Bucks vs. Suns: NBA Finals X-factors

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Dan Halverson

July 5th, 2021

The 2021 NBA Finals are set. The Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns will face off in Game 1 on Tuesday evening, and it will result in either the first Milwaukee championship in 50 years or the first Phoenix championship ever.

As we prepare for the series few could have predicted when the 2020-21 season began, let’s take a look at the two x-factors that could determine the league's next champion.

NBA Championship 2020/2021

Mon, August 30 2021, 11:57 PM

Phoenix Suns


Milwaukee Bucks


Phoenix Suns: Assist to turnover ratio

Phoenix enters the 2021 NBA Finals with the second best assist to turnover ratio in the NBA. Led by veteran point guard Chris Paul, the Suns are valuing the basketball in a way we haven’t seen from this franchise ever. As a team, their ratio is 2.1 assists to turnovers. Paul is most critical to this success, with his 4.2 assist to turnover ratio, which is third best in the NBA, and it makes a world of difference to his team’s offensive efficiency.

Field goal shooting percentage fluctuates from player to player and game to game, as does rebounding. However, good passes and excellent ball movement help improve a team's shooting percentage, and avoiding turnovers gives a team more opportunities to light up the scoreboard. During Golden State’s run with Kevin Durant on the roster, the Warriors dominated the NBA with their assist to turnover ratio. It's a telltale statistic that clearly demonstrates that a team plays intelligent basketball.

The Suns’ ability to protect the rock, play team basketball, and make the extra pass has made them phenomenally dangerous on offense. If they keep it up against Milwaukee they could be hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy in another week.

Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo's availability

Milwaukee's x-factor is no secret. Giannis Antetokounmpo was rumored to be available if the Bucks needed him in a Game 7 against the Atlanta Hawks, so it's fair to assume he will see the court in the NBA Finals.

"The Greek Freak" is widely regarded as one of the top five players in the NBA, and is someone the Suns can't neutralize in one on one situations. Jae Crowder will certainly do his best to try, but doesn't have the strength or size to stop him consistently. Phoenix center Deandre Ayton can slow him down when he’s in the paint, but doesn’t have the foot speed if Antetokounmpo gets a head of steam and momentum toward the hoop.

If Antetokounmpo is able to mostly recover and bring his elite athleticism, it should open up the court for a Bucks roster that has proven they can play good basketball without him. The Bucks have always been a team that mostly deferred to Giannis, with Khris Middleton largely filling the role as Robin to his Batman, but he and Jrue Holiday showed what they're capable of by finishing off the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Antetokounmpo averaged 28.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game this season. In two games against the Suns during the regular season, he averaged 40 points. While the Bucks survived the Hawks series without him, they will need everything "The Greek Freak" can muster to defeat the Suns. His health will ultimately determine the Bucks’ fate more than any other factor.