The Milwaukee Bucks are once again one of the best teams in the NBA, but they won’t win a championship this season without center Brook Lopez.
This season, Lopez has as many back surgeries as he does games played: One.
Recently, Lopez has been visible at practice; and Bucks General Manager Jon Horst is on record saying Lopez will be back during the regular season.
An elite rim protector who can space the floor by knocking down three-point shots, Lopez remains the only front court player on the Bucks roster who can consistently control the paint and absorb the pounding on defense.
Without Lopez, the Bucks are producing their worst season of rebounding in the Mike Budenholzer era. Since Budenholzer arrived – and with Lopez on the floor – the Bucks have ranked 3rd, 1st and 2nd in rebound differential.
With fewer than two months left in the regular season, this year’s version of the Bucks currently ranks 11th.
Without Lopez, the Bucks are getting destroyed on the glass and Giannis and Bobby Portis are being asked to play increased minutes at center. Greg Monroe and newly acquired Serge Ibaka are helping, but it’s clear who to the missing piece is.
A 7-footer in his 14th season in the NBA, the 33-year-old Lopez has taken a pounding since entering the league in 2008.
Lopez is critical to the Bucks championship aspirations, but they don’t need him to in February. The Bucks need their starting center back in late March through early June.