After a career year in 2019-20, will Khris Middleton be able to match or better those levels for the Milwaukee Bucks next season?
It speaks volumes for just how far Khris Middleton has come in his career with the Milwaukee Bucks that when All-NBA teams were announced in the past few days, the consensus opinion was that Middleton was a genuine snub.
The full breakdown of voting totals did nothing to soften that blow either as rules around positional voting – and the majority of Middleton’s votes coming as a forward – meant that in spite of receiving more votes than some of his peers, the Charleston native missed out on what would have been the greatest accolade of his career to date.
Still, given that Middleton entered the league as a 39th overall pick and only essentially ended up in Milwaukee as a throw-in from the Brandon Jennings-Brandon Knight trade with the Detroit Pistons, it’s remarkable that he’s even in these kind of discussions in the first place.
Now 29 years old, Middleton is a two-time All-Star, and is at the absolute peak of his abilities. In addition to just missing out on All-NBA, Middleton’s 50-40-90 pursuit was also well-documented over the course of the regular season. Since Mike Budenholzer arrived as the Bucks’ head coach in the summer of 2018, Middleton has seen his production soar while his minutes dropped off. In short, he’s become more efficient in terms of how he impacts the game.
This season, that culminated in what was undoubtedly the best campaign of Middleton’s career to date. Middleton recorded career-best per game marks in points and rebounds, matched his best in assists, while averaging under 30 minutes for the first time since his rookie season.
If that wasn’t enough, Middleton also averaged comfortable career-bests in field goal, free throw, and true shooting percentages, while also posting the second-best season of his career in terms of three-point percentage.
All of this combines to paint a clear picture of what was the pinnacle of Middleton’s career to date, and now the questions will focus on what his follow-up will look like whenever the 2020-21 season does get underway.
If Middleton can find a way to repeat or even surpass the heights of his play this season, it will only further make fools of those who’ve doubted him from the beginning of his basketball journey through to the present day.
Certainly, the Bucks need him to continue to play at this level to give them a platform to win a championship, and any notable regression from Middleton in the short to medium term would be nothing short of catastrophic for Milwaukee.
That will be easier said than done, though, as Middleton has elevated his game to a place where he belongs in discussions that involve the league’s very best players. For that, Middleton deserves plenty of credit, but what he comes up with for the next section of his NBA career is what will truly define his legacy.