Milwaukee Bucks The Roster Ranking: Khris Middleton, A True Number Two
There’s not much more to say about Khris Middleton at this point in his career that hasn’t already been said ad nauseam. People who follow the Milwaukee Bucks (and some who haven’t) loved to wonder if he could be a true “number two” on a championship team, but last year’s results certainly put it down. a brake on this debate. In this ranking, he quite definitely came in second, and I was surprised at the size of the gap between him and Jrue Holiday.
I don’t need to talk much about Middleton, so I’ll use most of this section to reflect on the gap between Middleton and Holiday. At first glance, if anyone asked me who would be most valuable for the upcoming playoffs, I would probably say Middleton reflexively. He’s been around longer, he was more consistent from a scoring standpoint, and although he had occasional shooting nights, aside from the 6-23 performance in Game 1 against Brooklyn, he didn’t. has never felt so incompetent offensively as Holiday was watching the points. More importantly, there was the parade of clutch moments.
Khris Middleton had 18 points on 75% of shots in the clutch in the final, the most players. The next closest player had 4 points.
He also led the entire playoffs in clutch points. pic.twitter.com/wmKjvdsf10
– StatMuse (@statmuse) July 21, 2021
There’s about denying that Middleton was absolutely essential to Milwaukee’s execution late in the game, and he delivered time and time again to deliver fatal blows to his opponents. Its value in those minutes cannot be overstated, the Bucks’ midfield offense at times felt like it was digging into a bed of rock. During those precious and decisive minutes to close games, their best option was almost always to ask Middleton to deliver a rider himself or start some action with Giannis. I don’t think anyone else on the squad can replicate his abilities, but there’s a world where he misses more of those shots next season and we’re just re-evaluating him a bit. Clutch performance can be unstable, and that 75% figure in the tweet above is absurd and proof of those small sample sizes.
He might be the coolest passer in Milwaukee, but I’m not sure he’s their most consistent. Even with some of the baffling decisions Holiday made last season, I’m not sure he’s getting enough credit as a playoff point guard. People talk a lot about the fact that Milwaukee has three starters but not a “real” point guard, but playoff assists certainly paint a different picture. Holiday averaged 8.7 assists per game compared to 5.1 for Middleton and Giannis. I think Jrue’s play goes a bit unnoticed under the horrific shots we’ve seen from him throughout most of the playoffs.
Then there’s obviously Holiday’s defense, a critical part of the Bucks’ ability to slow down Phoenix as the NBA Finals unfolded. Jrue got better as Bud forced him to stay engaged throughout a possession, but I always thought he got leisurely off the ball at times. As for Middleton, he was seldom tasked with keeping the other team’s best player thanks to PJ Tucker dealing with these tasks competently. That freed him up for a more offensive outing, which he delivered with a stat line quite comparable to Devin Booker and Paul George (each of whom, I would say, shine a lot brighter than Middleton).
However, I thought Middleton’s defense was pretty solid throughout the playoffs and pretty passable against Kevin Durant in the stints he gave him. I didn’t think he was handling Devin Booker very well, allowing him to overtake him too often in dribbling, but overall I came out more impressed with Middleton’s defensive capacity than my recent perception of him. Is his particular game more replaceable than Holiday’s? Maybe, but it’s close, and I don’t know how many other stars of his ilk could play the completely complementary type of ball he’s forced into alongside Giannis. Maybe many could with a little seasoning, but I like to think that there is some value in your top two players developing a rhythm over the years and years that cannot be simply resolved with a new plug-and-play wing. Either way, we all know what that means for the top spot. We will have a brief article on Giannis which should be published shortly.