2021 NBA Finals features the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks.
In this article, I take a look at the history between these two franchises – how the draft shaped this Finals matchup, previous trades between them and reunions.
These two teams are pretty evenly matched throughout history, dating back to 1968. In 146 regular season meetings, Suns have 75 wins, Bucks have 71 wins. Suns have won 5 of 6 and swept the Bucks in 2021.
The Suns are favored to take Game 1 and are now getting -200 odds to win their first NBA Championship in franchise history.
Chris Paul was the #4 pick in the 2005 Draft, to New Orleans. Three teams passed on him – ironically the first two were the ones battling it out in the Eastern Conference Finals and the third is the only team with a better record than the Suns in 2021.
- Bucks – Andre Bogut
- Hawks – Marvin Williams
- Jazz – Deron Williams
Monty Williams and Jrue Holiday
You’ve heard all about Monty and Chris Paul reuniting this season. Paul began his career with the New Orleans Hornets, and Williams was his coach for 1 season (2010-11). After Paul left, he was soon replaced by Jrue Holiday, who spent 2 seasons playing under Williams (2013-2015), and helped the Hornets get to the Playoffs in 2015, before Williams was fired.
PJ Tucker and Chris Paul
Look away Rockets fans. In 2018, Rockets were up 3-2, 1 win away, blah blah blah. These two were a huge part of that team. Two years later, Paul was traded away and Tucker was traded earlier this season to the Bucks.
Speaking of Tucker, he faces the team that gave him his shot. Tucker was drafted by the Raptors in the second round of the 2006 Draft, but played sparingly and was eventually waived. After 5 years of playing Euro basketball, he returned to the NBA with the Suns, where he played 5 seasons from 2012-2017, where he averaged 8.0 ppg and 5.9 rpg, while playing 30 minutes a game, starting 286/377 games.
Monty Williams and Mike Budenholzer
The two head coaches actually know each other very well. Williams played for the Spurs for two seasons (1996-1998) and Budenholzer was a Spurs assistant coach, in his early days of learning the ropes from Greg Popovich.
Green is 12 year NBA veteran and is a current Suns assistant coach, who has seen his name mentioned for several head coaching vacancies this year.
Green was teammates with Jrue Holiday in New Orleans in 2009-10, both playing under Monty Williams. They were also teammates in Philly in 2009-10.
Eric Bledsoe Trade
One week into the 2017-18 NBA season, Bledsoe tweeted out this message and was soon traded from the Suns to the Bucks in exchange for Greg Monroe and a first round pick.
Bledsoe was the Bucks starting point guard in 2018-19 and 2019-20 when they had the NBA’s best record both seasons. But was traded to New Orleans before this season as part of the package for Jrue Holiday.
Brandon Knight Trade
How did the Bucks get Kris Middleton? In 2013, they trade former Rookie of the Year Brandon Jennings to the Pistons to acquire Middleton and Brandon Knight. In 2015, Knight was traded to the Pistons, in a three-team trade that sent Michael Carter-Williams to the Bucks from Philly and Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee to the Suns from Phoenix.
In November 2020, Craig signed with the Bucks as a free agent and in March of this year, was traded to the Suns for cash considerations.
Craig was used sparingly in Milwaukee, playing 18 games and averaging just 11 minutes off the bench. He started 8 games in Phoenix, playing 32 and seeing his minutes increase to 18.8 mpg. He scored 7.2 ppg and grabbed 4.8 rpg, become a valuable role player for the Suns.
This draft was awful – Anthony Bennett went #1. It’s best known for Giannis Antetokounmpo being drafted 15th by the Bucks, just outside the lottery. Like 13 other teams, Suns had a chance to draft Giannis and chose Alex Len 15th overall.
Len averaged 7.2 ppg and 6.5 rpg in 5 seasons with the Suns.
This is most relevant to the Suns in present time. While most lottery picks over the last 10 years have been misses, Suns NAILED this one drafting Devin Booker 13th.
Notably, Bucks drafted Rashad Vaughn 4 picks later at 17. Vaughn lasted 2.5 seasons with the Bucks and his career spanned just 138 games (133 with Bucks).
Also worth noting, Suns backup PG Cameron Payne was drafted 14th by OKC, right after Booker.