Here are a few certainties about Milwaukee Bucks‘ shooting guard Khris Middleton. He’s a really good shooter, he’s a really good defender, he’s only 23 years old, and he’s going to get paid this summer.
Major credit has to go to the Bucks’ GM John Hammond for insisting on Detroit including Middleton in the team’s 2013 swap of point guards named Brandon. At the time of the trade, Middleton was just a second-round pick looking for an opportunity. In fact, this was pretty much the only NBA highlight video of him available on YouTube at the time.
Khris Middleton got the opportunity he needed right away with the Bucks when the presumed starting small forward, Carlos Delfino, missed the entire season. Middleton started 64 games and averaged 12.1 points per game while shooting a career high 41.4 percent for the 2013-14 Bucks. His numbers improved even more this season and he emerged as an advanced stats savant.
Those improvements came in a contract year though, and that means the amount Milwaukee will have to match in restricted free agency is higher than anyone could have imagined two years ago. Reports state that the belief around the league is he could receive an offer as high as $15 million a year.
Fortunately for the Milwaukee Bucks, Middleton is their only restricted free agent after the trade of Brandon Knight to Phoenix. They still have to keep in mind that they will eventually have to pay big bucks to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, but Middleton’s potential deal won’t hurt as much when the cap is raised.
Due to a new television deal, the NBA’s salary cap at the start of the 2016-17 season will increase from $66.3 million to $88.8 million. At $15 million a year, Middleton would only be taking about 1/6 of the cap which isn’t unreasonable at all given the caliber of player that he is.
Enough talk about his future though, let’s look back at the season he put together for the 41-41 Milwaukee Bucks.
Offensive Grade: A-
We knew Khris Middleton was an excellent shooter coming into the 2014-15 season, but he really improved his all-around game throughout the season.
He started handling the ball more and as a result created offense for himself instead of just running off screens. He doesn’t have the handle to shoot many unassisted three-pointers, but he did a good job of creating his own offense inside the arc. A total of 56.3 percent of his points scored came inside of the arc and 40.4 percent of his two-point field goals made were unassisted.
Middleton is still at his best though in catch and shoot positions, especially from behind the arc. He shot 3.1 catch and shoot three-point attempts per game and averaged 42.3 percent on those shots. This type of role makes him incredibly valuable moving forward as the Bucks add players that need to have the ball in their hands.
It will also make his contract very tradeable if that becomes a part of the plan down the line. He’ll be able to jump into any offense and play off of their team’s star.
It wouldn’t be a review of Khris Middleton’s season if I didn’t at least relive his clutch shots that propelled the Bucks to a .500 record. So here they are.
The Milwaukee Bucks may not have had a legitimate star to go to throughout the games, but they did have Middleton at the end of games who was as clutch as any star this season.
Defensive Grade: A+
This is probably the only perfect grade I will be giving in my series of grades, but Khris Middleton completely deserves it. Just watch this effort and admire his basketball IQ.
He single-handedly guarded three Washington Wizards without any help defense from his teammates. Most times he wasn’t as flashy as that on defense though.
Middleton doesn’t block many shots and he doesn’t always stop players from getting their shots off, but he contests EVERYTHING. That’s the reason why opponents only shoot 39.5 percent when guarded by him.
His defense has come a long way since joining the Bucks, although a lot of it can probably be attributed to Larry Drew‘s atrocious defense last season. Middleton improved his defensive rating from 113 during the 2013-14 season to 102 this season.
He also improved his defensive win shares from 0.8 to 3.5 which is remarkable.
Middleton’s defense was so good that he started getting national attention for it. Many articles were written about his defensive impact and he even got some love in the voting for NBA’s All-Defense teams.
His improvement on defense has made him an absolute necessity to have on the court during crunch time. Even if his shooting is struggling, his defense makes him a positive contributor.
Final Grade: A
Khris Middleton earned himself a tremendous amount of money this season. $15 million a year seems like a lot, but there’s very few fans or people around the league that wouldn’t be willing to pay that to him. That says a lot about the former No. 39 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft out of Texas A&M.
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