With Giannis down, Bucks’ Middleton steps up

Welcome to the 2018-19 edition of the Young Bucks Tracker. Each Thursday we’ll either track the progress of the players who might be of help to the Bucks in the future from the Wisconsin Herd or a current member of the Milwaukee roster. We’ll also give updates on the other young players from the previous week.

This is the 19th edition of the 2018-19 Young Bucks Tracker.

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Forward Khris Middleton

On paper it might seem like Middleton’s production is down this season. After all, last year he averaged 20.1 points per game and this season he’s at 17.9 ppg.

But Middleton has been doing more — his rebounds and assists per game are up and he’s shooting better from 3 — and his scoring production actually is on pace, and actually better, than last season. Because Middleton is playing fewer minutes, his per 36 points per game is 20.4 this year, compared to 19.9 in 2017-18.

So with Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined the past two games, it’s no surprise that Middleton stepped up his game even more.

In Tuesday’s win over the Laker, Middleton played over 36 minutes (his most since game time since Feb. 27) and poured in a season-high 30 points on 12-of-20 shooting, including 4 of 7 from 3. He also grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out five assists.

The next night in Cleveland, Middleton was on the court for 37:12, his second-highest minute total of the season, and had his second straight double-double — with 26 points and 12 rebounds.

In four games last week, Middleton averaged 24.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists while shooting 50.7 percent from the field and making 48.1 percent of his 3-point attempts.

With Milwaukee trying to fight through a number of injuries, this is the kind of production the Bucks certainly could use from Middleton as they try and lock up the top seed in the East.


— This week in Antetokounmpo: When Giannis did play, he of course did something special. After coming one assist short of a triple-double against Miami on Friday, he posted a career-high 52 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists vs. Philadelphia on Sunday. He joined the following NBA players to post a game with 50+ points, 15+ rebounds & 5+ assists: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Bob McAdoo, Rick Barry, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Bob Pettit, Chris Webber, Russell Westbrook. That’s some pretty good company to keep.

— With Malcom Brogdon’s regular season coming to an end because of injury, it clinches him becoming the 10th player in NBA history (14th time overall) to shoot 50+ percent from the field, 40+ percent from 3 and 90+ percent from the line in a season. The others (in order of last accomplished): Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Steve Nash, Jose Calderon, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Kerr, Reggie Miller and Larry Bird.

Pat Connaughton has been getting good playing time lately but it really increased the past two games, when he saw the floor for 36 and 34 minutes (he was around 25 minutes the previous two games). On the week, he averaged 30.3 minutes, 10.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 53.1 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from 3. He tallied 13 points against both the Heat and Lakers. Oh, he also is making a case for himself to be in next year’s dunk contest.

Nikola Mirotic, out for a bit with a broken and sprained thumb, is averaging 11.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 22.9 minutes for the Bucks in his 14 games with the team.