From being a second thought in the Brandon Jennings trade to being the Bucks leading scorer in the 2015-16 season, to making his first All-Star Game. Is the next step in the journey signing a max contract? Khris Middleton has had an NBA journey that seems storybook at times, from the G-League to the All-Star Game. He has shined brightest when the spotlight intensifies, highlighted by his toasting of the Celtics last season. His playoffs this year was not bad, but it also wasn’t peak Khris. He was very close to his regular season numbers and did not take the step up he did last year.
That said, Khris Middleton is a max contract player and he is the one the Bucks need. Khris has been terrific as a complement to Giannis, a trait many other max players do not share. When surrounding Giannis with talent, the most important trait is shooting. Khris was 19th in the NBA in threes made this season. His season was the 5th most made threes by a Buck ever in a single season. Last season Khris set a career high in made threes with 146, this year he made 179. This will always be the thing Bucks fans set their focus on, and importantly so, as his ability to stretch the floor opens up the paint for Bledsoe and Giannis to thrive at the rim. In fact, most Bucks fans want Khris to be attempting even more threes, so we will see if 179 can be further improved upon next season. He was knockdown from three in the playoffs shooting a rotation high 43.5%, Khris made 40 threes during this Bucks playoff campaign, the next closest on the team was Lopez and Mirotic with 22 a piece.
Khris’s defense is something that is mentioned a lot, but rarely detailed. He is that perfect wing size where he can guard smaller and larger wings. Few wings have the wingspan/strength combination required to match up with the Lebrons, Durants, and Kawhis of the world. He is able to capably stick with those guys and make them work for their 30 points. He routinely draws the toughest wing matchup and does what he is asked to do. He might not be an all-defense candidate like his peers, but he does a bang up job and helps the Bucks get where they need to be.
Khris’s playmaking is probably his most undervalued skill. For some reason fans think he is bad at playmaking, there are very few guys in the league that average those kinds of assist numbers and are not point guards or top ten players. He averages more assists per game than Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis, despite playing fewer minutes and not being his team’s offensive focal point. He is perfect when Giannis goes to the bench and the Bucks need someone to take the scoring or playmaking load. Middleton knows how to lead players into easy buckets and often makes the game look easy when he is passing in rhythm.
Now let’s get into why Khris is on the brink of becoming a Bucks Legend. Here are Khris Middleton’s ranks among Bucks all-time leaders in the regular season:
- Points: 14th
- Rebounds: 22nd
- Assists: 19th
- Steals: 11th
- Made Threes: 3rd
Now let’s look at his playoff ranks:
- Points: 14th
- Rebounds: 17th
- Assists: 12th
- Steals: 10th
- Made Threes: 1st
If Khris signs an extension he will rank amongst the Bucks all-time greats in each of these five categories, and further solidify himself as one of the best Bucks of all time. Khris is already the second-best Buck of this decade, and while he stands no chance at passing Giannis, his contributions will not go unnoticed. He has been the perfect running mate for Giannis, spacing the floor and stepping up when the Bucks need him.
His playoffs have historically been more efficient than his regular season, so he is at his best when it matters most. Khris is not an elite athlete, and his mistakes always seem to stand out as a result of that. He also takes a ton of tough shots, and despite him making a lot of them, the misses can look awful.
Is there a chance that Khris ends up being overpaid on his next contract? Yeah absolutely. Is there a realistic alternative for the Bucks this summer? If Kawhi or KD are interested in living in the 414 then yes, otherwise no. The cap can be a cruel mistress, if the Bucks want to sign anyone for a high value (>20m) deal aside from Khris Middleton, they would have to gut their roster, if they want to give a high value deal to Khris Middleton they could keep their roster intact. For that reason and that reason alone, it makes sense to re-sign Khris. So with that said I hope the Bucks extend Khris Middleton and we see his 22 raised into the rafters sometime in the 2030s.