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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Washington Wizards Preview: Rounding Into Form

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The Milwaukee Bucks are in the middle of their stretch run towards the playoffs, and tonight’s opponent (the ever-frisky Washington Wizards) comes to town before the Bucks embark on a tough three-game road trip.

Where We’re At

Don’t look now, but the Bucks are approaching full-strength. Pat Connaughton? He’s back. George Hill? He’s back. Brook Lopez? Oh, you better believe he’s back.

Milwaukee is returning to “fully operational” and, with just over 10 games remaining in the regular season, the timing couldn’t be better. Everybody has a chance to settle into their role and get into a rhythm while seeding gets sorted out across the Eastern Conference, and the early signs are that the Bucks will boast some of the best depth they’ve had in recent memory, and that’s saying something. Here’s a quick glance at the depth chart, considering only players who have a significant chance of playing rotation-level minutes in the postseason:

  • PG: Jrue Holiday, George Hill, Jevon Carter
  • SG: Grayson Allen, Pat Connaughton
  • SF: Khris Middleton, Wes Matthews
  • PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bobby Portis
  • C: Brook Lopez, Serge Ibaka

That’s eleven names, with tons of functional overlap and (most importantly) a seamless fit around Giannis. The only players who don’t figure to play a part are Thanasis (too erratic), Jordan Nwora (too inconsistent), DeAndre’ Bembry (who just underwent successful knee surgery after his nasty spill last week), and both two-way guys (Sandro Mamukelashvili and Lindell Wigginton). Carter, Matthews, Hill, and Ibaka can all have their minutes fluctuate with very little worry, while the main drivers can play their part against any challenger. It’s really not a bad place to be, with April just around the corner.

On the health side of things, the Bucks will again be without Khris Middleton as he deals with wrist soreness. The Bucks are favored pretty heavily against the Wizards tonight, and you can check out the odds here.

UPDATE: So Giannis is out too. Those odds might change.

Speaking of Washington, their hot start has cooled off all the way to another lottery-bound finish, as the Wizards are too far out of contention for the play-in tournament to mount a credible threat for the postseason. They’ll be without Bradley Beal for the rest of this campaign and might be missing Kyle Kuzma tonight. Either way, they’re concluding another mediocre season in a long string of mediocre seasons, and it’s getting to be tiresome. From BulletsForever (emphasis theirs):

It is depressing to consider, but the Wizards are back in the seemingly comfortable and all too familiar zone of mediocrity. Yes, there is some potential with this group to improve. We saw it with Kuzma this year. The quartet of young players can get better and finally contribute to winning. The veterans are not all that old. Alas, NO, there is not enough to justify the investment in guaranteed dollars and years that it would take to keep this group together.

Player To Watch

Bobby Portis was the starting center for Milwaukee for much of the year, and with Lopez returning The People’s Champ finds himself returning to a reserve role. He seems to be taking the move in stride, if this story from The Athletic is any indication:

Off-court, there’s no shortage of reasons to love Bobby. On-court, Portis’ scoring acumen is finally going to be appropriately featured alongside the reserves, where offensive firepower has been in relatively short supply. Having the experience of starting and improving on defense over the course of the regular season will be useful, but getting a guy into a suitable role ahead of the playoffs is even better.


Game 73: Against Washington, the Bucks will...

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