If you own a calendar, then you know that NBA TRADE SZN is upon us, and the rumor mills are warming up their machinery to churn out all the unsubstantiated stories you can choke down. Sing it with me: it’s the most, miserable tiiiiime, of the yearrrrr...
Where We’re At
There is, in all honesty, a ton of negativity surrounding the present state of the Milwaukee Bucks. There are reasons for positive vibes, but the criticism is far from unwarranted. The team has struggled with health and injuries, and as a result their performances have been anything but consistent. The Bucks are simply worse than they should be, and that’s concerning. And despite all that...
The Bucks basically haven't had Khris Middleton all season and yet they still have the fifth best record in the NBA and are tied for second in the East. Pretty good, actually.— Dan Shafer (@DanRShafer) January 17, 2023
Meanwhile, in Toronto, the Raptors have been flirting with the line between “making a push” and “blowing it all up.” 2019 title aside, Toronto is a franchise without a strong cornerstone, and therefore without any meaningful direction. Head coach Nick Nurse still pushes that roster to the limit, leading to competing in games that should have been over well before the end of regulation. So what should the Raptors do? According to our friends at Raptors HQ, their answer is the same that the Bucks’ front office settled on: continuity.
Making moves to build around your “core four” seems to me to be the way to go. When healthy, with the right supporting cast, that group can win you 50 games.
50 games isn’t a title, but from there you’re one step away from having the assets to trade for a superstar when one becomes available — just like in 2018.
Build a winning culture, win as many games as you can, be ready when the opportunity to get better arrives. That approach worked for Masai Ujiri and the Raptors once already, and that’s the approach I’m going to stick with for now.
On the health front, the Bucks are still without Khris Middleton (knee, plus a bunch of other stuff) and Serge Ibaka (personal reasons), while Toronto just announced that Otto Porter Jr. will miss the remainder of the season with a foot injury.
Player To Watch
What’s happening with Fred VanVleet? The Raptors’ one-time All Star guard is shooting a career low from deep (32.8%) while playing 36+ minutes per game for the third straight season. Approaching his 29th birthday and with a $22.8 million player option for next season, it stands to reason that any major moves Toronto makes would involve him, both because of his salary slot and his high level of NBA competence. The Raptors are dead-last in the Atlantic Division, which matters little and speaks to how close that grouping is, but it’s not like they’re threatening for anything more than a play-in berth at this point. I don’t think a team like, say, Milwaukee could make an offer to convince the Raptors to part ways with their undrafted hero, but is the FVV era nearing an end in Toronto?
Game 45: Against Toronto, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)