The Milwaukee Bucks were hit yet again by injuries and responded by signing free agent forward Terrence Jones. Can the former Rocket and Pelican help them make the playoffs?
The Milwaukee Bucks are fighting not only their Eastern Conference rivals for a playoff spot, but a war of attrition within their own roster. The signing of Terrence Jones Thursday illustrates their fight to keep a healthy rotation intact.
A candidate for Most Improved Player, Jabari Parker was an offensive juggernaut for the Bucks before tearing his ACL. Out until early 2018, Milwaukee shifted its rotation to account for his absence and kept its eyes on the prize — a 2017 playoff berth.
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Michael Beasley was the man to step up, playing at least 22 minutes in six straight games for Milwaukee after doing so just eight times in the team’s first 51 games. The Bucks went 4-2 over that stretch and Beasley shot 44-of-66 (66 percent) and averaged 16.3 points and 4.3 rebounds.
Beasley then suffered a knee injury of his own against the Cleveland Cavaliers, hyperextending his knee, and is expected to miss at least a week or two.
But Middleton has struggled to return from his serious hamstring tear, an understandable development that even so has stretched Milwaukee’s rotation toward the breaking point.
The team therefore selected Terrence Jones as the next man up at power forward. The former Houston Rocket and New Orleans Pelican is expected to join the team on Saturday, once the 10-day contract for Axel Toupane expires.
Jones was recently an offensive force for the Rockets, averaging 11.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks for the Houston Rockets in 2014-15, a significant part of a rotation that made it to the Western Conference Finals.
Rather than sign a contract extension, Jones bet on himself and aimed for a large contract in the summer of 2016.
That contract didn’t come, in large part because Jones succumbed to injuries and poor habits to post a dismal season. Not only did Houston suffer and barely make the playoffs, but Jones was forced to sign a minimum contract with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Jones showed flashes of the offensive talent he has been, including a 36-point, 11-rebound explosion against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 23. He averaged 11.5 points and 5.9 rebounds as he attempts to rebuild his value before hitting free agency this summer.
In Milwaukee, Jones has the opportunity to play consistent minutes, especially in the absence of Beasley. His ability to create offense will help a Milwaukee second unit that has struggled to score at times.
Head coach Jason Kidd no longer has the ability to stagger the minutes of Antetokounmpo and Parker, leaving the bench without shot creation.
Jones is not going to solve all of Milwaukee’s problems, but he will help. If Middleton can improve over the rest of the season and become the player he once was and Thon Maker continues to grow as a rookie in the center rotation, this team has time to catch Detroit or Chicago.
If Jones reverts back to the disappointment has was last season, then Milwaukee may yet again be spinning its tires trying to get a solution to stick as it tries to patch holes and recover in time to play an 83rd game this season.