NBA Playoffs 2019: BIER ratings through the first two rounds, Bucks-Raptors preview

Wow, it’s been a while since a post here, and a year since the Bucks exited in 7 against the Celtics. Despite the vastly different result in this year’s rematch, the BIER numbers at the top aren’t a whole lot different for Milwaukee: Giannis Antetokounmpo again leads the way with an MVP level rating, with Khris Middleton shooting well from 3-pt and complementing Giannis with all-around numbers. The Bucks duo then looks for help from teammates — only this year, they have better help and a better coach and are headed to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Raptors.

But before I get too far ahead of things, let’s get to the numbers. First, here are the BIER ratings for the best players in the 2019 playoffs.

Top performers in the 2019 playoffs by BIER/game. BIER/36 represents the per-minute impact/efficiency of each player. BIER/gm is the actual output per game based on the per game minutes played to date. With the exception of minutes played (MP) all other box score stats are equalized per 36 minutes. Source data:

No surprises here. Jokic has been the most impactful player in the playoffs with Kawhi and Giannis right behind him. Jokic logged more minutes than the others, so what the Joker accomplished per game in Denver’s two 7-game series was Wilt Chamberlain-like. It really doesn’t get any better.

But Kawhi and Giannis are still standing, and ready to face off in game one tonight in brew city at the Fiserv Forum. Kawhi is simply out-shooting Raptors’ opponents so far, while Giannis has been getting to the line 13.7 times per 36 mins. That’s crazy. Toronto will obviously try to keep Giannis out of the lane and off the free throw line (good luck with that). The Bucks hope to cool the hot-shooting Leonard and force “the other Raptors” to beat them. Philly didn’t quite get this done, and the best player won the Raptors-Sixers showdown.

We certainly don’t need BIER to tell us about Kawhi — the basketball universe saw “the shot” to win Game 7. But as we look to BIER for the top non-MVP players in these playoffs, the Sixers stand surprising tall in the ratings.

Note that I haven’t included any Centers other than Jokic in the first table. Centers tend to put up higher numbers, so rather than pro-rate them into the charts, I took them out, not wanting to get derailed into talking about Rudy Gobert and Montrezl Harrell. Here again, ranking is by BIER per game, with the per-36 impact in the second-to-last column. Source data:

Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons lead “the rest”. Middleton has been solid, yet 21 non-centers — the top 4 in the first chart and the 17 players ahead of him in chart 2 — had more impact than Khris did in the first two rounds. Giannis takes some of those numbers in the model, true enough, but the Bucks in general have not had great consistency from key support players in these playoffs (George Hill being the exception), to the point where we don’t see notable BIER Bucks numbers past Giannis’ superduperstar rating. Still, these are generally solid numbers for Khris, and better than his regular season rating (he was below 6.0 for much of the season). Also note Midds’ great 3-pt shooting and the 5 assists per 36 in these playoffs.

Joel Embiid put up 10.31 impact with an 8.71 per game contribution. Between Butler, Simmons and Embiid then, Philly had plenty on paper to beat the Raptors (30+ BIER/gm as a trio). But with Embiid’s playing time limited in the middle games, the series was extended back to Toronto for Game 7 and … we know what happened there. Them’s the breaks.

Note also that there are three Warriors in this second chart — Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Steph Curry (who’s usually doing more in terms of BIER). The total for the GSW quartet is a BIER of 40+ — not including the centers (Looney and Bogut) and Klay Thompson. No quartet has been better, and they’re the champs for a reason. Playing without Durant, the Warriors are already up 1-0 against Portland.

After Giannis and Kawhi, we’ve seen only Pascal Siakam and Middleton from the Bucks and Raptors. Where is everybody else? Time for some more numbers.

Same as above charts, where BIER/36 represents equalized Impact/Efficiency and BIER/gm represents what the players total BIER contribution per game. GREEN = Bucks players, of course. Source data:

Oh, that’s a lot of GREEN. And, despite the long and torturous history of the Bucks vs. Sixers, I can’t help but feel sympathy for Philly fans. The Sixers were the better team, with better players – just not the best player. Leonard and Siakam have done the heavy lifting for Toronto, but the Raptors trouble is all-too obvious: Lowery, Green and Ibaka really need to step up their games to avoid being stampeded by the Bucks herd. As a group, those three Raptors need to shoot a lot better and contribute more if Toronto is to stay in the Bucks series past 5 games.

OK, so the Milwaukee individual numbers are inflated by their first round series against the Pistons. But anybody who watched the Celtics series saw that the opponent doesn’t seem to matter much to the Bucks in these 2019 playoffs. They are beating teams with motor, energy, a truckload of teamwork and DEee-FENSE.

Bucks in 5? The BIER model says it’s a real possibility, and that Toronto has been getting too much low impact basketball from key players to expect more. Can “The Raptors not named Kawhi or Pascal” step it up and play well enough to eventually force a Game 6 back in the North? Bucks in 5.

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