Milwaukee Bucks: Khris Middleton solidifying his status as second star

SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 10: (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 10: (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

While Giannis Antetokounmpo is receiving the most praise for the Milwaukee Bucks’ sensational season, Khris Middleton is also having a historically good year, and his improvement has been a significant factor this season.

After the collapse in the Eastern Conference Finals last year versus the Toronto Raptors, the Milwaukee Bucks had several looming questions to answer. The biggest surrounding Khris Middleton, who was set to become a free agent after his first All-Star appearance.

Middleton had a sensational season for the Milwaukee Bucks, but it was up in the air if the forward could be a true second option on a championship-caliber team. The Bucks had faith in Middleton, though, rewarding him with a lucrative five-year, $178 million contract extension.

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The move was criticized by many who believed Middleton was overpaid and undeserving of this deal, and that Milwaukee would eventually regret the deal.

The league was transitioning from super teams to an association of duos. Big names such as LeBron James and Anthony Davis or Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were all joining forces, and many thought the Middleton-Antetokounmpo tandem was not good enough to compete with the best.

However, 58 games into this season, Khris has silenced his critics with some stellar play alongside current MVP favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo. This level of play has been proving that Middleton is capable of being a valuable second option on a contending team.

Increasing his scoring from 18.3 points per game last season to a career-best 21.1 so far this season, Middleton has been a legitimate threat offensively. The forward is also doing so in fewer minutes as well, dropping from 31.1 minutes per game last season to 29.9 this season.

The 28-year-old is having a historic season offensively, currently tracking to be a member of the illustrious 50-40-90 club. Shooting 50.8 percent from the field, 43.8 percent from three-point territory, and 90.7 percent from the free-throw line, Middleton has been putting on an offensive showcase all season.

Averaging 20 or more points per game while also being in the 50-40-90 club also puts Middleton’s name up there with some well-known NBA company. Only four players have ever been able to achieve this feat over a season, Larry Bird twice, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry.

Middleton was also selected to his second consecutive All-Star team as a reserve, a much-deserved reward. As of right now, Khris has been worth every penny of his massive contract extension, but the most significant test lies ahead.

Middleton only averaged 16.9 points per game over 15 games in the postseason last year, a significant dip compared to his regular-season stats. The Bucks did win their first two playoff series but were eventually knocked out by the Toronto Raptors after leading the series 2-0.

Middleton only scored over 14 or more points once in that six games series, scoring single digits in two of those games. This lack of offense was the main criticism for rewarding Khris with the lucrative contract even though he had such a fantastic regular season.

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With their championship hopes higher right now than they have been in decades, the Bucks have a golden opportunity to bring the trophy back to Milwaukee for the first time since 1971. This team may be on pace for 70 wins, but their eyes are set on the playoffs. Having a chip on his shoulder from last season, keep an eye on Khris Middleton come April.