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Bogut-less Bucks: Still a Threat in the Playoffs?

With Andrew Bogut out for the season, does the Eastern Conference still have a reason to Fear the Deer? (Photo courtesy of Jim Prisching/AP)

When I first heard that Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut went down hard after a dunk and sprained his right wrist, broke his right hand, and dislocated his right elbow, my first three thoughts were as follow: ouch, Ouch, OUCH! (In that order.)

My fourth thought: That really sucks for the Bucks.

My fifth thought: That’s great for whoever gets a first round matchup with the Bucks (which I hope to be the Celtics).

My sixth thought: Poor Andrew Bogut.

Regarding my first three thoughts, that really had to hurt. An injury (or simultaneous injuries) of that magnitude should be considered cruel and unusual punishment in 49 of 50 states (it appears to be permitted in Wisconsin). This leads into my sixth thought, which in all likelihood should have fallen somewhere between thoughts one and four: Poor Andrew Bogut.

Poor Andrew Bogut

The guy spent the first four years of his career as a certified draft bust. Two solid years at the University of Utah made him the first overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, but his first few seasons didn’t live up to the hype. Bogut was the Bucks’ chance to get on the NBA radar, a place the team has not consistently been for 25 years, and he wasn’t getting it done. In a city that is known for beer and, well, beer, Bogut and the Bucks had a lot of fermenting to do before having a chance to tap the postseason keg.

From Robertson to Robinson to Bogut…

This leads to my fourth thought. Since the Oscar Robertson era in the early 70’s and the slew of division titles through the 80’s, basketball hasn’t been a hot ticket in Milwaukee. For decades Bucks fans have been sipping on Old Milwaukee and reminiscing about the Bucks’ 1971 NBA Championship and their twelve division titles between 1971 and 1986. This season, however, those beer-loving Bucks fans ditched the Old Milwaukee for Milwaukee’s Best.

A gamble on European-molded Brandon Jennings and the acquisition of John Salmons, plus the existing foundation of Bogut and 2008 Team USA Olympian Michael Redd made for an intimidating core, especially by Bucks’ standards. Even though Redd effectively ended his season in January after re-tearing his ACL and MCL, the Bucks have put together a solid 44-win season, their best since 2000-01.

(Sidenote: That 2000-01 squad, led by the Bucks’ big three of Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson, and Sam Cassell, reached the Eastern Conference Finals. My, how the “big three” dynamic has changed over the past decade.)

Milwaukee’s success this season, despite the loss of Redd, attests to the Bucks’ ability to survive, and even thrive (relatively speaking), after sustaining injuries to key players. Although losing Bogut this late in the season will require some big adjustments going into the playoffs, it is not completely debilitating. Don’t think that Milwaukee is going to go from “Fear the Deer” to looking like deer in headlights just because of Bogut’s injury. The team has exceeded expectations all season, so why stop now? The one thing that will definitely change: fans will have to downgrade to Milwaukee’s Best Light.

…to Thomas?

Bogut’s replacement is 37-year-old Kurt Thomas. Thomas brings experience, but also old legs, to the Bucks’ frontcourt. If there’s anything that the Celtics’ Big Three should welcome, it’s an opponent who makes them seem young. After averaging just 14 minutes per game before Bogut’s injury, Thomas has averaged 30 minutes in Bogut’s absence. Old legs, especially those unaccustomed to playing big minutes, aren’t made for long postseason runs.

Somewhere, Yi Jianlian curses the Nets and envisions himself as the starting center on a playoff-bound Bucks squad.

Effects on the East

As for my fifth thought, Bogut on the bench certainly doesn’t hurt any of the teams in the Eastern Conference. It really doesn’t hurt the Celtics, who could be slated for a first round battle with the Bucks. Given the Celtics’ recent propensity for grueling first rounds (see: 2008 vs. Atlanta; 2009 vs. Chicago), it wouldn’t be altogether surprising if the Bucks, or any first round foe for that matter, give Boston a run for its money.

Given the choice between the Celtics facing either the Bucks, the Hawks, or the Heat in the first round, I choose the Bucks. In theory, hunting down a depleted Buck roster will be less grueling than caging the Hawks or suppressing the Heat.

All in all, Bogut’s injury may make Boston’s first round matchup a bit less challenging. That all depends, however, on whether the Celtics make the playoffs, whether the Celtics play the Bucks, and whether the Celtics varsity (as opposed to JV) squad shows up for the playoffs. Only one of those things is guaranteed (they have already clinched), thereby rendering this article essentially meaningless.

But if the Celtics do end up facing the Bucks, you better believe I’ll be drinking Sam Adams.

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One comment for “Bogut-less Bucks: Still a Threat in the Playoffs?”

  1. My first 100 thoughts: that injury is GROSS!

    Posted by KC Downey | April 10, 2010, 2:45 pm

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