The Milwaukee Bucks enter this week 11th in the Eastern Conference but only 1.5 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot. Their chances of making the postseason likely blew up, however, when Jabari Parker went down with a season-ending injury.
Last Wednesday's game vs. Miami was supposed to be a great night for the Bucks franchise. That's because it was the season debut of Khris Middleton. He ruptured his left hamstring in late September and underwent surgery. Middleton, who is in the second season of a five-year, $70 million contract, averaged 18.4 points, 4.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals last season. He was easily the team's best 3-point shooter, which is a big-time weakness on the Bucks.
Middleton did play against the Heat, but that was all overshadowed when third-year rising star Jabari Parker went down in third quarter and had to be helped off the court. The team originally called it a sprained knee, so no big deal. Parker himself told teammate John Henson: "I hyperextended it. It's cool. I'm good."
Alas, an MRI the next day revealed a torn ACL in that left knee. An injury to the same ACL in December 2014 knocked Parker out of his rookie season after 25 games. It is often said that a player won't be back to pre-ACL form for one full season. Parker was solid last year in averaging 14.1 points and 5.2 rebounds but looked much healthier this season and was averaging a career-high 20.1 points and 6.2 rebounds.
It's almost unprecedented for a player to return from a second torn ACL in the same knee so it's fair to wonder if Parker will ever be the same guy. The Bucks project about 12 months of rehab and recovery so Parker is likely going to miss the first half of next season too. According to ESPN, the only confirmed cases of an NBA player tearing the same ACL twice happened to Michael Redd (a former Buck) and Danny Manning. Both those guys suffered their second injury in their 30s. Parker is just 21 so at least he has the benefit of youth, but this is absolutely devastating. Derrick Rose has had a few injuries to the same knee but just one was a torn ACL. He hasn't been the same guy since.
It's such a shame because this team really had a bright future with its Big 3 of superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, Parker and Middleton, but they won't play a single minute together this year. The Greek Freak is going to have to carry even more of a load now and he already leads the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. The only players in NBA history (since 1946-47) to lead their teams in all of these categories for a full season are Dave Cowens, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James and Scottie Pippen. Middleton likely will remain on a minutes limit the rest of the season to protect him and probably sits out one game of any back-to-backs (he already has once).
It might behoove the Bucks to not make the playoffs this season and get in the draft lottery – it's supposed to be a very deep draft. The Bucks have to build through the draft because free agents aren't exactly clamoring to play in Milwaukee in the winter. Nice town and all, but not exactly the social scene of a New York, Los Angeles or Miami.
From an NBA betting perspective, I would recommend betting against the Bucks (just 21-32 ATS) more often than not now. They started 1-1 without Parker, losing at home to the sorry Lakers and then upsetting the Pacers in Indianapolis. Offense is likely to be a problem minus Parker's production so the ‘under' on Bucks games might be a smart play a majority of the time even though they are 32-20-1 O/U on the season and the first two games without Parker went ‘over' on NBA picks.