Fresh off of being selected to his first All-Star team, Milwaukee Bucks wing Khris Middleton will reportedly be a free agency target for the Indiana Pacers.
It’s been a momentous few days for Khris Middleton. On Thursday he received news that he’d be joining his teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Milwaukee Bucks coaching staff, at the All-Star Game, the first time he’s earned that honor in his career.
Still, even beyond the next few months and the potential they hold for a Bucks team with the NBA’s best record, another significant juncture in Middleton’s career will arrive when he hits free agency in the summer.
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Middleton has a player option worth $13 million for next season with the Bucks, yet as a guarantee to earn much more than that, he will undoubtedly opt out.
Most have speculated that Middleton will be in line for a new deal at close to the max, so from a Bucks’ perspective, the question has been who may be interested in trying to prise him away, and taking away any chance of a Milwaukee discount.
On that front, a note from ESPN’s Zach Lowe is his trade deadline primer has produced one team rumored to have interest in the 27-year-old. Speaking of the Pacers as a potential trade destination for Memphis point guard Mike Conley, Lowe wrote:
"“Who is Indiana signing in free agency that is better than Conley? (One potential answer, sources say: Middleton. But luring a good player away from a contending team like the Bucks is really hard unless Milwaukee gets too cute in negotiations with Middleton.)”"
Lowe’s point that luring Middleton away from the Bucks will be difficult is certainly valid, just as the Bucks will likely be reluctant to part ways with any of their impending free agents based on the team’s current play.
Speaking to ESPN’s Malika Andrews after he learned of his first All-Star berth, Middleton also re-iterated his own desire to stay with the Bucks long-term:
All signs point to a speedy resolution for Middleton and the Bucks when free agency opens on July 1, but that remains dependent on just how determined other NBA teams prove to be in pursuing him.
The Pacers have a very bright future ahead of them in the East, even though Victor Oladipo‘s recent injury represented a major setback. As a team who could certainly do with adding a star wing of Middleton’s caliber, and a divisional rival, the Pacers will certainly have nothing to lose in targeting Middleton with a max offer early in free agency.
If everything goes to plan for Indiana, the Pacers could steal Middleton away from Milwaukee, while even if it doesn’t, they may force one of their rivals into a deal that will make their cap situation more challenging in the years to come.
Other teams interested in Middleton will undoubtedly emerge in the months ahead, but to begin with, the Pacers certainly represent a viable threat as the Bucks look to retain their latest All-Star for the longer term.