The rebuild took a big hit Wednesday night.
By: Jim Boyce
By now if you are a Bucks fan you have heard the news, Jabari Parker tore his ACL again on a non contact injury Wednesday night against the Miami Heat. This is the second time in just three seasons Parker has experienced this injury. Suddenly the dreadful month of January in which the Bucks have lost 11 of their last 13 meant little. The Bucks have already faded out of contention this season, but right now that means nothing compared to the long term effects Parker’s injury may have. A dark cloud now hangs over the future of this franchise.
The devastating thing about this injury is there is not much, or any, history of NBA players coming back from two torn ACL’s and being successful. A local example is Michael Redd, who was essentially forced to retire after his second major knee injury. Redd was at a much later stage of his career than Parker is now, and our fingers are crossed that youth helps Jabari make it back onto the court.
Expectations need to be tempered though. Even with a full recovery Parker will not be back on the floor for 12 months and then it will take some time for him to work back into the rotation and feel comfortable. Even an optimistic view does not see Parker back and playing at full strength until the Bucks open up their new arena in the fall of 2018. It’s impossible to say right now if Parker will be anywhere near as explosive when he does return, and for a player as dependent on explosiveness as he is that is incredibly concerning.
The Bucks should tank, plain and simple. Tanking is an ugly word but the Bucks need to take a long term approach with this setback. Let Thon Maker, Malcolm Brogdon, and Rashad Vaughn get the bulk of the minutes and see what you have in these guys going forward. While playoff experience is useful the Bucks do not have much to gain by chasing the 8th seed and it is not a lock they will even have enough firepower to get there anyway.
The ultimate goal here in Milwaukee is to win a championship and to do that you need an a star studded core. Recent examples such as the Cavaliers and Warriors show that star power is what wins in the NBA. The Bucks have one already in Giannis and Khris Middleton was a fringe All-Star last season before getting hurt to open 2016-17. The other piece was Parker, who garnered All-Star consideration with his best basketball to date. Right now though the Bucks can not be sure Parker will still be that player. If he loses explosiveness or is battling injury throughout his career he can not be counted on to be that piece that gets them to the big stage. Thon Maker could develop into a star player, he is certainly willing to put in the work to do so. Still while Maker is an exciting young talent, there are no guarantees he reaches the level that Parker was trending towards.
The best way for the Bucks to land another potential star is through the draft. The 2017 class is considered deep by many, and the Bucks could land a really good player with a high draft pick. This is mainly why I believe “tanking” is the way for the Bucks to go now. It is no fun watching a team finish with 30 or so wins, but the reward down the line could be great. Adding a top talent to this team could help offset Parker’s cloudy future and if Jabari is able to overcome his injuries and play at a high level the Bucks will have a truly special, championship level core. A draft pick, even top five, carries no guarantees but it is the best the Bucks can do at the moment.
In conclusion this is a devastating turn of events for the Bucks and their fans. The rebuild almost certainly has been delayed, and for how long is yet to be determined. I am still optimistic that the Bucks window has not shut before it even opened, but the road to success just became a whole lot more difficult.