Tonight the Milwaukee Bucks begin a three game West Coast road trip and sit currently at second in the Eastern Conference, one game behind the Boston Celtics. The team is beginning to fully come together and get hot, as Giannis Antetokounmpo just won Eastern Conference Player of the Week again. Khris Middleton is starting to look like his old-self, and not to mention the team is winners of 7 in a row and 9 of their last 10 games!
But, once again there is a looming deadline this Thursday, the NBA Trade Deadline. The Bucks continuously have been linked to current Phoenix Sun and former Marquette player, Jae Crowder. While there still is a good chance the team is able to bring him in via trade, there still remains the scenario that the Bucks sit still with their current team and do not make a trade at all. In that case the importance of two specific veterans only increases. Being, 36-year old Wesley Matthews and 35-year old Joe Ingles.
First starting off with the former Madison Memorial High Schooler and Marquette University player, Wesley ‘Wes’ Matthews. Matthews has been on the Bucks for three of the last four seasons, bringing great defensive energy and solid three-point shooting. Specifically this season Matthews has been playing less as his playing time has become a bit scattered but regardless he still brings the same aspects he always has when he gets time on the court. If in fact the Bucks do not bring in a player like Crowder, Matthews is going to become a more important piece than just a veteran presence on the bench. Matthews has shown the ability to still play very good perimeter defense and even match up against some of the top wing players in the league.
Last Thursday night against the Los Angeles Clippers Matthews had the assignment of guarding Two-Time NBA Champion, Kawhi Leonard late in the game. Matthews did more than just held is own against Leonard. Leonard struggled with his shot in the game, specifically in crunch time as there were no awkward laughs coming out of Leonard’s mouth after that game.
While it might be in the best interest for the Bucks to start playing rookie, Marjon Beauchamp more for the long run, the team does not seem committed to playing him right now so fans should expect Matthews to continue to get these type of assignments going further. While Crowder would be able to handle himself a little bit better on the defensive end than Matthews due to his size, if Crowder remains not a Buck, Matthews is going to need to bring it for the Bucks when it is crunch time!
The Lefty Aussie
Lastly comes the 35-year old Aussie, Joe Ingles who is in his first season with the Milwaukee Bucks. The last eight seasons Joe Ingles has been a part of the Utah Jazz where he has shown off his playmaking abilities, his awkward but impressive left handed three-point shooting, and a toughness on the defensive end where he does not mind to be a little fiesty with his words. Ingles unfortunately tore his ACL last February leading him to be a thrown in trade piece for Utah to the Portland Trail Blazers. Since, Ingles signed with the Bucks in free-agency last summer and had his debut with the team in Mid-December.
Ingles has been playing a steady 22 minutes a game where he has shown he can still play. Ingles has formed a great pick and roll mate with Antetokounmpo when they play together and a respectable 36.3 shooting percentage from beyond the arc. Ingles has plenty of postseason experience playing with a competitive Utah team in the past, which will not shy him away from the moment come this spring. Ingles will continue to play these big minutes and be a great source of creating for others on offense while still being a complete pest to opponents on the defensive end. Ingles may be called upon even more so the healthier he becomes and especially if the team remains the same.
Respect your Elders
Ingles and Matthews may seem to some fans as just casually veterans on the bench at the moment but this team will need to count on them even more than they do now if this team remains the same. They both have the experience and toughness which remains perfect for a team looking to win another NBA Championship. So, if Jae Crowder does not become a Buck, remain calm Bucks fans!