The Milwaukee Bucks have had a fantastic season thanks in no small part to Khris Middleton, but he needs to get it together already in the NBA playoffs.
Khris Middleton is starting to get a bit of a reputation. He puts together incredible regular seasons for the Milwaukee Bucks, much like this season where he fell just a couple field goal makes (three makes, to be exact) away from a 50/40/90 season, but falters in the NBA playoffs and is unable to translate that success to the postseason.
It may not be entirely fair to Middleton, and it’s certainly weighted because his regular seasons have been so phenomenal, but the Bucks need the near-transcendent wingman that he’s been alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo if they hope to move on and beat the Miami Heat, let alone win an NBA championship. Things will only get harder from here if the Bucks are able to move on, with the winner of the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors waiting, and then whatever titan comes out of the Western Conference.
His numbers this postseason have been dismal. He’s shooting 36.1 percent from the floor and 64.7 percent from the free throw line, but there is a saving grace that he’s shooting 37.5 percent from the 3-point line.
When spotting up (per Synergy), he’s shooting 30 percent and scoring 0.8 points per possession. He’s scored just nine points in 18 possessions as the pick-and-roll ball handler with a turnover percentage of 38.9, placing him in the fourth percentile, and he’s in the zeroeth percentile in isolation scoring with six points in 15 possessions.
It’s been ugly.
Compare this to his spectacular regular season where he was in the 83rd percentile among pick-and-roll ball handlers, the 97th percentile among spot-up shooters and the 74th percentile among isolation scorers. He had shooting splits of .497/.415/.916 and averaged 20.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.
The Milwaukee Bucks need a new Playoff Khris Middleton
We’re only five games into the 2019-20 playoffs, the most unique postseason the NBA has ever seen, but it has been night and day.
Of course, the NBA bubble has not been without its distractions and distress. Players are speaking more and more of the struggles that come from being away from home and families, and last week’s walkout stemming from the shooting of an unarmed black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, just 40 miles from Milwaukee, surely added to the mental and emotional weight that players are enduring as days in the bubble wear on.
One bad series against the Orlando Magic down and Khris Middleton gets the opportunity to reverse the narrative surrounding him once again. The stakes have been raised, the Miami Heat are up next in the second round of the NBA playoffs, and they’re a stiffer test in every regard.
The Milwaukee Bucks are a top-tier championship contender, but Giannis Antetokounmpo can only carry them so far, no matter how incredible the league’s defending (and likely next) MVP is. Middleton is a necessary piece for this team, and the Bucks will go as far in these playoffs as Antetokounmpo and Middleton can carry them together.