Carlos Delfino's first season back in Milwaukee appears to be over before it started.
Having been out since May with a broken bone in his right foot, Delfino wrote on his official website today that the bone has yet to heal properly and another surgery will be required. His recovery time is expected to be four to six months.
Delfino originally broke his foot during the Rockets' first round playoff series against Oklahoma City, so his injury was no secret when the Bucks signed him in early July to a two-year deal worth a guaranteed $6.5 million (a third year is non-guaranteed). At the time the Bucks didn't have any wings on the roster other than Antetokounmpo and had just missed out on Kevin Martin and Kyle Korver, so there was some sense in signing a known quantity for fairly low dollars as the market for small forwards began to thin out. How much was the market thinning out, you ask? Well, consider that by mid-July the top two small forwards on Hoops Hype's free agent rankings were Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette. Yikes.
But the 31-year-old's rehab didn't go as expected over the summer, and the Bucks' acquisition of Caron Butler in late August was motivated at least in part by fears that Delfino would miss an extended portion of the season. Should the Bucks have known better when they signed Delfino? Quite possibly, but it's still not clear when exactly his rehab went haywire. Surgery in May to insert two screws was deemed a success, but a setback in August proved an ominous sign of what was to come. All we know is that his $3.25 million salary is little more than dead weight at this point, with an open question as to whether the same will be true next season.
It's another unfortunate bit of news for the sharp-shooting Argentine, but it's one that the Bucks are fairly well equipped to handle depth-wise with Butler, Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo all available to pick up the slack. And let's be honest: it's not like anyone was expecting Delfino back anytime soon, and at this point it's more important that the Bucks give youngsters like Middleton and Giannis minutes anyway.
As for the small forward rotation going forward? Well, Butler leads the team in forced jumpers and shouldn't be playing 30.8 minutes per game, but he can still hit threes and has been widely praised for his leadership of a young Bucks team. Meanwhile, Middleton has established himself as the team's most versatile wing defender over the first two weeks of the seasons, averaging just over 20 mpg while splitting time between both forward positions. It's not clear exactly how good he can be, but there's no reason to think he can't be as good or better than Delfino would have been this season.
Last but not least there's Antetokounmpo, who stands to benefit more than anyone else from Delfino's ongoing absence. A healthy Delfino likely would have left Antetokounmpo buried on the bench for the foreseeable future, but instead the 18-year-old Greek saw regular minutes in the preseason and played in each of the Bucks' first three regular season games as well. The emergence of Middleton and Drew's heavy (over-) reliance on Butler led to back-to-back DNPs for Antetokounmpo against Cleveland and Dallas, but we'll likely (hopefully?) see him semi-regularly going forward.
Credit to our Argentine friend Sebas Adúriz (aka Palomba1) for first alerting us of the news.