Ryan Knaus

Khris Middleton (wrist surgery) to miss ‘first few weeks’ of regular season

Khris Middleton in Boston Celtics v Milwaukee Bucks
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Khris Middleton (left wrist surgery) had already ruled himself out for the Bucks’ season opener, but we now know he’ll be out even longer.

Per Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Milwaukee’s season opens Friday, Oct. 21 vs. the visiting Sixers. If he misses exactly two weeks from the opener, he’d miss a total of seven games (including the entirety of a six-game road trip):

  • Thursday, Oct. 20 vs. Philly
  • Saturday, Oct. 22 @ Houston
  • Wednesday, Oct. 26 @ Brooklyn
  • Friday, Oct. 28 @ New York
  • Saturday, Oct. 29 @ Atlanta
  • Monday, Oct. 31 @ Detroit
  • Wednesday, Nov. 2 @ Detroit

Middleton’s exact return date is unknown, but he’s been out of a cast for weeks and ESPN’s Jamal Collier reports that “team sources indicated his absence at the start of the season will be measured in weeks, not months.” Even so, it’s clear that the championship-or-bust Bucks won’t take unnecessary risks with their 32-year-old, 3x All-Star.

Milwaukee already knows the pain of life without Middleton, whose 2022-23 postseason was cut short by a left MCL sprain — his absence was a key reason they lost Game 7 vs. the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Last season alone, the Bucks had a 44-22 record (66.4%) with Middleton available, compared to a 7-9 record (43.7%) without him.

They’ll look to avoid a similarly poor record without him to begin 2022-23, a task made more difficult by the absence of fellow wing Pat Connaughton, who is week-to-week with a right calf strain. The all-hands-on-deck situation should shift more minutes to Grayson Allen, Jordan Nwora, and even veteran Wesley Matthews, who re-signed this offseason to provide 3-and-D depth in exactly such situations. Jrue Holiday also enjoyed 4.8% higher usage and 6.6% higher assist rate without Middleton last season, which is worth noting if you’re playing DFS or betting on player props.

Celtics owner calls team ‘overrated’, gives ‘green light’ for luxury-tax spending

2022 NBA Playoffs - Boston Celtics v Miami Heat
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Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck wasn’t mincing his words.

In a recent interview with Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe, Grousbeck described Boston’s team as “overrated” going into the 2022-23 season:

I really loved being part of the Celtics throughout that run [to the Finals] … The other side of the coin is I think that we’ve now been overrated … [We were] a finalist and two wins away from winning it, but when you look back, Brooklyn was a tough series, and then we had to go seven games [vs. Milwaukee and Miami]. Then we lost [vs. Golden State]. So, we’re not a hands-down team to repeat as Eastern Conference champions. I think we’re a quality team.

Grousbeck is strategically tamping down expectations for his “quality team,” which boasts impressive roster continuity, studded with elite talent on both ends of the court.

Offensively, the Celtics finished last season top-10 in Effective FG% and True Shooting %. They continue to revolve around one of the league’s ascendant stars in Jayson Tatum, plus the luxury of a secondary 22+ point scorer in Jaylen Brown.

On the other end of the court, they finished last year with the best Defensive Rating in the league. They’ll bring back the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Smart, the player with the third-best-odds to win 2022-23’s DPoY award in Robert Williams, and the versatility and vocal leadership of veteran Al Horford.

They also bolstered their depth by adding reliable playmaker Malcolm Brogdon as a sixth-man. Their lone offseason setback was new arrival Danilo Gallinari tearing his left ACL while playing for Italy’s national team.

It’s easy to see why current betting odds on PointsBet have the Celtics as the NBA Championship favorites at +550, ahead of the Warriors (+650), Bucks (+650), Clippers (+700) and Nets (+800). But that isn’t preventing Grousbeck from opening his checkbook for further roster improvements. He said team president Brad Stevens has a “green light” to improve the team however he can, even if Boston goes deep into the luxury tax.

I think we’re spending about $200 million on the roster this year, and Brad has the green light to spend more … And we’re in the mode right now of completely adding on. Are you going to trade future draft picks and young players under 30? Hopefully not. But money is not a consideration whatsoever, and this roster shows that.

As for why Grousbeck is noisily downplaying his team’s odds to win it all in 2022-23? He gave it away later in the interview. “Now there are huge expectations and we’re favored to win,” he said. “And we crumbled last fall with less pressure. So, I am apprehensive.” The betting markets, however, are not.