After about nine weeks, Jae Crowder is finally making his return to the Milwaukee Bucks following an in-season procedure back in November.
Per The Athletic's Shams Charania, Crowder has been cleared to return and will be back on the floor for the Bucks in Wednesday's clash against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Reintegrating Crowder into the lineup will not be a minor change. In his nine appearances before the injury, he averaged 26.7 minutes per contest, which is the fifth-most on the team this season. Coach Adrian Griffin clearly liked what the forward brought to the table, and he will certainly aim to get him back into the swing of things upon his return.
It'll be interesting to see how Griffin adjusts the rotation to fit Crowder in there.
How Jae Crowder's return should impact the Bucks' nightly rotation
At first, Crowder likely will not leap back into the mix by playing over 26 minutes per game. There will be a ramp-up period to start, in all likelihood. Yet, as time goes on, his minutes are bound to increase, so someone else's playing time will inevitably decrease.
Could guard Andre Jackson Jr. lose minutes? Hopefully not. The rookie's playing time has increased with each passing month, and it's no surprise that he's made an impact in his 14.6 minutes per game to kick off 2024. If anything, he needs more minutes, as he's shown that every single time he steps on the floor, he can make an impact with his defense, passing, rebounding, and hustling.
Bobby Portis could see his minutes dip just a bit in favor of Crowder, but he's still going to play a big role for this team nightly. As mentioned previously, Crowder holds the average for the fifth-most minutes per game on the team this season, and that was largely due to Khris Middleton being on a minutes limit. Upon returning, Crowder will likely slide to sixth and be the team's sixth man over BP.
With Portis and Jackson likely to maintain their roles in Milwaukee's rotation, the odd man out may be Pat Connaughton. He's currently logging the eighth-most minutes per game nightly, and he's having one of his least-productive seasons in a Bucks uniform to date. If his struggles persist, Crowder may be the one to take his minutes, especially as he stands as the better defender.
Again, if Middleton's injury is anything to go off of, the Bucks will be cautious with getting Crowder back up to speed. It'll be a slow ride, but in due time, he'll likely be above the 25-minute-per-game mark. In the meantime, expect somewhere around 10-15 minutes per game to start, leaving plenty of time for Jackson, Portis, and Connaughton at this very moment.
Down the line, Crowder, Portis, and Jackson will likely be the first three off the bench in that order.
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