The East's Second Seed is Especially Important
The Bucks firmly sit atop the Eastern Conference, and as we previously detailed, you could make an argument that several of the other East squads could make a run at the NBA Finals.
Of course, for that to happen, securing one of the top-two seeds is of the utmost importance. There are a variety of reasons why securing that second seed provides a significant advantage over the three or four seed.
For starters, the caliber of playoff teams drops considerably after the six-seed. A team with the second seed will likely get to take on the now-Kyrie Irving-less Nets, the peculiarly underwhelming Magic, or (by the strike of god) the undermanned Wizards.
Considering all of the teams between 2-6 are all of somewhat similar caliber (and since the Bucks have basically secured a matchup with one of the aforementioned second-tier teams), the team with the number-two seed can expect a significantly easier matchup in round one. This doesn’t only increase their chances of advancing to the next round.
Rather, the increased likelihood of a sweep means the second-seed will have some significant rest before their subsequent, more-difficult matchup.
Further, the second-seed will have home-court advantage in the second round, and they’ll likely be going against the conference’s third-best remaining team. Many of the contenders for that second seed (the Raptors, Heat, and (especially) the Sixers) have struggled on the road this season.
Considering these teams are all competitive, it’s not unrealistic to expect the series to go seven games. In that case, home-court will be of the utmost importance.
Finally, the second-seed will get to avoid the Bucks until the conference finals. Now, we’re not saying that the second-seed is essentially delaying the inevitable (of losing to Milwaukee). Rather, the Bucks will also have a tough second-round matchup (especially if they go against the lengthy Sixers), and a second-seed could give them a run for their money at that point in the playoffs.
Sure, it’s still the Bucks’ conference to lose. However, if any of the other teams have a shot of making the NBA Finals, they should first focus on securing that second seed.