After Jabari Parker tore the ACL in his left knee for the second time in three years, the question of whether or not the Milwaukee Bucks should tank for a lottery pick began swirling. Parker (20.1 pts, 6.1 reb, 2.8 ast, 1.0 stl, .490 fg%) was having a breakout, All-Star caliber season before his injury. In his first two NBA seasons, Parker average just over 13 points per game, so it’s conceivable that he would’ve been a candidate for the Most Improved Player Award (an award that could also be given to Parker’s teammate, Giannis Antetokounmpo). Prior to Parker’s injury, the Bucks had dropped 10 of their 12 games, and they had fallen out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Things were looking very bleak, and the outlook only got more ominous after Parker’s MRI confirmed the Bucks’ worst fears. With that being said, there are still two months to go in the regular season, with plenty of surprises to unfold, and there are still reasons for the Bucks to compete for a playoff spot.
1. The sake of competition
No fan, player, coach, or executive (except Rachel Phelps in Major League) wants their team to lose. The whole reason we watch and play sports is to win. For years, the Philadelphia 76ers seemingly did everything they could to lose games and they were just terrible to watch on the basketball court. If the Bucks were to throw games, or, at the very least, not compete with everything they have, ticket sales would plummet even more, and player morale would take a major hit. Given what we know about Antetokounmpo and head coach Jason Kidd, it’s unlikely that either of them will accept the notion that this season is lost.
2. Postseason basketball is still attainable
Let’s not pretend that the loss of Parker is a death sentence to the team’s success. In Parker’s rookie year (in which he only played 25 games), the Bucks finished 41-41, sixth place in the conference, and gave the Bulls a challenge before ultimately losing in six games in the first round. While the Bucks fell to as far as 11th in the East, they’ve never dropped more than three games behind the 8th seed, with only the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets ahead of them. This is mostly thanks to a weak field in the Eastern Conference. If Antetokounmpo can continue to carry the team, and if guys like Michael Beasley and Khris Middleton step up to replace Parker’s 20 points per game, they have as good of a chance as anyone to sneak into the postseason.
3. Upsets happen
It’s not likely that the Bucks, Hornets, Bulls, Pistons, or Heat will beat the Cavaliers or Celtics in a seven-game series. It also wasn’t likely for the 8th seed Memphis Grizzlies to beat the top seeded San Antonio Spurs in six games in 2011. And it wasn’t likely for the 2007 Warriors to do the same thing to the 61-win Mavericks. The point here is that upsets do happen. In the NBA, do they happen often? Not particularly. But it’s not impossible. The 1999 Knicks locked up the 8th seed, and went on to represent the East in the Finals. Now, were those squads better and more experienced than this young Milwaukee club? Absolutely. But it’s not asinine to say the Bucks have a chance to compete with elite teams. If the Bucks manage to get in, ANYTHING can happen.