Dust off your caps lock button, because the Bucks are set to welcome back Jae Crowder to the lineup after two months away from the court recovering from adductor surgery. Over the past week or two, we’ve gotten some inklings that his return was nearing: first with a return to practice and then with an assignment to the Wisconsin Herd. Today, The Athletic’s Shams Charania tells us that we should see the Marquette alum tomorrow, for the first time since November 11th:
Milwaukee Bucks forward Jae Crowder – out for last two months with core muscle surgery – has been cleared to return to the lineup Wednesday vs. the Cavaliers in Cleveland, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Crowder is among Bucks leaders in minutes per game, impacting both ends. pic.twitter.com/WZlvD7hGEg— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 16, 2024
The initial timeline after he tore his left adductor and an abdominal was six to eight weeks, which would have been early last week. While Crowder was up and rehabbing with the team within a couple weeks of the procedure, and had progressed to on-court work after New Year’s, he comes in a little past projections, but that’s ok. Seems likely that he’s feeling good.
The main question now is: how will Crowder impact the Bucks in the near term? After appearing in each of Milwaukee’s first nine contests and logging 25+ minutes in the first eight before the injury at Orlando, his loss looked like it might hurt a little bit. A notoriously streaky shooter, he was on quite a heater to kick off the year, nailing 51.6% of his shots from beyond the arc. It’d be unrealistic to expect that kind of marksmanship moving forward, but he was contributing more offensively than many expected. With the Bucks’ bench recently languishing from a scoring perspective, some fans think he’ll provide a needed boost.
I’d pump the breaks on that a bit, as well as thinking he’ll be a big game-changer for the Bucks’ oft-struggling defense. While he should help them on that end, fans remember well how his ballyhooed defensive presence didn’t materialize last postseason after he didn’t report to the Suns last fall and demanded a trade, then getting into just eighteen regular season games once he arrived in Milwaukee. It seems likely he’ll need another ramp-up period again and will probably see a minutes restriction for a couple weeks.
Whether or not his surgically repaired core will impact Crowder’s game remains to be seen, but the Bucks were asking a lot of him before he went down. He certainly answered the call, with the small-sample size caveat factoring in. It seems like many expect him to pick up right where he left off, but injury or not, his early season play was probably unsustainable to some degree. While we should expect him to resume his role as a key contributor off the bench, and perhaps as a member of closing lineups, it’s kind of unreasonable to expect him to amount to a cure-all for the team’s bench woes and defensive shortcomings.
In any case, it’s good to have Crowder back. This doesn’t portend well for MarJon Beauchamp’s already dwindling minutes and probably will take away from those of Andre Jackson Jr. too. Pat Connaughton continues to see playing time despite unimpressive numbers, and Crowder will cut into Connaughton’s chances at the 3. Crowder provides more defensive value than both Connaughton and Beauchamp, though, and might be the superior scorer to all three at this point. So obviously this helps, just maybe not as much as some believe it will.