Still comfortably atop the NBA Power Rankings entering Week 12, the Milwaukee Bucks have to be at least a bit concerned about Giannis Antetokounmpo’s back. But other teams have injury issues as well.
As the NBA season hits Week 12 and approaches the actual middle of the season (as opposed to the accepted midpoint of All-Star Weekend), the Power Rankings are shuffled a bit, but it seems every team in the top tier has an injury concern (or two, or more) to deal with.
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For the No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks, who hit game No. 41 on Saturday night, while they are on a 70-win pace (more on that later), there has to be at least some worries in the locker room and offices about Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning NBA MVP who has been dealing with a sore back since right around Christmas.
Antetokounmpo has sat out two games outright, a back-to-back set at Atlanta and home for the Magic on Dec. 27-28, but is only averaging 30.3 minutes per game over Milwaukee’s last six games and his numbers have been those of a mere mortal of late (a really, really good mere mortal ,to be clear). He’s putting up 25.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists in that span.
But that’s far from the only high-profile injury concern. The Los Angeles Lakers have been without Anthony Davis for the last two games after a hard fall left him with a contused gluteus maximus. Davis has also dealt with a sprained ankle and an ongoing sore shoulder this season and hasn’t exactly been A.C. Green at any point in his career.
The Boston Celtics have a pandemic on their hands, with about half the roster missing time over the last couple of weeks due to illness. They’re also missing young center Robert Williams, who is dealing with a hip issue.
Kristaps Porzingis has missed seven straight games with a sore knee — a scenario that has to make the Dallas front office break out in a cold sweat. The LA Clippers are already managing Kawhi Leonard on back-to-backs and now have Paul George dealing with a strained hamstring.
Yes, the weeks leading up to the All-Star break can be as much about the battle of attrition than they are about competing talents. And, at least the last time we checked, there are no trophies for leading the NBA Power Rankings in mid-January.
And that hasn’t even mentioned the most terrifying (and too common) words in Philadelphia: Joel Embiid is out indefinitely. This time, it’s after surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left hand. If nothing else, Embiid proved the hypothesis that having one of your fingers bent so it is perpendicular to the remainder of your hand can lead to serious damage.
The Toronto Raptors are without three of their five starters, the Miami Heat have had trouble keeping a complete roster healthy all season (and are still 27-11) and the Utah Jazz have taken off since their prize offseason acquisition, Mike Conley, went down with a bad hamstring.
Besides the injury intrigue and its effects on the NBA Power Rankings, the trade deadline is less than a month away and it seems there is always at least one team that goes for an extreme midseason makeover. Between trades and post-deadline buyouts of the guys for which teams couldn’t find a trade partner, the roster churn on the horizon can be dizzying.
We’re in the calm before the trade deadline storm, even as rumors begin to heat up more and more. So let’s jump into the countdown.
Atlanta Hawks 8-31
Last rank: 30th
Last week: Lost to Denver 123-115, lost to Houston 122-115, lost at Washington 111-101
This week: Sunday at Brooklyn, Tuesday vs. Phoenix, Friday at San Antonio, Saturday vs. Detroit
The Atlanta Hawks showed some fight last week despite going 0-3, hanging around with Western Conference contenders in the Nuggets and Rockets at home before taking a 10-point loss as … Washington? Such is life when you’ve lost 13 of your last 15 games and have the worst record in the NBA … the struggle literally is real.
Trae Young is pushing for an All-Star selection. If he gets it, he could become the first chosen from the NBA’s worst team at the break since Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks was voted in as a starter in 2015. For the week, Young averaged 30.0 points, 9.7 assists and 7.0 rebounds in 36.5 minutes per game, shooting 41.9 percent overall and 34.8 percent on 7.7 3-point attempts a game.