Milwaukee Bucks: All-Star snub nothing new for Khris Middleton

Feb 8, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) dribbles the ball up court in the second quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 8, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) dribbles the ball up court in the second quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s safe to say that the Milwaukee Bucks and Khris Middleton‘s recent slide came at a bad time in regards to All-Star voting.

Tuesday night brought the news that Middleton fell short of making his third straight All-Star appearance, despite having improved statistically across major categories. After the Bucks’ 139-112 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Middleton is up to 20.3 points on .498/.434/.895 shooting splits, 6.1 rebounds. 5.7 assists and 1.2 steals across 33.2 minutes per game for the season.

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There’s no question that Middleton’s play has suffered in recent weeks, which all coincided with the absence of Jrue Holiday. In the nine games without Holiday, Middleton is averaging 19.9 points on .450/.341/.833 shooting, 6.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 3.6 turnovers across 35.8 minutes per game.

That’s certainly a stark contrast to the highly efficient, steady decision making that Middleton has shown when the Bucks have been at full strength. And no Holiday has meant plenty of defensive pressure funneling towards Middleton’s way and trying to bother him from getting to his favored spots on the floor.

In this season where ups and downs are almost guaranteed for every team, save for a rare few, and All-Star voting has come a little less than the halfway mark of this condensed season, no player that was vying for an All-Star bid can’t afford a slip up. Especially that close to when voting was held and unfortunately, recency bias seemingly played a part in why he won’t joining teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo in Atlanta next month.

This isn’t Khris Middleton’s first snub over his Milwaukee Bucks career.

Considering the fact that Middleton’s All-Star bid falls short is certainly reminiscent of him not making an All-NBA team last season, this pattern has been a recurring theme throughout Middleton’s nine-year career. And the context surrounding Middleton’s All-NBA case last regular season was certainly a strong one for a variety of reasons, both individually and the Bucks’ success as a whole.

In the aftermath of falling short of going to this year’s All-Star Game, the familiar outcry surrounding Middleton and how underrated his game is perceived by the general NBA audience continues to be reinforced. While that label has long followed the 29-year-old and can certainly be overused at times admittedly, that calling card still rings true at this juncture in Middleton’s rise and current perception.

It’s only been natural for Middleton to carve out such a lane when playing next to Antetokounmpo for as long as Middleton has and Antetokounmpo has enjoyed the feats and accolades he has as a reigning two-time MVP.

With Antetokounmpo being the rising tide that lifts all boats in this regard, Middleton’s complementary game has only gone to staggering heights after the last two Bucks seasons. But after putting his best foot forward with a hot start to this 2020-21 season, it seemed like Middleton was prepared for a star turn befitting of the All-Star stage, especially with the addition of Holiday.

It’s very possible Middleton still gets his star turn as the season goes along upon emerging from this uncharacteristic cold stretch, along with the Bucks having returned to their winning ways after their five-game losing streak. Middleton still stands as one of the most polished, diverse scorers, is absolutely lethal shooter and his playmaking has never been better. There are few players putting up the numbers Middleton is averaging this season.

After the Bucks’ win Tuesday night, Middleton expressed his disappointment to not being named an All-Star this season, but did congratulate those that did make it after the reserve votes were announced:

"“A little disappointed, I’m not going to lie. I definitely want to say congrats to all those guys that did make it, especially the first timers. I’ve been in their position where people say what they want to say, but congrats to those guys that deserve to be there and nobody should take that from them.”"

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Taking the high road while other All-Star snubs express their frustration in the aftermath of voting, Middleton is clearly taking this misstep in stride. With bigger goals at play this season, Middleton is hoping his play will come under the spotlight with better results for both himself and the Bucks when it matters most.