Milwaukee Bucks: How Khris Middleton could improve in a new-look offense

MILWUAKEE, WI - MARCH 9: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
MILWUAKEE, WI - MARCH 9: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Bucks need Khris Middleton to kick on if they’re to achieve their goals this season, but how could he make those improvements?

Khris Middleton is without a doubt one of the most important factors when it comes to the Milwaukee Bucks’ potential to contend. The big question is if he can be the second best player on a contending team.

Can Middleton elevate his game and become the kind of clear cut All-Star the Bucks may need him to be?

When it comes to potential improvements to Middleton’s game the first thing that comes to mind is his three-point attempt rate.

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For the sake of comparison, when you look at most of the NBA’s elite mid-range shooters, very few shoot more often from mid-range than they do from 3pt range. The only exceptions close to the top of this list are bigs like Myles Turner and perimeter players who aren’t good three-point shooters like Ish Smith.

Middleton is an elite mid-range shooter having shot 49.3 percent from mid-range last season, but he had something of a down year from three-point range, shooting 35.7 percent from deep. The value of the three-point shot is such that sacrificing a little efficiency will still generally weigh out as a positive overall compared to taking an abundance of mid-range two-pointers.

Of course, the mid-range has some value as a bail-out late in the clock, but Middleton and the Bucks as a whole settled for those shots more often and earlier in the clock than they should have last season.

This speaks volumes about the Bucks’ mediocre shot creation and lack of flow in the offense. The Bucks’ assists per field goals made numbers are naturally pretty middling, while coach Budenholzer’s Hawks ranked in the top-five throughout his entire tenure there.

Not everything can be blamed on the system, though. As an example, 36.5 percent of Eric Bledsoe‘s field goal attempts were from three-point range, while only 32.2 percent of Middleton’s field goal attempts were from three-point range. Considering the difference in their respective abilities in that are, that split is almost criminal. To a large extent, Middleton just has to be more willing to let them fly rather than taking a couple of steps in or posting up.

When it comes to Middleton’s playmaking, he has shown that he has good passing vision, but becoming more of a primary ball-handler and as a result being forced into shooting more mid-range shots is not the most appealing idea. Especially not while Giannis Antetokounmpo is on the floor. The four-to-five assists per game mark is good for Middleton.

Better team play will help overall shot creation and hopefully make Middleton mesh within the flow of the offense in much less forced and less static ways.

Defensively, if Middleton’s minutes go down, it would seem fair to expect better effort levels from him than in last year’s regular season. When engaged, Middleton showed in the playoffs that he can still be very useful on that end.

A lot of the team’s struggles defensively can be blamed on Jason Kidd but there was also a relative lack of effort (and to an extent frustration) from the players.

If Middleton can implement changes across these elements of his game, he will be a legitimate All-Star contender this year.

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With a reputation as a player with a very good work ethic and desire to win, it seems realistic to expect further improvement from Middleton working alongside the new coaching staff.