5 Milwaukee Bucks with the most to prove in the 2023-24 season: Khris Middleton
It’s tough to include the team’s third-best player on a list of personnel with the most to prove, but the reality is that Middleton has not been himself for quite a while. That’s obviously due to injuries, but fans will be watching his play and production closely this season to determine if he can still be the third option on a championship team.
As the Milwaukee Bucks faithful knows all too well, he is coming off an injury-plagued season where he looked like a shell of his former self. Middleton only played in 33 games last season due to a variety of injuries, including a knee injury that required surgery in the offseason. He has to prove that he is healthy and can stay on the court for an entire season.
The effects of the injury are clearest on the defensive end. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Bucks gave up -0.5 points per 100 possessions in the minutes that Middleton was on the floor, good for a below-average 56th percentile among small forwards.
His offense needed a lot of work to end last season, too, though these stats can be chalked up to the limited sample size. From a high of 125.7 points per 100 shot attempts in the 2019-20 season — which put Middleton in the 93rd percentile among players in his position — Khash Money’s PSA stat sputtered down to 100.0 points per 100 shot attempts last season.
It’s worth pointing out that the apex of Middleton’s season came just as the team bowed out to the eighth-seeded Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs a year ago. Middleton had been slowly working his way back into rotation minutes during the regular season up to that point, and when the team needed him most, he mostly delivered, all things considered. In that series, he posted norms of 23.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists in 34 minutes per game for five games — which indicates that he can still be the steadying offensive presence we need him to be despite his waning athleticism.
To add, Middleton is the third-highest-paid player on the Bucks’ roster, behind Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard. If he’s paid like a second-to-third superstar, he’ll have to prove that he is worth his contract and that he can be a reliable option on offense.