HANG TIME, N.J. — The first major injury of the 2015-16 season has hit, and training camps haven’t opened yet.
The Milwaukee Bucks announced Wednesday night that Khris Middleton is out six months with a left hamstring injury that will require surgery.
The Bucks signed Giannis Antetokounmpo to a $100 million extension on Tuesday, but Middleton (entering his fifth season) is still their best player. Last season, the team was 12.4 points per 100 possessions better with Middleton on the floor than they were with him on the bench. That differential ranked 10th in the league among players that logged at least 1,000 minutes for a single team.
In his absence, Bucks coach Jason Kidd will have to get creative with his perimeter rotation. Second year guard Rashad Vaughn and rookie Malcolm Brogdon should see more playing time than previously expected.
The Bucks are reportedly making calls, looking for more help.
The list of free agent wings who are still available includes P.J. Hairston, who worked out for the Brooklyn Nets (who chose to sign Chase Budinger instead) this week. Because the Bucks are above the cap, they wouldn’t have the ability to outbid the Cleveland Cavaliers for the still unsigned J.R. Smith.
After a surprise trip to the playoffs in 2015, the Bucks took a big step backward last season, especially defensively, where no team saw a bigger jump in its points allowed per possession. Even if they are able to come up with a Plan B, Middleton’s injury will prevent them from getting completely back on track.