A few weeks ago, the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns agreed to a swap of players that didn’t necessarily fit with what each franchise needed. Tonight, these two teams will face off for the first time since that trade, giving both of Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe a chance to get one up on the team that sent them away. Additionally, the Bucks are coming off of two rough losses, and could use their road trip to get back on track.
Eric Bledsoe came to Milwaukee and treated his new home like a fresh start, and boosted the Bucks to a four-game winning streak...before the team fell flat on its face against the Dallas Mavericks and failed to get back on its feet against the Washington Wizards. Starting a West Coast road trip is rarely seen as an opportunity to “get back on track,” yet that’s the position that the team is in. Exacerbating the situation is Milwaukee’s lack of depth; Jabari Parker continues his rehab, Matthew Dellavedova is currently dealing with his own knee injury, and it was recently reported that both Mirza Teletovic (knee) and John Henson (eye) went through surgical procedures and will be out for some time longer.
Player to Watch: Eric Bledsoe
The Bucks stop and go based on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, but the story of Bledsoe returning to the franchise that (in his view) forced him out while he’s in his prime is worth following. Bledsoe has been a dynamic addition for Milwaukee, who sorely needed his quickness and athleticism in the guard rotation, but his shot has been erratic (TS% of 0.444 with the Bucks, ahead of only D.J. Wilson and Jason Terry), and getting revenge on his old team would be a great start to his redemption story.
The Suns were predicted to be Western Conference basement dwellers this season, and giving up Bledsoe for a modest return seemed to only strengthen their tanking efforts. However, they’re actually tied with the Utah Jazz and ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers, two teams that were predicted to be more in the middle of the pack and have suffered through injuries. The Suns, coming off of a 113-105 home win against the Chicago Bulls, also have had three days of rest before tonight’s matchup, and will be welcoming back Tyson Chandler after missing three games with an illness. The Suns also have a number of players out indefinitely with knee issues, including former Bucks Brandon Knight (ACL rehab) and Jared Dudley (knee sprain).
Player to Watch: Greg Monroe
Moose had reinvented himself as a bench scorer in Milwaukee, but after returning from his calf injury has been installed into the starting lineup and enjoyed some significant production: 20.3 points/36, 10.1 rebounds/36, 3.7 assists/36, 1.7 steals/36, and 1.1 blocks/36 (all in only 64 minutes across 3 games). It’s unclear whether or not Monroe will start for Phoenix, but without John Henson across from him, Moose will have a chance to feast on the significantly lighter Thon Maker and the raw Joel Bolomboy.