When the Milwaukee Bucks signed Khris Middleton to a five year, $70 million contract they had a number of reasons to do so.
They liked his elite shooting potential, his young age, and his fit in Jason Kidd and Sean Sweeney’s defensive scheme. The financial reasons for re-signing him were beneficial as well with the cap projected to jump to $89 million in 2016 and $108 million in 2017. Paying $14 million per season to a young shooter is a good deal when looking at those numbers.
Middleton started the season slow and failed to make as big of an impact as many had expected. In the first 28 games, he averaged 14.4 points while shooting 39.3% from the floor and dishing out 3.2 assists per game. Those are not numbers you would expect from a guy you just paid $70 million.
However, Middleton has caught fire over the last ten games.
He’s averaging about 10 more points and 2 more assists per game, while shooting 15% better from the floor and making half of his shots beyond the arc. Those are numbers you can expect out of a guy getting paid $14 million a year.
Middleton’s stats the past ten games tell us something else, though. It shows us that he has become more aggressive and confident on offense. He’s found his 3-point stroke, is scoring efficiently inside the arc, and is creating shots for his teammates.
While his current ten-game run is not what his final stat line will look like, something close to it can be expected in future seasons. He won’t shoot 50% from three for an entire year, but he could potentially keep his assist numbers up. Considering his length for a two-guard and the role he plays in Milwaukee’s defense, his rebounding numbers could grow as well.
The Bucks haven’t lived up to the lofty expectations placed on them this season. Jabari Parker hasn’t been able to make a consistent impact on offense and is still finding his feet in what is essentially his rookie season. Giannis Antetokounmpo has made improvements as a two-way player but isn’t being aggressive on offense in most games. Both Antetokounmpo and Parker are young players, 20 and 21-years old respectively, so growing pains should be expected.
It’s easy to forget that Middleton is young as well and is still going to improve at the age of 24. What he’s done the past ten games is promising and goes a small way towards justifying the contract he received this offseason.
While the Greek Freak and Parker learn to become confident and aggressive, this team’s offense belongs to Middleton.