Milwaukee Bucks Start Season Without Khris Middleton, Pat Connaughton
Posted on: October 19, 2022, 12:30h.
Last updated on: October 19, 2022, 01:37h.
The Milwaukee Bucks tip-off the regular season on Thursday night. But swing man Khris Middleton will not be in the starting lineup because of a left wrist injury, and backup shooting guard Pat Connaughton is out with a left calf strain.
Middleton will miss several weeks while recovering from wrist surgery, but his exact return is unknown. The Bucks hope he can get back to the lineup in the middle of November.
Middleton averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game last season. Although he shot 41.5% from 3-point range the previous two seasons, his long-range shooting dipped to 37.3% last season.
Sometime around after the All-Star break, I just felt it during one game and it kind of just never went away,” explained Middleton. “It wasn’t too painful, just something that was going to have to be fixed at some point.“
Middleton underwent surgery in the off-season, but he’s still rehabbing the injury.
Middleton sprained his MCL in the opening round of the playoffs last season, but he’s fully recovered from that injury. Without Middleton, the Boston Celtics knocked the defending-champion Bucks out of the playoffs with a fierce seven-game battle in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. With a healthy Middleton in the lineup, there was a good chance the Bucks would’ve returned to the NBA Finals to defend their title against the Golden State Warriors.
Giannis ‘Greek Freak’ Antetokounmpo is one of the top three betting favorites to win the MVP this season. The Bucks will rely on him even more than usual with Middleton out the next few weeks
Grayson Allen and Wesley Matthews Step Up
When Middleton went down with a knee injury in the playoffs, Grayson Allen and Wesley Matthews filled the void. Head coach Mike Budenholzer will lean on both players to pick up the scoring slack.
Allen averaged 11.1 points per game last season while shooting 41% from 3-point range. He started eight playoff games, but averaged 8.3 points per game.
The Celtics shut down Grayson in the playoffs, and he struggled to find his shot.
Watching him all year and watching him this month, he’s a good basketball player,” Budenholzer told The Athletic. “And he just fits us. The feeling about him is really, really high.”
Matthews averaged 5.1 points per game off the bench. Matthews started in 12 playoff games and averaged 8.2 points per game, while shooting 40% from 3-point range.
“What he brings to us is very, very valuable,” said Budenholzer. “His toughness, his ability to defend, leadership, things like that, make an open 3, make shots. Good teams need to have players like Wes Matthews.”
Pat Connaughton Out with Calf Strain
Meanwhile, backup shooting guard Pat Connaughton will miss the beginning of the season with a right calf strain. Connaughton missed the final two games of the preseason with the calf injury, but an MRI revealed it was a strain.
Connaughton averaged 9.9 points per game last season, while shooting 39.5% from 3-point range.
This time of year, I think we can be extra cautious,” said Budenholzer. “There is something. When and how or where it happened, we don’t know. He doesn’t know.”
With Connaughton out for an estimated three weeks, Budenholzer will rely on backup points guards — George Hill and Jevon Carter — to fill in at shooting guard.
Hill is a veteran who started with the Indiana Pacers a decade earlier. He appeared in 54 games with the Bucks last season averaging 6.2 points per game. He also started 17 times.
Carter appeared in just 20 games with the Bucks last season, averaging 5.6 points per game. He didn’t shoot a lot of 3-pointers, but he was deadly accurate on the ones he took, sporting a 55% success rate.
Carter started in the final two preseason games, and he looks like he’ll get the majority of Connaughton’s minutes.
“He’s just played well throughout the preseason,” added Budenholzer. “I love his defense. I love that scrappy, competitive fire, and obviously, his shooting stands out. Gives us another ballhandler.”
Betting the Bucks with Key Injuries
The Bucks are the consensus favorites to win the Central Division for a fifth season in a row, and even with injuries to Middleton and Connaughton, the Cleveland Cavs are the only team that could challenge the Bucks from a divisional five-peat. You can back the Bucks at +245 odds to win the Central Division, according to a most recent update by DraftKings.
Winning the NBA championship is an entirely different beast. In the NBA general managers’ poll, the majority of GMs picked the Bucks to win the 2022-23 championship. They’re not fazed by the early season injuries, and think the Bucks will be the biggest threat when the postseason rolls around.
The Bucks are +800 odds to win the NBA championship and are the fifth-highest team on DraftKings’ futures board.
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