What a wild season it has been for Khris Middleton. After a championship run that featured clutch shot after clutch shot that included a few standout performances, capped off with a 40-point effort in the NBA Finals to help capture the title for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Anyone who plays the way Middleton plays is bound to have some inconsistency in their shooting. The 30-year-old is a tough shot taker (and maker) and those looks are tough for a reason. He’s great at getting his shot off from anywhere, but sometimes those looks aren’t falling.
This season, though, we’ve seen bigger waves of inconsistency from Middleton than most seasons. The Bucks’ second star’s 2021-22 has looked like a three-act play in the peaks and valleys that he’s experienced.
Khris Middleton is (finally) finding his groove for the Milwaukee Bucks this season
The first act was probably the worst of all three or the lowest point. In his first six games, he averaged 20 points which wasn’t bad by any means, but it came with some brutal efficiency numbers. In those games, he posted a 52.7 percent true shooting and 47.5 percent effective field goal rate. He shot a dreadful 25.7 percent from 3 that contributed to most of his efficiency struggles.
He then missed a handful of games in health and safety protocols (before the big wave hit as well), but returned with some positives but overall not what we expected from him. He averaged around 17 points per game, not great, but his 3-point percentage was above 38 percent so that was better!
However, Middleton struggled with his bread and butter: his mid-range jumper. His 3-point percentage and proficiency for getting to the line propped up his true shooting percentage at 54.5 percent but his effective field goal rate at 49 percent was still below his career average.
Due to his struggles and Jrue Holiday’s excellence, it was clear that Middleton wasn’t the second option at the moment.
Then, Middleton missed a few games with a hyperextended left knee. It was a moment that most fans remember well because, well, it looked a lot worse than it was. Despite his struggles, the Bucks need any version of Middleton if they want to repeat as champions. Luckily, he only missed three games before making his return.
He’s played nine games since then and we’re starting to see the Middleton that we all know. He’s averaged over 20 points per game, but unlike the first six games of the season, it’s come with much-improved efficiency.
He has a near-61 percent true shooting and his effective field goal rate of 54 percent is higher than his career average before this season (52.8 percent). He’s shooting over 40 percent from 3 on nearly six attempts per game and getting to the line for the same amount of attempts as well.
Those weren’t the concerns for Middleton, though. It was the mid-range jumper. In that 15 game stretch when he returned from health and safety protocols, he shot under 39 percent on midrange jumpers, per NBA.com/stats.
Last season, he shot 45 percent on over 320 mid-range attempts, so that number was definitely below average. For a player like Middleton to make those mid-range shots worth it, he needs to hit them at a solid rate (like 45 percent).
In his last nine games, Middleton is shooting 44 percent from the mid-range. A great sign that he’s turning things around and a big reason why you’re seeing his efficiency numbers rise.
The final concern is that Middleton is still really struggling on non-rim paint attempts (floater range). He’s shooting under 36 percent for the season on around 70 attempts. Last season, he was at 50 percent on nearly 200 attempts.
It couldn’t have come at a better time for Middleton and the Bucks as they are missing many key rotation players and have needed everyone to step up in the meantime.
It’s taken longer than expected for Middleton to find his groove, but there are real signs that he’s found it in his third act of the regular season.