We’ve spent most of the last week talking about the sign-and-trade deal that sent Brandon Jennings to Detroit and brought Brandon Knight over to the Bucks. But, as it turns out, a pair of other players came back from Detroit as well. We had an in-depth analysis of Slava Kravtsov planned to provide the most up-to-date coverage on the New Bucks, but according to the Detroit Free Press he might not be with the team for much longer.
That impending move makes sense as Kravtsov seemed to be filler in that trade to even out salary numbers, and he won’t be needed to provide center depth on a team that already features LARRY SANDERS!, John Henson, Ersan Ilyasova, Ekpe Udoh, Zaza Pechulia, and Miroslav Raduljica in the frontcourt and represents the 16th man on a roster that can only hold 15. So long, Slava. It’s been real. Nothing personal, we swear.
Well. Now that we have our Kravtsov Koverage out of the way, let’s get to the final piece of the Brandon-for-Brandon trade: Khris Middleton. Standing 6-foot-7 and weighing 215 pounds, Middleton was projected as a lottery pick in the draft after a sophomore season at Texas A&M in which he averaged 14.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and almost 3 assists. However, leg injuries in his junior year hampered his development and he fell to the second round of the 2012 NBA draft where he was selected by the Pistons with the 39th pick.
Middleton’s first year in the NBA was unremarkable as he didn’t see significant time on the court until February. His best game as a Piston came on March 8 in a 102-99 loss the Dallas Mavericks, where he scored 14 points in 20 minutes of playing time on 50% (6-12) shooting. As the season progressed, he earned more playing time, culminating in an April where he averaged 24 minutes in the Pistons’ final 8 games of the season. All told, Middleton averaged 6.1 points, 44% from the field, and 31% from 3-point range in 17.6 minutes per game. He played in a total of 27 games.
It’s hard to project a player based on one season in which he played less than half of the games. Because Middleton is a scant 21 years old (and making me feel very old), it’s worthwhile to go back to his scouting reports coming out of college. From his Draft Express profile:
Middleton’s ability to score off the dribble from the mid-range remains his most important skill as both a college player and NBA prospect, and he showed continued success in that area this past season. He possesses excellent creativity and feel in this area of his game, while being very comfortable finding small windows to get off shot attempts while blanketed by defenders.
From isolation situations, Middleton’s efficiency is outstanding at the college level, as his 1.043 points per possessions according to Synergy ranks in the 91st percentile. Middleton’s high level of efficiency scoring the ball in isolations is certainly a coveted skill from an NBA perspective, but there are some concerns projecting this area of his game to the next level. For one, given the finesse, mid-range nature of his game and how he relies heavily on scoring closely contested looks, there are questions if he will can maintain similar success against the bigger, more athletic opponents he’ll face on nearly every possession. Further, there aren’t many role-playing, shot-creating, isolation-oriented wings in the pros, which could make it difficult to find a niche matching his skill set, meaning significant adjustments in his game.
He actually grades out fairly well on defense, allowing 0.77 ppp according to Synergy. While he still has room for improvement, particularly in spot-up and isolation situations, Middleton shows potential to be a solid defender with some hard work on that end.
It sure seems like Middleton still needs some development – he showed some flashes of potential last year and was rewarded with more minutes off the bench. With some improved shooting touch (particularly from long range), he can emerge as an impactful 3-and-D player for the Bucks and add some offensive power off the bench to a team that likely will need help in that department. It should be interesting to watch him develop this year alongside the rest of Milwaukee’s young lineup; while we’re not predicting superstar status for him any time soon, Middleton has the opportunity to emerge as a valuable rotation player at a position of need and an unexpected bonus from the Brandon Jennings trade.