Khris Middleton’s Poor Play Continues


Was Khris Middleton‘s great play last season an indicator of things to come, or did the Bucks pay the wrong man?

There’s been a lot of disappointing things about the Milwaukee Bucks this season. They can’t stay healthy. They can’t play defense. They also can’t win games.

But maybe the most disappointing aspect of all of this is the contract given to Khris Middleton this offseason, and his performance since getting paid.

Middleton was treated as an integral young piece by the Bucks front office this offseason–he got his max deal immediately, without even getting the chance to talk to other teams. That five-year, $70 million contract made Middleton Milwaukee’s second-highest paid player, behind just Greg Monroe.

Monroe has looked like a max contract guy thus far this season. Middleton has not. Comparing their stats would have you thinking Middleton deserved closer to $1.4 million per year than $14.

1Khris Middleton241335.212.1.3694.2.4073.3.8843.
2Greg Monroe251332.512.7.5210.04.1.7179.

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/22/2015.

Moose is 0.1 rebound per game away from averaging a double-double, with three assists, a steal and a block coming from the big man each night too. He’s also shooting over 52 percent from the field, and scoring more than anyone on the Bucks who isn’t Greek, at just over 16 points per game.

Middleton is averaging as many fouls per game as he is rebounds, and more fouls per game than assists, steals or blocks. He’s scoring just 13.5 points per contest on a putrid 37 percent from the field. At least he’s still been capable from long-range, making over 40 percent of his triples.

Nov 4, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Milwaukee won 91-87. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Having Greg Monroe outscore Khris Middleton isn’t really the problem, though. As nice as it would’ve been to have Middleton develop into a dominant scorer, the Bucks paid him to do two things above all else–have an efficient offensive game revolving around his three-point shot and play great defense. After all, that’s how he had such a great real plus-minus last season.

He isn’t doing either of those things. That’s a massive issue for this team and for Middleton–it’s not even that he’s not improving on schedule, he’s actually gotten worse than last season. Middleton obviously isn’t scoring efficiently at all if he’s shooting more than three points worse than 40 percent from the field, and his defense has been bad too.

Middleton is ninth on the Bucks with an offensive rating of just 101, and eighth in defensive rating, coming in at 114. That means Middleton is allowing more points than he’s scoring per 100 possessions–not a good sign for a $70 million man.

It’s not been impossible to have a positive impact on the Bucks so far, even though they’ve been terrible. Greg Monroe is earning his checks, with an offensive rating of 112 and a defensive rating of 108. The really impressive part: Moose is first in o-rating and second in d-rating. He’s been fantastic.

Middleton has not. Player efficiency rating can be misleading when applied to low-minutes players, but on anyone with a main role it’s an effective tool to look at overall contributions to a team. Monroe leads Milwaukee in PER, coming in at a solid 23. That’s good enough for 20th throughout the entire NBA–Moose has represented Milwaukee well.

Middleton is tenth on his own team in player efficiency rating. His PER of 10.9 is atrocious–15 is the league average, meaning Middleton is well below an average player’s expected production at the moment.

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To be worth that huge contract, Middleton would have to make significant contributions to help Milwaukee win basketball games. That is obvious. What isn’t obvious, at least right away, is how bad his deal has been across the NBA so far this season.

Khris Middleton is making $14 million this season, which makes him the 34th highest paid player of 2015-16. Some notable players making less than Khris Middleton this year include: DeMarcus Cousins, Kyrie Irving, Draymond Green, Brandon Knight, Al Horford, Stephen Curry, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Mike Conley.

It seems that Milwaukee greatly overpaid Khris Middleton from how he’s preformed this season. Hell, he’s only making around $2 million less per season than Jimmy Butler and Klay Thompson are over the next four years.

Let this be a cautionary tale about giving players long, huge contracts based on very small sample sizes. Middleton scored under 14 points per game for the Bucks last season in under 60 starts, and managed to play great defense–in a great team defensive context–and make his usual amount of three-pointers in the process.

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Middleton had never been a good defender before last year–his career-best defensive rating was 110 before the 102 he managed last season. He managed to fit into a scheme that propelled a defense led by Zaza Pachulia all the way to the top of the NBA right as his rookie deal expired, and reaped the benefits of peaking at the right time.

Or Middleton is just in a slump, and will soon return to his former glory? That seems like the safe and more probable answer, except for the fact that he looks lost for much of the time he spends on the floor. Hopefully Khris Middleton can return to his max salary worthy form soon.

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If not, the Milwaukee Bucks are going to have a tough challenge ahead of them, with $70 million going to a player who isn’t truly worth it.