Bucksketball Podcast

Hey guys, Khris Middleton is a Buck now too!

| August 5, 2013

Category: ROTATIONS!, The Off Season

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Khris Middleton wants you all to know that he plays basketball, too. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images North America)

Khris Middleton wants you all to know that he plays basketball, too. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images North America)

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.

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About the Author ()

Mitch has been a fan of the Bucks since the days of Big Dog, Ray Ray, and Sammy C. He's abnormally optimistic about the team even through the rough times and spends far too much time on the Trade Machine trying to make things better. He's 6'0" with a 5'11" wingspan, negligible vertical, and sees himself as more of a distributor than a scorer. Find him on Twitter @mitchvomhof

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  1. L says:

    I like him as a rotation piece; though, I’d like to see the team trade Udoh or Kravtsov and Ridnour for another SF to help fill in the depth at that position.

  2. Sfisch says:

    Sounds like Khris Middleton has some promise, and was a nice addition to the trade with the Pistons. Appreciate the scouting report from Mitch.
    Would be interested to know what the leg injuries were in college and what their effects are on Khris now, if any (e.g. quickness, leaping ability). Also would like to know how Khris does driving to the hoop. On a related note, would like to know what is a “3-and-D player.”
    Here’s a crazy thought. Keep Khris, Brandon, Zaza and Luke — along with Ish and Ekpe — to build around Larry and John. Then trade O.J., Gary, Carlos and Miroslav, as well as Ersan, mainly for draft picks in the next couple of years. After this is done, go primarily with young guys this year (I’d also add Scott Suggs and Mike Bruesewitz from Vegas Summer League, but that’s even crazier) and see how our up-and-comers do.
    Even if they don’t get many wins, they will likely provide some fresh excitement while gaining in experience, perhaps developing a good sense of team, and setting us up for a lottery pick next year. I’m sincere about this, so please don’t be too brutal in your comments, which are actually welcome.

    • Mitch Vomhof says:

      From what I was able to gather, he had knee and ankle problems in his junior year at Texas A&M, but there’s no indication that they had any long-term impact. It seems as though he was fully healthy last year.

      “3-and-D” is a term used for players who can do two things: play defense on shooting guards as well as small forwards and shoot 3-pointers well. Zach Lowe over at Grantland had a great writeup (with a Bucks example)towards the end of last season if you’re interested in reading more:

      http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9225802/players-shane-battier-harder-find-conventional-wisdom-suggests

      • CanadaBucks says:

        I always think of 3&D guys as more catch and shoot but I guess that doesn’t have to be the case.

      • Sfisch says:

        Thanks very much, Mitch, for the follow-up. Read a good part of your referenced article (which I hope to finish later) and am wondering if the “3-and-D” guys could still be valuable even if a lot of their shots were 2-pointers. For example, if Mbah Moute knocked down 15-20 foot jumpers consistently, would he have been a big asset against the Heat defense last season in the playoffs?
        Anyway, Khris Middleton seems like almost as good of a gain for the Bucks as Brandon Knight. Both showed great potential in college, both are 21, and both have a lot of question marks but also a lot of upside. Both could be exciting to watch develop, and — who knows? — both could just maybe become stars.

        • Mitch Vomhof says:

          To answer both of your questions (Sfish & CanadaBucks), the way I understand it is that a 3-and-D player’s value is derived from the fact that he can draw his defender out of the paint with his shooting ability, making it harder for the opposing team to pack the paint with defenders. If Luc shot well in that 15-20 or 3-point range, he’d be a prime example of the type. Unfortunately, he shot about 30% from outside of 15 feet last season, which isn’t enough to get that job done as teams won’t need to guard him that closely.

          • Sfisch says:

            That’s what I was hoping you would say, Mitch, about the 3-pointer not being absolutely necessary. I love the 3 as a weapon to not only score in bunches but also to raise the roof with fandemonium — as well as spreading the floor as much as possible — but the excitement of the 3 can also become seductive and cause a team to rely on it way too much.
            It’s good to hear, and important to stress to players, that consistent 2-point jumpers can also get the job done quite nicely when we’re talking about the concept of “3-and-D.” Preferably, a “3-and-D” guy could shoot both the 3-pointer and the 2, but it’s good to know he doesn’t have to rely exclusively on the 3.
            P.S. It’s good to remember that 33% from beyond the arc is equal roughly to 50% from inside of it. In other words, 33 out of 100 makes from 3-point land is about the same as 50 makes from closer in — a total of 99 or 100 points.

          • Carl from HR says:

            I think there are 3 big differences between 3′s and long 2′s that are being overlooked here:
            1) Closeout distance. A long two is still a shorter distance for a closeout than a 3. Long defenders may not be able to contest a 3 at all, but could still get to a long 2.
            2) Rotations. If a person has to run out to a 3 point shooter, rotations are most of the time a longer distance to cover everyone nearby than on a long 2, causing the openings for the offense to work with. A team with good ball movement who can hit 3′s can create a lot more open looks than a team that relies on a player who can only hit long 2′s.
            3) I know of VERY few players who can hit 30% of long 2′s (or at least 2′s long enough to force a hard closeout just to contest the shot). Those shots are made at closer to a 40-45% clip for decent to good players. Going off of Sfisch’s numbers, that adds up to 80-90 points, not 99-100. May not seem like a big difference, but I think it is.

            Not saying I’d love to find a player who hits long 2′s at a great rate. I just think there’s a reason why teams have begun looking to these “3 and D” players, and I think these 3 points are a big reason why.

          • Carl from HR says:

            *Meant 50% of long 2′s, not 30%…

    • Patti #1 says:

      “Here’s a crazy thought. Keep Khris, Brandon, Zaza and Luke — along with Ish and Ekpe — to build around Larry and John.”

      While that might be fun to watch these young talents get plenty of playing time, I would think that could get very frustrating for the guys like Sanders & Henson.

      These guys playing in the NBA have worked hard to get their chance and they are in it to win it. A team with no chance of that could actually do more damage than good. In order to win, an athlete has to be able to visualize what it takes. They have to see & feel that win. That’s why lottery teams get stuck being lottery teams year after year. Obviously, I’m not a fan of “the tank”.

      Go Bucks!

      • Sfisch says:

        I consider it a good thing to get a response from Patti#1, whether or not we agree. In this case it might be a mix.
        I don’t like the tank, either, but I don’t mind taking some lumps in the short term in order to build a team in the best way.
        A concern of mine with the Bucks for the upcoming season is that bringing in so many new guys seems to be more a recipe for confusion and frustration than for cohesion and success. More knowledgeable fans can speak to this with more weight, but I would think it is quite rare for a team to have much success right away with such a numerous cast of new characters.
        If the Bucks really want to help Sanders and Henson and all the rest of their guys come October 30, they would make an extraordinary effort to acquire a dynamic point guard who can direct the players on the court and get them the ball for good shots. Then I think Ish would be a very good back-up, and an apprentice for a starting role in the future.

  3. James says:

    As much as I don’t really think the Bucks will be good this year they do have excellent opportunities for creative lineups. The Bucks should have no problem playing small ball or big? ball with any teams. Khris gives the Bucks flexibility because he can defend the small forward position. I really believe he is the best SF on the team. He should start in certain situations. Who will he help the most? Ers. Ers can defend the poorer of the opposing teams 3 or 4 and Khris can guard the better offensive player. I will be very interested to see how the lineups are put together.

    Knight, Mayo, Khris, Ers (wing), Larry
    Knight, Mayo, Delfino (wing), Henson, Larry

  4. PAT says:

    Coming from a Pistons fan – you guys will love both Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton. I happened to come across this blog trying to track the introductory press conference of Brandon Knight as I was intrigued to see his comments about the trade. Being honest about what I felt about this trade: After Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, Knight and Middleton were the two best players on the Pistons roster last year. Knight obviously started for us the entire year (first at PG- until Jose Calderon came midseason). Middleton never broke into the rotation until late mid-season, and he took full advantage of his playing time. In fact, both players are great defenders and good three point shooters. Knight will improve his court vision, assists/turnovers, and will become an efficient player. Detroit was very impatient with him and I felt that he deserved one more year with the Pistons under coach Mo Cheeks and the leadership of Chauncey Billups, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Knight was unfairly criticized and blamed for Detroit’s failures, but the truth is he never really had the right coach in the last two years and the system to excel under. With the Bucks, I really think he can become an all-star in the future, or at least become an 18.5 ppg, 5.2 assists type of player.

    Looking at the Bucks roster and set of guards, if O.J. Mayo wasn’t on this team, I’d start Knight and Nate Wolters together. Knight is more of a combo guard at his age as of now, but as he learns the leadership skills and grows as a player, he’s going to be great. Love the signing of Wolters as well as Giannis Adetokounmpo (hope he plays next season and isn’t stashed overseas for a few years). All the best to both of these ex-pistons and to the Bucks team and organization.

    • Sfisch says:

      Thanks for the perspective of a Pistons fan, PAT. It’s cool that you took the time to share some of your thoughts in such a positive way.
      It’s hard to believe that Giannis and Nate are ready to contribute all that much this season, but I am excited about the possibilities for Brandon and Khris, who now have a year or two in the NBA to build on. I sincerely hope the guy we sent to you, Brandon Jennings, has a good reaction to his new circumstances and does very well for you and the other fans of the Pistons — although not so much against the Bucks.

  5. happyfeethustle says:

    Hey PATTI #1…. will you marry me? I love you !!!!!
    Ive been so torn up and angered inside my heart and mind with all these “” TANK IT BUCKS,..TANK TANK” comments. Your remarks help explain to others the damage that can be done with that strategy, mentality. Ive not looked at it from that point of view-i guess ive been looking at it from a Bucks fan sort of view.
    Larry Sanders,…you KNOW he wants to win-his passion for it comes thru clearly when he’s on the court! Henson,…showed us a RAW version of what he’s got for talent. Why FORCE these young,promising,passionate players to suffer? Sanders,Henson-these two guys are integral part of franchise with all the new faces coming in.
    With all the NICE FRESH PIECES added this offseason-why not give it all we got to win! Foot on the throttle right out of the gate!!!! Im like you, very excited for the upcoming season…thanks PATTI #1

    GO BUCKS GO