The Milwaukee Bucks led the NBA with 60 wins last year and enter the season as favorites in the East now that Kawhi Leonard left the Toronto Raptors.
However, they’ll likely have to defend the No. 1 overall seed without starting point guard Eric Bledsoe to start the season.
According to a report by The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Bledsoe is expected to miss two to three weeks with a small rib fracture. Given that the Bucks’ regular season tips off Oct. 24, the 29-year-old is likely to miss at least one regular-season game.
Bledsoe initially suffered the injury during Wednesday’s preseason game against the Utah Jazz. He exited the game midway through the second quarter with what Bucks director of performance Troy Flanagan initially ruled an oblique strain.
“It feels like it’s not that severe, but I’m sure Troy and those guys will give me an update,” head coach Mike Budenholzer said after the game, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Just talking to Bled [it seemed positive] — I don’t know if you can trust Bled – Troy will be the truth-teller.”
Although the official diagnosis has changed for the injury, not too much has changed about Bledsoe’s timeline. He’s not expected to miss a significant chunk of the season, but missing the season opener would be quite disappointing.
What would Bledsoe’s absence mean for the Bucks?
Bledsoe was named to the 2018-19 All-Defensive Team, and his defense would be crucial in a road game against the Houston Rockets, who have two of the most dynamic ball-handlers in the game in James Harden and Russell Westbrook. The schedule eases up a bit afterward with the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers at home, but the Bucks also travel to play the Boston Celtics on Oct. 30, which is less than three weeks away.
Bledsoe has averaged 16.8 points, 5.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals in his nearly two seasons with the Bucks, which earned him a four-year, $70 million extension in May. He's been the team's third-best scorer after Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton and a steady presence in the backcourt.
While Bledsoe is out, George Hill is expected to take over as the starting point guard. The loss of Malcolm Brogdon this offseason is a blow to their depth, but the additions of Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews should make up for some of Brogdon’s 3-point shooting.
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