Would it be wise for Khris Middleton to follow in this four-time champ's steps?

Dec 13, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Dec 13, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA / Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Khris Middleton is expected to return soon for the Milwaukee Bucks after missing the last few weeks with an ankle injury. Middleton is returning at a great time, as the team appears to have found their stride since the All-Star break.

With the team surging in Middleton's absence, the question of his role when he returns is up for debate. We've recently seen career-long starter Klay Thompson switch to coming off the bench, hoping it would help the team. Thompson has had early success as a key reserve. Would it be wise for Middleton to do the same?

Would it be wise for Khris Middleton to take the Klay Thompson route when he returns for Milwaukee Bucks

Since transitioning to a bench role with the Warriors, Thompson is back to his usual sharpshooting self. His averages are up across a majority of all statistical categories. Thompson has shooting splits of .461/.441/1.000 since moving to the bench, a nice rise from .415/.369/.917 as a starter. He also has improved his offensive and defensive ratings and raised his points per game average to 19.2 off the bench from 16.7 as a starter. He has done all of this while playing three fewer minutes per game.

Thompson was willing to take on the challenge of being a sixth man to help the Warriors get back to being contenders. Middleton would almost undoubtedly take a similar path if it helped the Bucks secure another championship. The question is, should he?

The first thing to consider is how the Bucks have played without Middleton. The Bucks have been surging since the All-Star break, winning their first six games. New head coach Doc Rivers has the team playing its best basketball of the season as we head toward the final stretch.

Impressively, the starting lineup the team has used in Middleton's absence has been incredible since Rivers took over as head coach. Per StatMuse, the lineup of Damian Lillard, Malik Beasley, Jae Crowder, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Brook Lopez is first in net rating under Rivers. Additionally, the group ranks second in offensive and defensive rating of any lineup in the NBA.

The other factor to ponder is Middleton's recent injury history. For the last few seasons, Middleton has battled a series of injuries, the biggest culprit being a lingering knee injury. Being one of the first players off the team's bench allows Middleton to put less wear and tear on his body while remaining an integral part of their success.

Middleton's status as a reserve wouldn't mean he would take a significant dip in minutes played. Numerous examples have been a team's sixth man playing starter minutes despite not being in the starting lineup. Notable examples are Lou Williams, Manu Ginobili, and now Thompson. Middleton could still get a reasonable amount of time with the starters and keep his legs fresh for late-game situations.

Between the Bucks' current winning streak and the success of their current starting lineup, Middleton coming off the bench upon his return is a discussion he and the team need to have. So far, Thompson has been great in that role for the Warriors. Middleton likely would do the same for Milwaukee.

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