This is the eighth in a 15-part series running Wednesdays and Fridays profiling each Milwaukee Bucks player leading up to the start of the NBA season.
Khris Middleton wants to be known as more than just the “other guy” the Milwaukee Bucks got back in the Brandon Jennings trade.
Middleton might have been a lottery pick if he had declared for the draft after averaging 14.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game during his sophomore season at Texas A&M. A coaching change followed after Mark Turgeon left for Maryland, but Middleton stayed to play for Billy Kennedy.
The decision hurt his draft stock, as Middleton partially tore the meniscus in his right knee during the first game of his junior year. Though he still averaged 13.2 points per game, Middleton was in and out of the lineup with the injury and wasn’t drafted until the second round.
The Bucks feel Middleton has the potential to be a good player in the league and coveted him in the Jennings-Knight trade. The playing time will likely be there, but will Middleton capitalize?
2012-13 stats: 6.1 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 1.0 APG, 44.0 FG %, 31.1 3-point FG %, 84.4 FT % in 27 games with Detroit
2013-14 salary: $788,872
Last year: Playing time was scarce for Middleton for most of his rookie season, as he played a total of 22 minutes until late February. Despite playing for a bad Detroit team, Middleton was stuck behind veteran Tayshaun Prince and first-round pick Kyle Singler at small forward for most of the year.
After a bit of roster shuffling and a couple of trades, Middleton earned a spot in Detroit’s rotation late in the season. He averaged 8.1 points per game and shot 52.9 percent from the field and 40.0 percent on 3-pointers when he played 24.3 minutes per game in April, turning himself into an intriguing prospect.
Middleton showed he has the potential to be a valuable part of a rotation and can be an efficient offensive player. He proved he has good range on his shot and showed he can pass the basketball well.
This year: Middleton thrived in his limited opportunity last season and will certainly get more of a chance to prove his worth with the Bucks. With Carlos Delfino expected to miss time at the beginning of the regular season, Middleton is the favorite to serve as Caron Butler’s primary backup at small forward.
Delfino was signed to be a big part of the equation off the bench, meaning Middleton is going to have to establish himself as a rotation player while the veteran is out. 18-year-old rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the only other healthy small forward until Delfino returns.
Middleton has missed time early in camp due to a sprained ankle, but he should return in the next couple of days. The question now lies in how he will perform in an increased role.
From the front office: “This could be a tremendous opportunity for Khris at this point in his career.” — Bucks general manager John Hammond