Who helped turn the Milwaukee Bucks into NBA title contenders?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 19 (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Milwaukee Bucks: Bobby Portis, Donte DiVincenzo, Justin Jackson, Elijah Bryant, Khris Middleton, Vin Baker, Jrue Holiday, Jordan Nwora
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – JULY 20 (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Who made the Milwaukee Bucks into contenders: #2: Khris Middleton

Khris Middleton, like the obvious number one on this list, has been around since the Milwaukee Bucks were an NBA bottom-feeder. However, Khris Middleton just kept getting better and better as his years in Milwaukee progressed.

Middleton was a throw-in player in the Brandon for Brandon trade with the Detroit Pistons way back in 2013 when the Bucks sent Brandon Jennings to the Pistons for Brandon Knight. Middleton would be far and away the most important part of the deal in just a few year’s time.

Khris Middleton is a three-time All-Star and an integral part of the Milwaukee Bucks’ Big 3. When healthy, he is among the league’s best mid-range shooters and can be a jump-shooting assassin.

Khris Middleton seems to thrive against the Boston Celtics in the NBA playoffs. According to Stat Muse, Khris Middleton averages 22.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game against the Celtics in the playoffs while shooting 51.6 percent from the field, 54.5 percent from the free throw line, and 84.6 percent from the free throw line.

This alone doesn’t make him part of the reason the Bucks are contenders, but Middleton has turned in some signature moments against the Celtics, like making a half-court heave to send the Bucks and Celtics to overtime in Game 1 in 2018.

Khris Middleton put together some incredible performances during the Milwaukee Bucks’ title run in 2021. Going all the way back to the opening series against the Miami Heat, Khris Middleton made the game-winning shot in overtime of Game 1 that set the tone for the sweep of the series. Following the Miami series, Khris Middleton turned in some career-defining performances against the Brooklyn Nets in the seven-game series slugfest.

The Milwaukee Bucks started the series down 0-2, and neither team could get the lid of the basket in Game 3, a game that ended 86-83. Khris Middleton, however, could get through the rough shooting by both teams. He scored a game-high 35 points on 12-of-25 shooting, including 3-of-6 behind the 3-point line, and made 8-of-9 free throws. Perhaps more impressively, he also led Game 3 in rebounds with 15!

Khris Middleton turned in another signature performance in Game 6 with the Milwaukee Bucks facing elimination. Middleton led both teams in scoring again with 38 points on 11-of-16 shooting, including 5-of-8 behind the 3-point line, and made 11-of-12 free throws while grabbing 10 rebounds, dishing five assists, and snagging five steals.

In Game 7 against the Nets, Middleton perfectly complemented Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 40-point game with 23 points of his own to go with another 10 rebounds, six assists, and five steals in a back-and-forth game that included some clutch overtime shots by Middleton.

Against the Atlanta Hawks, Khris Middleton turned in more all-time performances. Another 38-point outburst in Game 3 to go with 11 rebounds and seven assists. Game 5 against Atlanta saw great performances from Brook Lopez, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton. Middleton scored 26 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and passed out eight assists.

Khris Middleton focused his efforts on scoring to close out the Hawks, dropping a game-high 32 points in the clinching game and helping send the Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA Finals in Game 6.

In the NBA Finals, he scored 29 points in the Bucks’ Game 1 loss and had a quiet Game 2 and 3 before exploding for a 40-point outburst in Game 4 that evened the series 2-2. In addition to his 40 points, Middleton also had six rebounds, four assists, and a pair of steals. Middleton followed that performance with 29 points, seven rebounds, and five assists in Game 5, aiding the Bucks in taking a 3-2 series lead and giving way to one of the greatest performances in NBA Finals history by Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 6. Middleton still scored 17 efficient points, had five rebounds, five assists, and four steals, still with his fingerprints all over the Finals clinching victory.