Milwaukee has stumbled to the second-worst record in the league thus far, though it has had plenty of help in its misery through amassing injuries. The latest among them: Zaza Pachulia, the reserve center turned starter who was held out of games on Friday and Saturday with a right foot sprain, has had his diagnosis clarified as a stress fracture. That ailment carries with it a recovery timetable of at least four weeks, according to the team, during which the Bucks' meager frontline will be stretched even further.
Pachulia's absence would be more tolerable for the Bucks were the rest of the roster more healthy. In Saturday's game against Brooklyn, the Bucks did without four players who are slated to be out of the lineup for the foreseeable future. Larry Sanders, Milwaukee's defensive centerpiece last season, was knocked out of the lineup due to a torn thumb ligament. Caron Butler, whom the Bucks acquired via trade over the summer, has missed six straight games with a sore knee just weeks after missing time with a shoulder injury. Carlos Delfino, who returned to Milwaukee as a free agent over the summer, has not and will not play this season due to a broken foot. Counting Pachulia, that rules out four members of the Bucks' rotation, just as a slew of others (Ersan Ilyasova, Brandon Knight, Luke Ridnour) are getting back into the mix.
Ultimately, that could be good news for a Bucks team that can't help but be bad, no matter the franchise's intention to compete for a playoff spot. The summer signings of Pachulia, Delfino, O.J. Mayo, and Gary Neal were made to make Milwaukee more immediately viable, as was the acquisition of Butler. Yet thus far, injury has given this middling roster a horrid 4-16 record -- the worst in a hideous Eastern Conference. Under the best of circumstances, this team could bury its prospects (John Henson and Giannis Antetokounmpo chief among them) on the bench, ride out a group of healthy veterans, and vie to be ousted in the first round of the playoffs. Heading into next season, that would leave the Bucks in more or less the same place, albeit with the contracts of Butler and Ridnour coming off the books. As it happens, though, Milwaukee is leaning on whichever veterans are healthy while still losing tons of games. It's a masterful bit of accidental tanking, through which the Bucks could very well land the kind of impact prospect they need in the 2014 draft.