After a convincing loss against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks trek higher into the Rocky Mountains to take on the Denver Nuggets and try to pull out of their tailspin (1-9 in their last 10 games). And, oh yeah, the roster changed!
Yesterday’s news was as unexpected as it was welcome, as the Bucks traded Miles Plumlee’s ill-advised contract to the Charlotte
Bobcats Hornets for Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes, waiving longtime benchwarmer Steve Novak. While Hibbert’s and Hawes’ respective futures in Milwaukee are unclear and probably short-lived, the Bucks now have 33% of their roster dedicated to centers, and will for the foreseeable future.
It is unlikely that Hawes or Hibbert will be available for the remainder of the Bucks’ road trip, but the aforementioned glut of centers means they aren’t a huge need in the rotation. At the 5 spot, Thon Maker and Greg Monroe still figure to collect the primary rotation minutes, with John Henson third in line.
Outside of the front court, things are still in flux for the Bucks. As Eric Nehm noted in today’s Locked On Bucks podcast, this trade was a great move for Milwaukee despite not making the team any better. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker are still in a longstanding funk, with Giannis playing perhaps his worst game of the season against Utah.
On a different note, the WESC construction continues along nicely. “Own The Future,” right? The team’s future remains positive, especially with some signs of...something...from Thon Maker against Rudy Robert on Wednesday. Plus we get to see Giannis play in the All Star Game in a few weeks! This is fun!
As has been the case all year, Khris Middleton remains out while continuing to rehab his hamstring injury, but his return inches closer and closer every day.
All signs indicate Khris Middleton’s return to the Bucks is coming soon. https://t.co/UZ94yJIVhd— JSOnline - Bucks (@js_bucks) February 1, 2017
Khris Middleton getting some work in pregame for the Bucks. Looks spry. pic.twitter.com/HH1UaA22VG— Ben Dowsett (@Ben_Dowsett) February 2, 2017
The Nuggets share a record (21-27) with the Bucks, but have a much clearer path to a playoff berth. Currently 9th in the West and one game behind 8th-seeded Portland, Denver is all about scoring the basketball (top-5 in pace, top-10 offensive rating) while caring little about giving up points (bottom-5 defensive rating). Historically, Denver is able to run opponents out of the gym when the other team is not acclimated to the higher altitude, and coach Mike Malone has a deep roster capable of putting up points.
On the other hand, the Nuggets’ injury list is substantial: Danilo Gallinari (groin) is out, Nikola Jokic (hip) is questionable but likely to appear, as are guards Will Barton (ankle) and Emmanuel Mudiay (back), and forward Kenneth Faried (hamstring) is probable.
The Nuggets are also one of the more active teams in trade talks across the league, with Zach Lowe breaking the most recent item regarding Emmanuel Mudiay. Who knows, the Nuggets might pull off a pre-deadline trade like the Bucks did yesterday. It’s February in the NBA, anything can happen!