Milwaukee Bucks Can Overcome Injury Woes To Compete

Oct 6, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) practices before the second half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 6, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) practices before the second half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

The Milwaukee Bucks are crawling out of the gate with their roster thinned by injuries. They lost their first two games with John Henson and O.J. Mayo out and Jabari Parker waiting to be cleared. Milwaukee will likely fall again Sunday against the Toronto Raptors.

This stage of the season requires patience for Jason Kidd‘s squad. The Bucks face two of the four best Eastern Conference teams in the opening week. Mayo missed the first two games with a hamstring injury and Henson missed Friday’s game against the Washington Wizards with a sore left Achilles.

With those two sidelined and Parker still recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee suffered in January, the Bucks had a weak rotation facing the Wizards. Johnny O’Bryant, a second-year pro from Louisiana State University, is a far cry from Henson’s talent. Jerryd Bayless, an inconsistent journeyman, scored 14 points, but was the only reserve playing more than 20 minutes as the four starters besides O’Bryant saw 34 or more minutes.

Fortunately, after Sunday, the Bucks catch a break. Milwaukee plays the Brooklyn Nets twice, as well as the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets through Nov. 11. With the Celtics as the only clear playoff contender in this stretch, the Bucks have an opportunity to bounce back and reach a manageable record.

If the Bucks can win four of these six games, which include three at home, they can put themselves in reasonably competitive shape.

Also, during that time, the Bucks should get Parker back. Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times tweeted on Friday that Parker would soon be evaluated.

Kidd told the Associated Press’ Rich Rovito he’s positive about Parker’s condition, saying, “He looks great. He’s done everything. Hopefully, in those first couple weeks of November he can come back and start his process, his journey, of playing 10 to 15 minutes a night and hopefully getting his load bigger as the season goes on.”

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Parker, the No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft, averaged 12.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 49 percent from the field in 25 appearances last season before going down. He still needs significant development, but holds tremendous promise as an inside scorer and a smart defender.

For this season, Parker should build up gradually, first coming off the bench and, eventually, returning to the starting lineup to help push the team’s scoring. He won’t carry a tremendous burden, but he will bring them close to competing for a playoff spot.

The Bucks’ frontcourt depth without Parker is underwhelming. Before the 20-year-old returns, a typical starting set would see Henson and Greg Monroe starting inside. Miles Plumlee is the only true backup center and O’Bryant is the only other actual reserve power forward.

Giannis Antetokounmpo can function as a stretch-4 and Chris Copeland, a 6’9″, 239-pound forward, has seen half of the possessions in his career at power forward. But since Copeland only acts as a perimeter shooter, he doesn’t serve much purpose as a frontcourt player.

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For now, all the Bucks can do is ride out the string of injuries and recover in early November. Then, with Parker further on the recovery trail, Milwaukee can show the Eastern powers it can hang around with strong scoring and capable defense.