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Are the Milwaukee Bucks taking advantage of injured opponents?

The Milwaukee Bucks have managed to catch a lot of teams at less than full strength this season, but have they capitalized on those opportunities?

Scott Boehm

I can't decide where to place the emphasis in the title to this article. Is it: "Are the Milwaukee Bucks taking advantage of injured opponents"? Or maybe: "Are the Milwaukee Bucks taking advantage of injured opponents?" Or perhaps I'm looking at it all wrong and it should be delivered with a measure of concern: "Are the Milwaukee Bucks taking advantage of injured opponents?" Maybe you can help me decide.

More than a few Bucks games this season have been difficult to watch -- by which I mean the actual basketball product has been tough to digest -- yet I don't feel like the Bucks should carry the blame for such mild entertainment. Sure, it's been tough to watch a team built to funnel shots to inefficient combo guards like Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis on a nightly basis, but the opposing teams are the groups that most often disappoint me. Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh deserve some credit for making things hard on other squads, but that's not the whole story.

In fact, the word "incomplete" might be the best way to tell the rest of the tale. John Wall, Nene, Danny Granger, Gerald Henderson, Derrick Rose, Jason Kidd, Ricky Rubio, Rajon Rondo, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Brook Lopez, DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Thornton, Anderson Varejao and Deron Williams have all missed games against the Bucks this season, and I think that talent void is part of why the games have turned out to be lukewarm events on my basketball calender.

Now you may be tempted to say "hey, the Bucks have been missing key players too," but let's get real. It's true that Luc Mbah a Moute, Mike Dunleavy and Beno Udrih have not always been available to the team this season, but the truth of the matter is that the Big 3 players for Milwaukee, Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and Ersan Ilyasova (as determined by commitments made by the franchise is money, minutes and role on the team) have been healthy and ready to compete nearly every night.

After watching the Nets commit another crime against basketball on Wednesday night, I decided to create an attendance sheet (of sorts) to illustrate how many games the Bucks have played against less-than-half-full competition. I ignored situations where unimportant bench warmers missed games, and focused on situations where top-3 players from opposing teams did not suit up against the Bucks.

Date Opponent Key Players Missing Outcome
Nov. 9 at Wizards John Wall, Nene Win (101-91)
Nov. 14 vs Pacers Danny Granger Win (99-85)
Nov. 19 at Bobcats Gerald Henderson Loss (98-102)
Nov. 24 vs Bulls Derrick Rose Loss (86-93)
Nov. 26 at Bulls Derrick Rose Win (93-92)
Nov. 28 vs Knicks Jason Kidd Loss (88-102)
Nov. 30 at Timberwolves Ricky Rubio Loss (85-95)
Dec. 1 vs Celtics Rajon Rondo Win (91-88)
Dec. 3 at Hornets Anthony Davis Loss (81-102)
Dec. 5 at Spurs Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green Loss (99-110)
Dec. 9 at Nets Brook Lopez Win (97-88)
Dec. 12 vs Kings DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Thornton Win (98-85)
Dec. 18 vs Pacers Danny Granger Win (98-93)
Dec. 22 vs Cavaliers Anderson Varejao Loss (84-92)
Dec. 26 vs Nets Deron Williams Win (108-93)

Is an 8-7 record a good mark in those games? I'm not entirely sure what the Bucks destined to do this season, but I do know that most of the teams on this list will get their star players back in the second half of the season. Danny Granger will make the Pacers better, Derrick Rose will make the Bulls better, but what will happen to the Bucks if the competition plays at full strength more often? I ask because I'm not convinced the answer is obvious, and yet the Bucks have so many important decisions to make during the second half of the 2012-13 NBA season.