Khris Middleton is an Elite “Three-and-D” Player


“Three-and-D” players get a lot of love in the modern NBA. The best three-and-D guys are more than just role players, they are vital pieces that help make a team with the requisite star power a title contender. They never get the glory but they impact the game mightily.

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A team with one of the top 15 three-and-D players from last season, on the court for at least 24 minutes per game, has a win percentage of 65 percent. That is a really strong win percentage. It is especially strong when compared to the win percentage of the 15 players who made an All NBA team last season. The win percentage of teams with the superstars of the league was 68 percent.

This is not to say three-and-D players are as important to their team as star players but it is a great barometer of how essential they are. True team success is measured in wins and those sort of specialist perimeter players contribute greatly to winning.

Apr 23, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard

Khris Middleton

(22) during game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Chicago Bulls at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Chicago won 113-106. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks are a team void of great shooting. The Bucks do, however, have Khris Middleton. He, almost single-handedly, spaced the floor for a team that desperately needed it. Middleton is by definition a three-and-D player. He is an excellent shooter off the dribble or in catch-and-shoot situations. He has hit game winning three-pointers during his Milwaukee tenure too.

Khris is also a solid defender. He is called upon to slow down opposing teams best players. He can defend wings and guards, which makes him really versatile on the defensive end of the floor. The Bucks switch in all sorts of defensive situations and Middleton is the perfect fit for this kind of defense. He can guard almost any player in the league with his size, speed, and defensive prowess.

The term “three-and-D player” can be given to a myriad of NBA players. I wanted to create a way to categorize those players using three-point shooting and defensive statistics.

I was curious to see what players would make the cut and be both qualified as effective three-point shooters and effective defenders. Additionally, I wanted to see where Khris Middleton ranked in terms of these two factors and how he compared to other three-and-D players.

First, I removed a lot of players from the potential pool. I came up with some arbitrary cutoffs that I thought would get me down to a range of players who were definitely three-and-D guys. I started by eliminating all the players that had a three-point shooting percentage under 35 percent and a usage rate over 20 percent. This was done to remove poor shooters and star players.

Additionally, I removed players that played less than 15 minutes per game and had defensive win shares less than or equal to 1. This was done to get rid of players who did not play much and did not contribute to team success on the defensive side of the ball. This left me with 32 qualified three-and-D players.

Second, I looked at important three-point shooting statistical categories. I choose to use three-pointers made per game (3PM), three-point percentage (3P%), percentage of field goals attempted that are threes (3PAr), points per game (PTS), plus/minus (PM) and minutes per game (MIN). I ranked players in all of these categories (32 for the best and one for the worst). Then I created a Three-Point Score formula with the ranks for each player.

Three-Point Score = 3PM + 3P% + 3PAr/2 + PTS + PM/2 +MIN/2

Third, I looked at important defensive statistical categories. I choose to use defensive rebounds per game (DREB), steals per game (STL), blocks per game (BLK), defensive win shares (DWS), defensive rating (DRate), plus/minus (PM), and minutes per game (MIN). I again ranked the players from 32 to one for each statistical category. Then I created a Defensive Score formula utilizing the ranks for each player.

Defensive Score = DREB/3 + STL/3 + BLK/3 + DWS + DRate + PM/2 + MIN/2

Finally, I added the Three-Point Score to the Defensive Score to get a Three-and-D Score. When I sorted the players by their Three-and-D Score the Bucks’ Khris Middleton came out as the fifth best out of the qualified 32 players.

Here is the list of the top 15 three-and-D players (with Three-and-D Score) in the NBA for the 2014-2015 season:
1) Danny Green – 248.33
2) Kyle Korver – 241.67
3) Wesley Matthews – 223.67
4) Trevor Ariza – 221.67
5) Khris Middleton – 204.67
6) DeMarre Carroll – 203
7) Matt Barnes – 182
8) Mike Dunleavy – 177.33
9) Serge Ibaka – 176
10) Harrison Barnes – 169.67
11) Paul Pierce – 168
12) Patrick Beverley – 167.67
13) J.R. Smith – 166
14) Courtney Lee – 146.67
15) Anthony Morrow – 142.67

Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver (26) attempts a three-point basket against Milwaukee Bucks guard Khris Middleton (22). Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

This list seems pretty similar to general expert and fan consensus of three-and-D players, especially the top eight. That leaves me confident in my Three-and-D Score and the calculations that went into it. The math, to some degree, matches the eye test.

Khris Middleton, by my metrics, is an elite three-and-D player in the NBA. That is a really good thing for the Bucks. As I mentioned earlier in the article, a team that starts a player in that style for a significant amount of minutes has a win percentage of 65 percent. That’s a 53 win team in an 82 game season. The best three-and-D players help teams get wins.

Middleton earned a five year $70 million contract from his play as a significant contributor for the Bucks. Add some more star power around him like Greg Monroe, an improving Giannis Antetokoumnpo, and a healthy Jabari Parker, and the sky will be the limit for him.

A lot of the better three-and-D players in the league like Danny Green, Kyle Korver, Wes Matthews, and Mike Dunleavy are all third, fourth, or even fifth options offensively on their team.

Last season Khris was often the first option for Milwaukee. I expect this year, with the added star power around him, Khris will improve his Three-Point Score significantly. That will definitely keep him as one of the elite three-and-D players in the league and that will make the Bucks’ signing of Khris Middleton an important one as they try to own the future.

Next: Milwaukee Bucks: All-Time Greatest 15 Man Roster

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