributor from the 90's, K-Train returns with the grace of Gheorghe Muresan and the wisdom of Joe Gibbs. Tweet @KenCrites or e-mail at ken@rotowire.com. Ken won the FSWA 2014 Humor Article Of The Year award. He's also the 2016 Champion of the prestigious RW NBA Keeper League and the 2019 Champion of the RW NFL Ottonue Keeper League. Ken still owns a RotoNews shirt.
Jeff Edgerton
Jeff has provided sports content for numerous sports outlets and has played fantasy sports since scores had to be tabulated via newspaper. He started working with RotoWire in 2017. Originally from South Carolina, he's a lifelong Clemson fan now enjoying the sun in Los Angeles.
Jacob Lebowitz
Jacob writes about fantasy sports and sports betting for RotoWire. He's always doing something sports-related whether that's playing NBA 2K, watching a football game or playing a game of pickup basketball.
Alex Rikleen
Rikleen writes the NBA column "Numbers Game," which decodes the math that underpins fantasy basketball and was a nominee for the 2016 FSWA Newcomer of the Year Award. A certified math teacher, Rikleen decided the field of education pays too well, so he left it for writing. He is a Boston College graduate living outside Boston.
Kirien Sprecher
Kirien Sprecher is a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate who dreams of being a beat reporter in the MLB.
Nick Whalen
RotoWire's NBA Editor and host of the RotoWire NBA Podcast. Nick was awarded the FSWA Best Podcast -- All Sports award in 2017 and 2018. Many years ago, Stromile Swift gave Nick his unbelievably sweaty headband after a preseason game. Despite its failure to match his school colors, Nick went on to wear that headband for the entirety of his sixth grade basketball season. Catch Nick on Twitter @wha1en.
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