As the Milwaukee Bucks try to stay relevant in the Eastern Conference playoff race, they may get a boost soon.
After Wednesday night’s loss to the Houston Rockets, the Milwaukee Bucks are in a virtual tie with the Chicago Bulls for eighth place in the Eastern Conference with a 20-21 record. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a rising star, with Jabari Parker has also emerged this season. But as the Bucks try to keep themselves in playoff contention, a big boost may be coming soon.
According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Bucks are “increasing hopeful” injured swingman Khris Middleton will be able to return before the All-Star break in February.
Middleton has been sidelined since September with a severely torn left hamstring, which required surgery. He was expected to be sidelined for six months, but Middleton seems to be on track to beat that timetable by a month.
Middleton led Milwaukee in scoring (18.2 points per game), steals (1.7 per game) and free throw percentage (88.8 percent) last season, while also averaging 4.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game. He is expected to be on a minutes restriction when he returns to action, but having Middleton back in any capacity would be good news for the Bucks and head coach Jason Kidd.
Tony Snell has started 40 of 41 games for the Bucks this season, which says all that needs to be said about how much Middleton has been missed. Antetokounmpo and Parker are also the only Bucks averaging more than 11 points per game so this season, so a third legitimate scorer is an obvious trade deadline need.
The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 23, just after All-Star Weekend, Feb. 17-19 in New Orleans. Middleton’s looming return looks like a well-timed addition for the Bucks, so they probably won’t have to go aggressively into the trade market for a wing player to bolster a playoff push.