Milwaukee Bucks: Khris Middleton has become elite

After missing 59 games last season due to injury, Khris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks has returned to form, showing he has become elite.

The NBA has become a league full of 3-point shooters thanks to the exploits of the Golden State Warriors. Thankfully for the Milwaukee Bucks, they have their own sharpshooter in Khris Middleton. The 6’8″ wing out of Charleston, South Carolina is in his sixth season in the NBA and has taken the “next step” this season.

Middleton worked himself into great numbers in the 2015-16 season. In 79 games, he averaged 18.2 points, 4.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 36.1 minutes per game. Unfortunately for Middleton, the 2016-17 season was spoiled by injury. He only played 29 games thanks to a hamstring tear.

Naturally, his numbers went down as it is difficult to shake off rust, let alone keep up with players who have been living the playbook for 59 games before you start the season. However, this season Middleton has shown that the Milwaukee Bucks are more than just Giannis Antetokounmpo. To stop the Bucks, you have to stop Khris Middleton too.

Middleton on the season

Khris Middleton is the second-leading scorer on the Bucks outfit behind Antetokounmpo at 20.1 points per game. This is just under two points per game better than his previous career-best of 18.2 per game in 2015-16.

However, it is not just the additional scoring allowing Middleton to be effective. His 5.2 total rebounds per game are a career high by almost one rebound per game. Middleton has achieved this by helping fix one of Milwaukee’s issues — defensive rebounding.

Middleton is playing tremendous team ball, sharing and moving the rock with others. This has led to 4.0 assists per game, just 0.2 off his career best. This is important for the Bucks, as Middleton was struggling early on in the season with his 3-point shot. The ability to find a teammate with a better shot was crucial for the Bucks to keep winning.

Middleton has taken more 3-point shots per game this season (5.0) than ever before. Unfortunately for the Bucks, Middleton is only hitting 36.1 percent from deep — well below his career average of 39.3 percent. However, it is not all doom and gloom for Middleton and his shooting.

He’s taking 10.4 shots per game from inside the arc, making a career best 5.4 field goals per game. This is good for 52.2 percent from the field. He is making 63.4 percent from 0-3 feet and 55.6 percent from 10-16 feet.

It is thanks to this ability to hit from the mid-range that’s causing defenders to be in two minds when defending him, puts them a step behind when he drives to the rim. This is leading to a career high 4.3 free throw attempts per game. When you are a career 87.5 percent shooter from the charity stripe, that’s a pretty effective way of putting up points.

Last 10 games

In the past 10 games, Middleton has stepped it up again. The Bucks are admittedly only 5-5 in that stretch, but this has not been Middleton’s fault.

The Bucks forward has averaged 21.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game over his last 10 contests. With the exception of assists, these numbers are all up on his season averages.

Middleton has been simply lights out, shooting 52.1 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep. Yes you read that right, he is hitting half of his 3-point attempts. Add in that Middleton is shooting at 95 percent from the line and you have an offensive machine.

If Khris Middleton can keep this play up as the Bucks get all of their players back and into form, this could shape the Eastern Conference and things could get really interesting come playoff time.