This piece was written by Behind the Buck Pass contributor Kevin Schield. Kevin is a student at Arizona State University and can be found on Twitter @kevilenko.
Khris Middleton, along with Brandon Knight and Viacheslav Kravtsov, came to Milwaukee as part of the deal that shipped Brandon Jennings to Detroit. While Knight was certainly the centerpiece of the deal, Middleton is far from a salary throw-in and brings some much-needed depth to the Milwaukee wing position.
The former Texas A&M Aggie played just one season in Detroit after being drafted 39th overall in 2012. He turned 22 this week, so he has a lot of basketball ahead of him. His statistics were not particularly eye-popping last season, but it’s likely he’ll be given a more consistent role with Milwaukee. John Hammond even went as far as to call Middleton’s acquisition “a tremendous opportunity for Khris.”
In just 27 NBA games last season, Middleton averaged 6.1 points and 1.9 rebounds in 18 minutes per game. The 6-8, 217 pound small forward relies on his excellent mid-range game to score. In shots from 10-to-15 feet, Middleton shot 74% – a very impressive number. Unfortunately, that was over very small sample size. Aside from that, his shooting stats were pretty average last season.
Middleton’s playmaking, rebounding and defense are all still somewhat of a work in progress. Rebounding may be his most glaring weakness right now, as there is no reason a player of his size should bring down less than two per game. He does not bring the length to the small forward spot that rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo does, but is a more polished and “NBA-ready” player than the young Greek rookie.
Middleton, Antetokounmpo and Carlos Delfino should all vie playing time at small forward – probably the Bucks weakest position. The Bucks will give Middleton a fair shake, and it’s possible he could find himself in the starting lineup at some point this season, particularly if Delfino were to suffer an injury.
For Middleton to truly become a valuable asset for the Bucks, he’ll need to improve with the ball in his hands, especially his ability to get to the rim. He’s already a solid defender who can guard multiple positions, but he’ll need to prove to the organization that he’s an upgrade over Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. This season is a big one for Middleton as he looks to leave his D-League days behind and establish himself as an 82-game NBA player. It starts on the defensive end, and given the lack of talent at the small forward spot, he should have plenty of opportunities to prove his worth.