It seems like with every game, the number of sky-is-falling Milwaukee Bucks fans increases. That number might hit a new high after Jabari Parker left Wednesday night’s game against the Miami Heat. Parker left unable to put much – if any – weight on his knee. It was the same knee Jabari Parker injured 12 games into his rookie year (a torn ACL). Although the play was completely different, the scene was eerily similar: Parker was trying to make a cut to get around a defender, and he overextended his left leg, putting too much weight and pressure on the knee in question. While we wait for a conclusive update on Parker’s knee, it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on the Milwaukee Bucks season thus far.
Jabari Parker Injured, Milwaukee Bucks Roller Coaster Continues
Having gone 2-11 over their last 13 games, it wouldn’t seem like there is much to be positive about. Not to excuse the losses, but the five-game losing streak that started the slump included five games in seven days. So the Bucks’ quirky schedule has done them no favors, especially given the Parker news. But shedding some perspective on the situation might shine a little light on all the darkness that is encompassing the Debbie Downer Bucks fan. The season must go on. Unfortunately, seeing Jabari Parker injured is nothing new for this squad.
Giannis Antentokounmpo is a Star
Among the NBA’s young stars, Giannis Antetokounmpo has made a compelling case that he’s the best of the group. One could split hairs and move Antetokounmpo below the likes of Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns. But Davis has had his own share of injuries, and Towns has not taken a leap like many expected after his historically great rookie campaign.
The growth of Antetokounmpo into an unquestioned All-Star is enough, in itself, for the Bucks season to classify as a success. Milwaukee has not a player of this caliber since Ray Allen. Though it’s not likely to happen this season, Antetokounmpo – going forward – is poised to become one of the few players in Bucks history to receive MVP votes. (Can you name the others?)
Progress in Other Areas
The Bucks found a gem in Malcolm Brogdon. Thon Maker is making strides towards turning into a regular contributor. And above all, Khris Middleton is back. Middleton is a key piece to the puzzle. But his progress is now put on an accelerated curve. His return means that there’s one more guy to make up for the loss of Parker. Given Middleton’s past performance, he’s the most likely to pick up the slack. It’s going to take a little time and patience, however, for him to get back into proper form.
Parker’s departure might mean some changes in approach. That may actually help the rest of the team. Slowing the pace down will give Greg Monroe more post-up opportunities. And the subtraction of Parker might actually allow the defense to play more aggressively. Things could get interesting in Milwaukee as the Bucks could stand pat and play the season out, or go looking for additional pieces to fill in the cracks.
Making up for the loss of Parker is no small task. He was in the midst of easily his best year as a pro, with per-game averages of 20.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and one steal. His three-point shooting was also an unexpected spark. Even while suffering a mild slump as of late, he still is shooting 36.7 percent from long range, an improvement of over 10 percentage points from his career mark.
Moves Made and Moves to Make
Last week, Milwaukee flipped Miles Plumlee to the Charlotte Hornets for Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes. Ironically, the Bucks made that move primarily as a way to dump Plumlee’s salary. But with Parker out, Hibbert and Hawes may be called upon in ways not quite expected. And both could benefit from a slowed-down offense in the same way that Monroe stands to gain.
As a whole, the Bucks roster has only one untouchable (Antetokounmpo), and a few pieces that it’s hard to imagine the Bucks getting the return they need to deal (Maker, Parker, Middleton, Brogdon). Outside of that, though, everyone else seems to be available. With Parker healthy, the odds were probably not in favor of the Bucks being involved in any major deals. Now, they could turn into an interesting team to watch come the trade deadline. This decision will be the toughest that new ownership has faced since taking over.
Dealing with Jabari Parker’s injury is demoralizing at a time when confidence was already at a season low. But all is not lost. The prognosis for Parker might not reveal a worst-case scenario. Perspective is key; the current Bucks season is about more than wins and losses. Every move made should be with an eye towards the future. Milwaukee’s championship window has not opened yet, but Antetokounmpo is the grease to slide it open. Hopefully, he’ll have his running mate, Parker, back sooner rather than later.