Just days before training camp, Milwaukee was dealt a devastating blow with the news that Khris Middleton has been ruled out for six months with a torn left hamstring, requiring surgery. How much does the loss of Middleton to injury for a majority of the season de-rail the Bucks expectations for the 2016-17? Further, who should replace him as the primary starter at the shooting guard position?
JH: To put it bluntly, the Middleton injury really sucks for the Bucks. He is the glue that holds this team together and allows Jabari and Giannis to share the floor together. In my most recent piece I discuss how there may be an opportunity in the midst of this poorly timed injury. That opportunity is for Jabari and Giannis to truly take over the Bucks.
Who should replace Khris in the starting lineup is an interesting question. Rashad Vaughn and Malcolm Brogdon probably deserve the first crack at it. But they are both young, inexperienced, and, for lack of a better word, a total crap-shoot. If Brogdon’s college skills translate to the pros then he is the best replacement. He is the only one on the team with the three-and-D skill set that Middleton had. Only there is no way he is as good as Middleton at either of those two things in his rookie year.
RK: The injury to Khris Middleton is absolutely terrible for the Bucks. Throughout last season, he was their best player, and they were not very good without him on the court. Before the injury, the Bucks were still fighting for a playoff spot, and now it will take Giannis and Jabari taking the leap in to super stardom for the upcoming season to mean anything.
In my opinion, Malcom Brogdon should replace Khris at shooting guard. Assuming he quickly adapts to the NBA, Brogdon’s defensive prowess is what’s needed most because offensively, Giannis and Jabari should start to carry the load.
AM: Very simply, although Giannis and Jabari possess far greater potential and could comfortably surpass Middleton in his absence, on the evidence of last season, he’s currently the best player on the team. Expectations have gone out the window and instead it’s now more about what the Bucks could make of the year. This injury not only leaves a gaping hole in their starting five but disrupts rotations and shifts bench options too. Middleton is rare as his strengths lie in opposition to many of Milwaukee’s biggest weaknesses, meaning that without him there’s a possibility those weaknesses could end up further magnified.
In terms of replacements, I’m not in favor of starting a rookie who was a second round pick on opening night, no matter how experienced. As the season goes on, I’d love to see Brogdon in position to take the spot, but let’s not make him a scapegoat from day one. As bad as it was, that one extra year of experience gives Vaughn the edge for me. Vaughn’s already the scapegoat to a degree too, so in starting him I feel you’ve really got nothing to lose. I’m also not opposed to Jason Terry starting there, although I’d obviously prefer to see it used as an opportunity to nurture youth. Just please avoid a Delly-MCW starting backcourt combo.
JT: It’s an incredible blow for the Bucks’ chances this year, even though earning a possible playoff spot was hardly a guarantee. Losing the linchpin of the team right before the start of training camp certainly tempers expectations and it’s pretty easy to see the Bucks are without a player who can come close to replicating Middleton’s role and his production. With that said, I’d lean towards Brogdon to assume the starting shooting guard spot. I know that’d build lofty expectations for a second round draft pick entering his rookie season, but I really think it’s something we’ll eventually see at some point this season.
TW: Immediately after reading Shams Charania’s tweet: “Khris Middleton has suffered a torn hamstring and will undergo surgery”, my head fell into my hands, I assumed the fetal position and began to cry. To me, the Bucks’ realistic chance of making the playoffs went up in smoke. This was only reaffirmed further with the news that Middleton would miss the first five months of next season. Giannis and Jabari get most of the media spotlight, but make no mistake, there’s little doubt that Khris Middleton is Milwaukee’s best player, arguably on both ends of the floor. As Adam has pointed out, Middleton essentially patches many of the Bucks biggest weaknesses on the floor with his near-forty-percent three-point shooting and solid perimeter defense. With this in mind, it’s hard to see how the team will fill this void in production adequately for a majority of the season, assuming Khris returns for the final month of the season. Similar to Rohan, I think it’s going to take near-All-Star level seasons from Giannis and Jabari to make much of an improvement on last season’s 35 wins, and even then, Milwaukee’s poor team defense will likely be a tough hurdle to overcome.
Jason Kidd loves to experiment, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the shooting guard starting slot is constantly in flux. That being said, I think Rashad Vaughn will get the first crack at the starting job for opening night. Statistically, he’s coming off one of the worst rookie seasons in NBA history, but this should be his chance to play significant minutes, throw up shots and prove that he can be a valuable contributor for the Bucks. I also think Malcolm Brogdon will get his opportunity to start, especially given his reputation as a quality backcourt defender. I’m also not ruling out the possibility of the two-point guard lineup with Carter-Williams and Dellavedova (sorry Adam!) or Jason Terry getting some starts throughout the season.