After sustaining a fractured fourth metacarpal in his shooting hand during Thursday’s loss to Phoenix, Bucks sharpshooter Pat Connaughton will go under the knife to repair the injury on Monday, as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
Milwaukee Bucks guard Pat Connaughton will undergo surgery to repair a fractured fourth metacarpal on his right hand Monday and is expected to return to the lineup before the end of the regular season, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 13, 2022
While defending Suns’ point guard Chris Paul on a drive to the hoop, Connaughton’s hand contacted Paul’s forearm. After the play was whistled dead, he grimaced and soon exited the game. He’s now likely facing an absence of several weeks: per InStreetClothes.com in their findings from 2015, the average player missed 17 games with a fourth metacarpal fracture, regardless of whether the injury necessitated surgery.
Thanks to the approaching All-Star break, Connaughton’s recovery time is probably not best measured in games. But if we assume 4 games per week (typical for an NBA team), that works out to 4–5 weeks on average, which tracks with other prognoses of the injury in seasons gone by. If 3 weeks is the absolute best-case scenario and 6 weeks is on the higher end, this would put Connaughton’s target date sometime in March, between the 7th and 28th. Milwaukee happens to play 17 games between now and March 28th.
This increases the Bucks’ desire to add backcourt help in the aftermath of Thursday’s Donte DiVincenzo, Rodney Hood, and Semi Ojeleye for Serge Ibaka trade. While Milwaukee dealt for Ibaka from an area of depth—even without DiVincenzo and Connaughton (6’4” and 6’5”, respectively), the Bucks can trot out either Grayson Allen and Wesley Matthews (both listed 6’4”) at shooting guard, plus George Hill (also 6’4”) is adept at playing off-ball—they could use additional ball-handling in the backcourt, especially as Hill remains out with a sore neck. As expected, they plan to be in on former Heat guard Goran Dragic, who is likely to be bought out by San Antonio this coming week:
In the aftermath of the Donte DiVincenzo trade and Connaughton injury, the Bucks will be aggressive in pursuit of Goran Dragic once he enters the buyout market next week, sources said. There will be significant opportunity for Dragic to play a role on the defending champions.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 13, 2022
The Bucks face significant competition in signing the Slovenian 14-year vet, who will likely be the hottest name on the buyout market: the Bulls, Clippers, Lakers, Nets, and Warriors are all said to be interested as well. Before acquiring Spencer Dinwiddie on Thursday, the Mavericks were a long-rumored destination for Dragic, but are thought to be out after adding Dinwiddie to their strong stable of point guards which already includes Jalen Brunson and Dragic’s countryman Luka Doncic.
Of those suitors, Milwaukee may offer the best combination of playing time and title chances. Both Los Angeles teams are play-in teams and not championship contenders this year. Brooklyn is quickly falling into that tier as well thanks to their 11-game losing streak, plus the Nets are flush with primary ball-handlers in Kyrie Irving (for half their games), Patty Mills, and the newly-acquired Ben Simmons. In Chicago, Dragic would be competing for minutes with Coby White, Ayo Dosunmu, and Alex Caruso (when healthy) off the bench behind the (again, when healthy) starting backcourt of Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine. Golden State’s guard corps isn’t impressive behind Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Jordan Poole, but Dragic would not play over any of those guys in a postseason series.
All of those teams, however, have full 15-man rosters and would need to waive a player to sign Dragic once he’s bought out. The Bucks have two spots open currently, and could have a third if Greg Monroe’s ten-day contract is not renewed.
In Milwaukee, Dragic could immediately slide into a prominent reserve role: Hill is having an underwhelming season, and outside of Jrue Holiday, there are no ball-handling guards on the 15-man roster (sorry, Lindell Wigginton). Though he’s only played 5 games this season, it’s not hard to imagine Dragic becoming the Bucks’ most-used reserve while Connaughton is out and Bobby Portis remains a starter. In a playoff rotation featuring a healthy Connaughton and Brook Lopez, Dragic could be the third guy off the bench, ahead of names like Hill and Ibaka.
For his exploits as a member of the Heat, Dragic may find an icy reception among Bucks fans. While he has somewhat of a reputation as a Bucks-killer after some huge performances against Milwaukee, notably in the 2020 postseason, he also has a bit of a dirty streak (how did refs miss this call?). While I’m not going to flat-out call Dragic a dirty player (though I could!), I’ll just say that his past is insufficiently discussed compared to someone like... oh, I don’t know... let’s say... Grayson Allen, who I don’t believe has ever forcefully kneed someone in the groin before, despite being the worst human being on planet earth!!!!!!1!!1!! (according to some fans)
That being said, Hill and his teammates would likely let bygones be bygones, and fans would likely too with some good games under Dragic’s belt. Stay tuned.