With six games to play in the regular season, the Milwaukee Bucks stand four games on top of every other team in the NBA, leading the Toronto Raptors into the final two weeks of the season.
It's one of the main reasons why the Bucks shouldn't tempt fate and try to play Giannis Antetokounmpo until the playoffs begin in mid-April.
One of the arguments in keeping Antetokounmpo in the fold is the MVP race. Giannis and James Harden, who went head-to-head just last week, are the presumptive front-runners for the award. Harden is putting up video game numbers on offense and is second in the NBA in steals, while Giannis is clearly the best player on the team with the best record, was voted All-Star Game captain, and is also one of the front-runners for the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year honor.
Keeping Giannis off the court would deny fans holding tickets to, say, fan appreciation night at the end of a three-game homestand to close out the regular season (against the Oklahoma City Thunder). Some media types even argue that fans have a right to see the best players play in spite of how it may help in the long run because of the money they paid for that seat to that game. However, an easy counter to that is to point at the opportunity in front of the Bucks this season. The real prize isn't won in some random home game in March or April, it's the NBA Finals in June, a very real possibility for this year's Milwaukee Bucks.
Antetokounmpo has been held from a handful of games this season, including one game against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers (although James also sat in that game). A few minor maladies (and hard-earned rest) have allowed Giannis to play at his otherworldly level this season. That's precisely why some rest at the end of the season heading into the playoffs could be the right ticket for the Bucks, especially since Antetokounmpo apparently aggravated the injury in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this week.
Whether or not Giannis wins the MVP is irrelevant to the point that the Bucks have a shot at some even more important team history this season. An injury of any kind to Antetokounmpo dooms the chances of the Bucks making the NBA Finals, a lofty goal for a team that hasn't won a playoff series in a generation. With first-round pick Donte DiVincenzo out for the year, and Malcolm Brogdon and Pau Gasol shelved for a month yet, the Bucks can't afford to tempt fate by playing their star players through injuries. If anything, against a schedule that includes two games against Atlanta (eliminated from playoff contention), Brooklyn (a potential first-round playoff opponent), Oklahoma City, and Philadelphia, it could be an opportunity for the Bucks to run out their bench in advance of the postseason, where the bench will grow shorter.
Sitting Giannis gives the Bucks a better chance to have playoff success, even if it means potentially punting on a shot at the MVP award.
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