Milwaukee Bucks: Analyzing the ‘inconsistent’ label for Khris Middleton

Jul 14, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 14, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Khris Middleton, Miami Heat: Duncan Robinson
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – MAY 22 (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

Khris Middleton performs when it matters most for the Milwaukee Bucks

Who could forget Middleton’s possibly championship-winning jumper in Game 6 to give the Bucks a comfortable six-point lead with 52 ticks to go? Who could forget that he was ice cold for much of the game leading up to that moment, giving rise to narratives of how Antetokounmpo carried the team to the win?

Earlier still, who could forget his turnaround jumper on Bruce Brown in the Game 7 overtime period against the Brooklyn Nets? Who could forget his second-half takeovers to send Milwaukee past Atlanta and straight to the NBA finals sans Antetokounmpo? In the recently-concluded NBA playoffs, Middleton’s 4.8 points in clutch situations ranked fourth among forwards in the league, according to, just a few percentage points in between Durant and Antetokounmpo.

The sample size is fairly conclusive as the Bucks also played the second-most games that went down to the clutch, or situations that were decided by five points or less in the last five minutes of the contest. Per ESPN Stats & Info, the NBA champion with his clutch performances also tied no less than LeBron James for the most game-tying or go-ahead baskets in a single postseason run in league history.

These takeover moments by the Bucks’ second star have two things in common. First, they came after long slumps where Middleton was comparable to Kyle Kuzma. But one thing is also true: they were moments of greatness that proved the Bucks still had a dependable closer when things mattered most. Are these clutch performances a redeeming factor or an overlooked rebuttal? For this writer, Middleton’s confidence in the tensest moments more than make up for his rollercoaster ups-and-downs if they produce wins.

When it comes to the nature vs. nurture debate, its application in the game of basketball always seems to boil down to the same age-old conclusion: it’s a bit of both, really. Is he a streaky player? Sure, the tendencies are there, as they are for many other secondary scorers in the league held to lower standards. Do the Bucks know what to expect from him each night? The answer might still have to be in the positive, as his inconsistencies may still be solvable and disconnected from his actual ability as a scorer.

We’ve seen it time and time again: Situation matters in the NBA. Players like Trae Young, James Harden, and Isaiah Thomas may not have been as prolific as they are without the opportunity to lead heliocentric offenses centered around their talents.

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Moving into year four under Budenholzer, it could be high time for the coaching staff to take a good, long look at what they can do to address Middleton’s streakiness.