The Milwaukee Bucks ended the regular season with a 58-24 record, finishing with the league’s best overall record and earning the East’s No. 1 seed, which sets up a first-round matchup with the lowest-seed winner of the East play-in tournament.
Just two years removed from winning the 2021 NBA championship, Milwaukee has the opportunity to win two titles in three years with a roster full of veteran depth, but their championship hopes could hinge on their health.
Why the Bucks will not win the 2023 NBA title
When this team is healthy it’s hard to envision any other team beating Milwaukee four times in a seven-game series. The reality, however, is that this roster has seemingly been banged up throughout the course of the regular season, and that trend continues heading into their first-round matchup. Pat Connaughton (ankle) and Grayson Allen (ankle) are currently listed as OUT, limiting the roster depth that arguably gives them the edge on any day of the week.
Perhaps the Bucks can overcome Connaughton and Allen being sidelined, but an injury to Khris Middleton could prove too much to overcome down the stretch of the playoffs. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Middleton’s MRI, which was conducted last Thursday, came back clean and he is expected to rehab in hopes of being ready for the start of the playoffs.
Milwaukee could likely survive the first two rounds without Middleton, but they’ll need his services against the likes of the Celtics or 76ers.
Look no further than last postseason as a proxy for how injuries can limit the Bucks’ ceiling. Giannis Antetokounmpo (33.9 PPG, 14.7 RPG) managed to push the eventual Eastern Conference champion Celtics to seven games in the semifinals, but they would fall nonetheless as the scoring vacancy left by Middleton was too big to fill. The injury bug will always be an ‘if’ but in the case of the Bucks, their track record shows it’s been a limiting factor in the postseason.