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Trail Blazers vs. Bucks Preview: Major injuries on both sides as Portland hosts Milwaukee

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Tonight the Bucks take to the court for the first time this season without Jabari Parker.

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

So, now what? The number one question on everybody's mind when it comes to the Bucks is simply, where does the season go now that Jabari Parker is out for the year with a torn ACL? Parker's effectiveness may have been suspect, but he was playing a big role, ranking second on the team in total minutes played and total field goals attempted. Distributing all those minutes and shots presents a new challenge for Jason Kidd and the rest of the coaching staff, and the continued absence of key frontcourt contributors like Ersan Ilyasova and John Henson will limit the options for the time being.

However, as Frank pointed out in his piece earlier today, losing Jabari doesn't appear likely to send Milwaukee into a tailspin on the court:

But while Jabari had been showing clear signs of improvement over the last month, we shouldn't confuse that with him becoming a major driver of the Bucks' early success. None of this should be surprising of course, as even the most talented 19-year-olds generally aren't equipped to help an NBA team actually win basketball games. Through 25 contests, Jabari ranked 78th out of 80 small forwards in ESPN's real plus-minus metric (-4.08 pts/100 possessions), which measures a player's impact on team offense and defense while controlling for quality of teammates and opposition (among other things). Similarly, the Bucks have been vastly better both offensively (+10.6 pts/100) and defensively (-3.9 pts/100) without Parker on the court.

Trouble in Portland Too. A season-ending injury to a promising young rookie is a devastating blow to any team, but if there's a bright side for the Bucks it's that team expectations were low in the first place. If things go south and the Bucks fall out of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, few dedicated fans are going to be overly upset.

That isn't necessarily the case in Portland, where the Trail Blazers are battling for a top seed in a stacked Western Conference. So while the news that Robin Lopez is expected to miss 6-7 weeks with a broken hand may not send Blazer fans into the deep depression Bucks fans are currently experiencing, it's a potentially major blow to a team with eyes on home-court advantage in the playoffs. Lopez provided a strong defensive counterpart to star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, and the Blazers' bench rotation now runs the risk of being dismantled as the team adjusts to Lopez's absence. Portland could move backup Chris Kaman into the starting lineup and backfill with some younger players, but as Dave Deckard wrote in reaction to the injury, leaving Kaman in his current role might be the safer play:

Don't be surprised if the Blazers end up preserving Kaman's bench role, just with larger minutes. He's a huge key to the second-unit offense. Take him out of the equation and they've reverted to last season's scoring power...which ain't much. Look for the coaching staff to consider [Meyers] Leonard or [Joel] Freeland starting, Kaman playing when it matters most.

2014/2015 NBA Season
Portland-trail-blazers.v76b8a2d
(19-6, 11-2 home)
vs.
Milwaukee-bucks.vadb4300
(13-12, 6-8 road)
December 17, 2014
Moda Center | Portland, OR
9:00 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Damian Lillard PG Brandon Knight
Wesley Matthews SG O.J. Mayo
Nicolas Batum SF Jared Dudley
LaMarcus Aldridge PF Giannis Antetokounmpo
Thomas Robinson C Larry Sanders
2014/15 Advanced Stats
93.9 (10th) Pace 93.7 (13th)
108.9 (7th) ORtg 104.1 (21st)
101.8 (6th) DRtg 105.4 (12th)

On the Blazers: Blazers EdgeThe Oregonian