The Jayson Tatum issue facing the Bucks could come back to bother them during the playoffs.


Now that Jrue Holiday is in Boston, Milwaukee is unable to contain outstanding wing scorers.

Even though Jayson Tatum had, statistically speaking, one of his worst performances of the year in the Celtics’ 119-116 victory over the Bucks on Wednesday, it was clear from all the signs that Tatum would come back to haunt Milwaukee should the teams face off in the postseason.

This was and will continue to be the issue with the trade for Damian Lillard. The departure of Jrue Holiday, who was essentially the only defender Milwaukee had that could handle a wing scorer like Tatum, hurt the defence more than the offence did.

The Bucks won’t have a defence for Jimmy Butler if they see the Heat. They won’t have a response for Tyrese Maxey if they see the Sixers. Holiday was the only perimeter defender on the team who could really hurt their standout scorers; in his absence, Khris Middleton gets matched with Tatum. And it is just not going to be feasible.

Middleton, who underwent knee surgery last summer, is 32 years old, and it was clear on Wednesday that he lacks the strength or speed to stop Tatum from getting to the rim for a layup or a foul.

Tatum just needs to include Middleton in the action on screen if he chooses not to go one-on-one with him. While going under the screen is useless with Lopez in a drop, Middleton isn’t physically or swiftly enough to effectively affect Tatum by chasing over the top with Brook Lopez descending (Holiday may still be the world’s finest ball screen navigator, by the way). A defender out of his element is forced into a scrambling scenario, and this is what transpires:

What then is the other option? For Lopez to face Tatum one-on-one after Middleton substitutes for the large man? They also attempted that:

Alright, so perhaps the Bucks can bench Tatum and Middleton in favour of someone else. MarJon Beauchamp or Malik Beasley, perhaps?

On this Bucks roster, Tatum just has no match. Clearly, Lillard is unable to defend him. Set Pat Connaughton aside. At six feet six, Andre Jackson Jr. is a capable defender, but you’re going to start a rookie who is currently playing less than ten minutes a game against Tatum in the Eastern Conference finals?

If Jae Crowder is well, he might receive the Tatum call. He is 33 years old and will be sidelined for the next two months at the very least due to an abdominal rupture. That isn’t exactly a good solution, in my opinion.

If styles ultimately lead to battles, then matchups ultimately lead to the NBA playoffs. And with Holiday no longer around—not to mention that he’s currently with the Celtics—Tatum presents the Bucks with a terrible matchup. Yes, Wednesday night was not his best. It’s hardly a strategy to keep hoping for that to happen repeatedly in a seven-game series. It’s a longing to die. Aside from that, the Celtics were dominating the Bucks for the majority of the game despite Tatum’s mediocrity.

Regardless, the Tatum issue isn’t going away. You have to think, or at least hope, that Lillard will shoot better than he has to start this season if/when the Bucks and Celtics meet in the playoffs. And with what, I ask you, do you believe the Bucks can make a trade of any kind to acquire a true wing defender? They only dealt for Lillard; they didn’t trade for Holiday. That’s not Alex Caruso entering through the door.

That being said, the Bucks’ defensive choices with Tatum are as follows, and it doesn’t seem promising.