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Why Khris Middleton Is The NBA’s Dark Horse

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Khris Middleton is one of the rising talents that the NBA has to offer. However, no one seems to be giving him the attention he deserves.

Kris Middleton, the 6‘8 guard for the Milwaukee Bucks, has quietly made his name in the NBA as a dangerous scorer. Through 37 games, Middleton is averaging 16.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists, not too shabby for the 39th pick in the 2012 NBA draft. Although the numbers don’t necessarily say that the guy can drop 30 on any given night or create for others, he’s shown the capability to put the ball in the basket at a proficient rate. 

In his last five games, Middleton averaged 25.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 5.4 assists. He has also showcased an efficient .512/.467/.904 shooting split. The numbers are amazing, but the quality of opponents that he has faced in this recent hot streak is even more impressive.

During this five-game run, he has played against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers, Minnesota Timberwolves, San Antonio Spurs, and Chicago Bulls. The average defensive efficiency of those teams combined is an incredible 98.92. Four of the five teams listed are in the top 10 in defensive efficiency. Middleton is tearing teams up and continues to shine in an increased role.

Fastbreak’s Morten Jensen points out that “it’s rare for players to increase their efficiency when they simultaneously increase their volume. The same can be said for increased dime-dropping and lessening turnover numbers. Somehow, Middleton is doing both of these things.” Middleton has done a fantastic job showing that he can make the jump from an average player to a legitimate contributor.

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Shot chart ‘14-‘15

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Shot chart ‘15-‘16

The Bucks’ guard has been much better from beyond the arc this season compared to last. Although he shot a modest 40.7% from three last season, he’s currently shooting a remarkable 45.1%. The difference this season is that he’s not just the spot-up corner shooter. He has also expanded his game, increasing his shooting percentages from the left elbow, the middle, and the right elbow (17.9%/14.1%/14.6% better). 

Shooting percentage can correlate to how many shots a player has taken. DeAndre Jordan led the league in field-goal percentage while only attempting an average of 6.5 shots per game. Middleton is averaging 4.8 three-point attempts per game. He’s number 21 for total three-pointers attempted and is ahead of players like Kevin Durant, Kyle Korver, and J.J. Redick. Although he’s taking a heavy amount of shots from the outside, he’s managed to keep himself at number four for three-point percentage. The players in front of him are Kawhi Leonard, Redick, and Omri Casspi.

Fansided’s Jeff Herrmann made the argument a while back that Middleton may possibly be the next Jimmy Butler. He stated, “According to these stats Middleton is the better shooter, three point shooter, with a better per 36 steals average; while Butler is superior in blocking, steals, and turnover rate.” 

This isn’t to take away from the fantastic season that Butler is having, but Middleton may be on his way to becoming a similar player. The two have this in common: they are both players that had been under the radar in terms of their play but have made the jump to becoming legitimate threats on the floor. 

The difference? One player plays for a bigger market (Chicago), while the other player plays for a smaller market team (Milwaukee). 

Middleton doesn’t get a lot of credit for his increased play because of the lack of attention that the Bucks get. The only people who actually recognize his talents are Bucks fans and fantasy basketball owners who are reaping the benefits of having him on their team.

Middleton’s team doesn’t do justice to his defense. Looking at the stats, he gives up 106.8 points per 100 possessions, which directly correlates with Milwaukee’s poor defense (29th in Defensive Efficiency). Yet he has proven himself to be an excellent on-ball defender. Middleton typically guards the opposing team’s best player. In addition, his size and agility allows him to guard either wings or guards. This trait alone makes him versatile and a contributor for the Bucks on the defensive end.

The four-year guard has shown the ability to be a great asset both offensively and defensively, but that isn’t all that he can do. Outside of the statistics, Middleton has made it clear that he wants to be a winner. He has shown the willingness time and time again to take shots when they matter most. The 24-year-old already has two buzzer beaters against the Suns and the Heat and a game winning go-ahead bucket against the Mavericks within the past year. 

He not only has the capability to take these shots, but also the guts to do so. Whenever Milwaukee needs a go-ahead basket, or they are pushed into a game-winning shot, Middleton somehow finds himself in the mix of those situations and shines.

The Bucks guard got paid this past offseason, earning a five-year, $70 million dollar contract. Some speculation came about as to whether the contract that he received was too much for a player who has only had one memorable season thus far. For a young player making his name in a small market, it is absolutely worth it. 

Middleton has so much potential; he’s part of a young core that includes Jabari Parker, Greg Monroe, and Michael Carter-Williams. The key for this team is developing consistency as they continue to improve on last season’s playoff run. The Bucks are an upcoming team with plenty of upside for the future. 

Middleton will be a key part of the organization’s success moving forward, and Bucks fans have a lot to be excited for in the upcoming seasons. Don’t sleep on him just because he isn’t a household name in the NBA yet. He is severely underrated and has the potential to become an all-star in the near future. If his play this season serves as any indication, Middleton is going to be a name that NBA fans will be familiar with in due time.

Edited by Ben Zolna, Jazmyn Brown.

What is Khris Middleton's career-high for points in a game?
Created 1/9/16
  1. 36
  2. 41
  3. 30
  4. 39

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