Milwaukee Bucks: Midrange freedom unlocks the best of Khris Middleton

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - FEBRUARY 04: (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - FEBRUARY 04: (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

As the Milwaukee Bucks have kicked on this season, Khris Middleton’s increased midrange freedom has unlocked the best version of his game.

At this point, Milwaukee Bucks fans are more than familiar with the basic evolution of Khris Middleton’s relationship with the team’s head coach Mike Budenholzer.

When Budenholzer took charge in Milwaukee, he remade the Bucks’ offense to prioritize offense from behind the arc and points in the paint. Although Middleton was certainly able to operate in both of those areas of the floor, there was still little doubt that it left him with a major adjustment to make.

More from Bucks News

Middleton had long specialized in knocking down the in-between shot, standing as one of the NBA’s last remaining midrange masters.

In 2018-19, Middleton did the hard work of adapting to the new environment around him and the Bucks reaped the rewards. For the current season, though, Budenholzer recognized the need to give Middleton increased freedom to make Milwaukee an even more formidable team.

The results have been spectacular.

The Bucks will resume the current season with a record of 53-12, and Middleton has played a colossal role in that by compiling a career season, and picking up his second All-Star appearance. in the process.

In spite of playing fewer minutes per game than he has since his third season in the league, Middleton is averaging a career-high in points, and is just below the threshold for a rare 50-40-90 season.

In other words, Middleton is both more prolific and efficient than ever, and that has coincided with him returning to his comfort zone in the midrange.

Per, Middleton went from just 15.4 percent of his points coming from the midrange in 2018-19, to 24 percent of his points in 2019-20 coming from that area of the floor.

When Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton has upped his midrange volume this season, his overall productivity has soared too.

Maybe even more instructive, though, is the fact that when you drill down into Middleton’s current season in greater detail, his performance spikes track with the spells when his volume from the midrange increases.

As an illustration of that, across 10 games in February, over 30 percent of Middleton’s points came from the midrange, which is the only month of the season where that occurred.

There’s a general understanding of the inefficiency of the midrange shot in the modern NBA, but that logic doesn’t necessarily apply for the likes of Middleton, Kawhi Leonard, and Kevin Durant, who have long established the midrange as their domain.

Middleton’s February speaks directly to that, as in what seems like it should be a contradiction, the month in which he was most reliant on the midrange proved to be his most successful overall.

Averaging 24.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game on 51.7 percent shooting from the field, 43.8 percent from deep, and 94.4 percent from the free throw line, Middleton clearly found a groove over those 10 games in February that resembles something very close to the pinnacle of his powers.

As the postseason approaches, that my well be worth keeping in mind for the Bucks. If their offense breaks down like it did a year ago, Middleton in the midrange is certainly an option to help break out of such a slump.

Next. 4 replacement players the Bucks could look to from Wisconsin Herd. dark

The truth, though, is that being more proactive on that front has served Middleton and the Bucks well to this point, and should continue to be something they explore regardless of situation.