Khris Middleton better have his press conference clothes ready for mid-July (when deals can officially be signed). According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Milwaukee Bucks wasted no time in locking up the restricted free agent Middleton.
ESPN sources say Milwaukee and Khris Middleton are closing in on five-year, $70 million deal
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 1, 2015
For a variety of reasons, the 23-year-old Middleton’s return to Milwaukee was never really in doubt. He had success in Milwaukee. He was a restricted free agent. The Bucks wanted him back. All of the writing was on the wall. The Bucks were flush with cap room when free agency began, somewhere between $16-$18 million, which will still allow them to aggressively pursue other free agent options before officially re-signing Middleton. Milwaukee can exceed the cap to bring back Middleton.
Since joining the Bucks in what originally was seen as the Brandon Jennings for Brandon Knight trade, Middleton has developed into a very reliable wing player. He’s proven capable both of being a reliable outside shooting threat and a trustworthy defender, which explains wy Milwaukee made his return a priority.
Drafted in 2012, Middleton played in only 27 games as a rookie in Detroit. He couldn’t have timed his arrival in Milwaukee better, as the Bucks limped through their worst season in franchise history in 2013-14, allowing him ample minutes and offensive freedom. He averaged 12.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists and started 64 games.
Last season, under Jason Kidd, Middleton got off to a rocky start that saw him benched during a game in Detroit. He bounced back and continued developing into a reliable two-way wing. Advanced stats were very kind to his work. He finished 10th in the NBA in ESPN’s Real Plus Minus. Simply when watching him you could see a player getting better and adding more to his game. As the season went on he began flashing the ability to take smaller players into the post. The deal itself is no surprise and one that could be of great value as the NBA salary cap continues to rise.
The deal seems about right. The fit is still good. He’ll likely slide into the starting lineup next season alongside Michael Carter-Williams, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and whoever Milwaukee ends up with at the center position.
So far, day one of free agency has worked out as well as the Bucks could have hoped.