Milwaukee Bucks: 3 reasons why Khris Middleton misses Jrue Holiday

MIAMI, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 30: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 30: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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CLEVELAND, OHIO – FEBRUARY 05: (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO – FEBRUARY 05: (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Lastly, Jrue Holiday’s absence puts more defensive responsibilities on Khris Middleton.

Despite his offensive proficiency, Holiday’s defense could be his most valuable attribute. When he sticks himself on an opposing point guard, he removes them from the game. Lateral quickness and active hands help him maintain both position and pressure on his assignments. If they’re going to score on the 2-time All-Defensive guard, it won’t be easy.

Even the strongest players sink into passive roles against his hounding treatment. In the Bucks’ win over the Portland Trail Blazers earlier this month, Holiday held the ever-explosive Damian Lillard to just 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting, which was the second-worst performance of his marvelous season.

Simply holding the ball puts opposing guards at risk as Holiday leads the NBA with 1.9 steals per game. It’s the opposition’s best interest to spread the rock.

Expectedly, the absence of such a stalwart precipitates a defensive drop-off, but the Bucks have dropped off a cliff. None of the backcourt replacements, D.J. Augustin, Donte DiVincenzo, and Bryn Forbes, have the size, physicality and basketball IQ to supplement his production.

Opposing guards do not fear their assignments with Holiday off the court, consistently penetrating with ease and compromising Milwaukee’s position. Let’s look at what happened when DiVincenzo, the most physical of the three, had to fill in against Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz.

A simple in-and-out move puts DiVincenzo on his heels, allowing Mitchell immediate paint access, and passing the responsibility to Middleton and Lopez.  Mitchell responds to the help by kicking it out to Middleton’s assignment, the sharpshooting Joe Ingles, who buries a triple in the face of a recovering contest.

Giving credit where it’s due, Mitchell has been harassing opposing guards all season, but Holiday would not have been beaten with such ease. The Jazz backcourt exploited their matchups throughout the game, consistently putting pressure on the second line of defense.

This taxes Middleton especially hard. While he is certainly not the only victim here, wing defenders have actual ground to cover when called into help defense. As seen here, a guard’s drive traps him in no-man’s-land, whereas Lopez, a larger interior defender, can effectively cover Mitchell without leaving his man.

Team defense starts up top. While injuries and COVID-19 related absences are now a part of the game, the effects of Holiday’s absence permeate the roster, hitting mid-sized forwards the hardest. Milwaukee’s team defense must start with Jrue Holiday, especially for Khris Middleton’s sake.

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As we await updates on the return of Jrue Holiday, the Bucks and especially Khris Middleton will be eager to have him back in the fold when the time comes.