The Milwaukee Bucks did not get their 2023 NBA playoff dreams off to an auspicious start. Not only did the Bucks drop their opening game at home, 130-117 to the Miami Heat, but they lost superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo to an injury. Consequently, Milwaukee Bucks odds to win their first-round series have plummeted.
However, that may have uncovered a buy-low opportunity.
Bucks Lose Giannis, But Heat Lose Herro
Before the series began, the Bucks were immense favorites to advance. Bettors could find them around -1200, around 88% implied probability to beat the Heat once the vig was removed. At the time of writing, Bucks odds for the first round have plunged, with a -275 available at the time of writing at BetMGM Sportsbook.
Giannis obviously represents a huge loss. He’ll likely finish third in MVP voting and is arguably the best player in the NBA right now. And dropping a home game to an always scrappy Heat team puts Milwaukee in an early hole.
However, the key here is that the Heat have potentially incurred a bigger loss. Tyler Herro also went down and X-rays have revealed a broken hand. He’ll miss at least four weeks and won’t return for this series.
Meanwhile, Giannis has a painful lower back injury, but one that didn’t produce the type of structural damage that should keep him out for an extended period.
Furthermore, even if Giannis misses some time or isn’t near 100%, the Bucks are far better equipped to withstand his absence when compared to the Heat without Herro. We can see this borne out in lineup data from Cleaning The Glass.
Lineup Data Looks Favorable For Milwaukee
Here’s a look at how each team has fared without its injured star player:
- Bucks without Giannis: +0.1 per 100 possessions
- Heat without Herro: -4.6 per 100 posessions
The reason for this can be seen in each team’s roster construction. The Heat have struggled all year on offense. They rate 25th in efficiency there due to limited shot creation. Off-the-bounce creation has been a major issue, as Kyle Lowry at age 36 looks to be on his last legs. Gabe Vincent is a low-usage, low-efficiency backup and Victor Oladipo didn’t even get off the bench in the team’s last two games. Herro and Jimmy Butler are basically the only reliable shot creators on the team.
Thus, even though Giannis is obviously a far better player than Herro, the latter’s skillset may be tougher to replace here. And the Bucks just have more good NBA players in general. Bobby Portis, one of the best bench players in the league, features in the team’s most-used lineup that doesn’t include Giannis, one that had a strong +13.1 differential.
Even those numbers above without Giannis probably understate their strength. A lot of those lineups don’t include Khris Middleton, who basically took the season off but looked like his old self in Game 1. He posted a 33/9/4 line on 12-for-20 shooting as the top scoring option. Jrue Holiday remains a star-level player and Brook Lopez will probably podium in Defensive Player of the Year voting.
Has Market Overreacted On Milwaukee Bucks Odds?
Already, good news has begun to flow in for the Bucks. Game 2 isn’t until Wednesday, which helps the team’s cause. And The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported the Bucks think Giannis may be available.
“There is hope and optimism that he’ll be good, that he is fine moving forward,” he said, noting the injury appears to be a pain tolerance issue.
Unfortunately, the good news has already moved the market considerably. The Bucks could be found as low as -225 early on Monday. I managed to get in at -240 as I think the market has seriously overreacted to the combination of Giannis’ injury and the Game 1 loss. I still think -275 is probably worth a small play as this line should be above -300 in my opinion. It’s only an edge of around 2.5% at that number.
But, I still think the Bucks are very strong favorites to win this without Tyler Herro in their way. They’re already favorites for Game 2. Even if Giannis misses some time, the team is well set up to deal with his loss. Meanwhile, a mediocre Miami offense has taken a massive hit, one which I seriously doubt it can withstand.
Additionally, look for Jimmy Butler to shoulder an immense scoring and creation load. Make sure his points and assists props going forward reflect that he’s probably the only capable high-volume ball handler they have left.