May. 27, 2015
Mavericks' Free Agent Target Analysis: Khris Middleton
As we continue looking at Monta Ellis’ possible replacements next year, there’s one guy that not many people are familiar with. He happens to be the starting shooting guard for one of Monta’s former teams, the Milwaukee Bucks. If you don’t know who I’m talking about by now, it’s Khris Middleton. Middleton had a breakout year this past season, just in time for his contract to expire. He hasn’t had much of a career, but let’s look into it anyways.
Middleton was drafted out of Texas A&M by the Detroit Pistons with the 39th pick in the NBA draft of 2012. Khris Middleton averaged about 11 points, 5 boards, and 2 assists per game in college. Middleton barely cracked the lineup in Detroit in his rookie season. He played in 27 games and averaged about 18 minutes per game. In the limited time he got, he averaged about 6 points, 1 assist, and 2 boards per game. That summer, Middleton was part of a package deal to send Brandon Knight to Milwaukee, and he began to get more of a chance with the Bucks. Middleton played in all 82 games of the 2013-2014 season and started 64 of them. He ended that season by averaging about 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists a game. Middleton began to show even more promise this past season, improving in nearly every facet of his game. Middleton has only been in the league for three years, so let’s see what all he could bring to the Mavs: negative and positive.
PROS AND CONS OF KHRIS MIDDLETON:
• Perimeter Shooting: Khris Middleton has really developed a lot of his game; one of the biggest parts that has improved has been his three point shooting. In his rookie year, although he only attempted 45, Middleton shot 31% from beyond the arc. Since then, he has improved all the way up to 41%, making him a true threat whenever he is behind the line. He takes about 4 per game, but seems to knock them down more consistently than his percentage shows. Any three-point threat could be of great value this offseason.
• Perimeter Defense: Middleton is gifted with long arms, helping him in any situation on defense. He has the awareness to make for a terrific defender and the length to cause problems on anyone. He plays the passing lanes as well as a seasoned veteran would. He averages about 2 steals per game and pulls down about 4 defensive rebounds a game. He’s only had two full years of experience, so add him to a veteran team, and he could make a case for one of the All-Defense teams.
• Creating Own Shot: Middleton handles the ball well for someone of his size. Monta Ellis is so good at making his own space and shot, but Middleton does it in such a different way. Any little bit of space that he has, he uses. He knows how to get to the basket, but his strength is pulling up from mid-range. He doesn’t get to the line often, averaging about 2 free throws per game, but that doesn’t affect him. He scores about 13 a game, and most of them are from shots he finds himself. The Bucks didn’t really have a “go-to guy” at the ends of games, but Middleton had the ball in his hands a lot when it came down to wire. The reason was because he knew how to get a good shot, no matter how closely guarded. Anyone that can work the way he does is welcome on Rick Carlisle’s offense.
• Age and Size: Much like the last shooting guard we covered, Danny Green, Middleton is a young, long guard. He really could be a small forward, and actually plays the three position a lot. Middleton is 6’7, an exceptional size for the two guard position. His size helps him disrupt his counterpart on defense and get shots up on offense, whether he is backing them down in the post, or pulling up over them from mid-range. At 23 years old, Middleton provides another stepping stone for future plans. He hasn’t had any kind of injuries yet, and at 23 he has plenty of time to mature his game and enter his prime with any team he signs with.
• Asking Price: Middleton is a restricted free agent this summer, making any kind of signing a waiting game with him. As we know from the Chandler Parsons ordeal, a restricted free agent’s former team is allowed to match any offer that is thrown their ex-player’s way. Middleton is expected to ask for about $15 million a year, a number that I don’t see the Mavs offering. Monta Ellis got greedy with his money, and he ended up slipping through the cracks to Dallas. Maybe the same could happen with Middleton, but I don’t see it happening; the Bucks will most likely match any offer that is given to Khris, because they are young and have freedom to spend money this summer.
• Athleticism: Middleton doesn’t have a whole lot of vertical ability. He doesn’t jump too high for rebounds, blocks, or shot attempts, but luckily he’s 6’7. His game doesn’t require much athleticism, but it never hurts. This shouldn't deter any teams from bidding on him, but it makes him a bit less attractive.
• Passing: Khris Middleton only averages about 2 assists per game, not great for any kind of guard. He has been playing on a Milwaukee team that has been low on talent and shooters, but he should still be able to find his open teammates more often than he does. Middleton likes to pull up a lot, forcing him to look away from his open teammates. He doesn’t like to drive that often, but when he does he won’t look for the open wingman. Ellis is really good at driving and kicking, something Middleton doesn’t do much of.
Khris Middleton is no star, but he would bring a lot to the team if the Mavs could get him. He, in no way, shape, or form, should be a primary target. He has a bright future and can even contribute a lot to any team now, but he shouldn’t be pursued before the likes of Aldridge, Jordan, or Gasol. Middleton should be the first guy that the Mavs go after, should they lose Monta in free agency, or a trade. He is young with so much skill already. If the Mavs get Deandre Jordan and Middleton, a young core of Parsons, Jordan, and Middleton could be deadly now and seasons to come. I don’t think it’s likely that the Mavs will be able to steal him from Milwaukee, but it’s worth a shot. The Bucks haven’t made any kind of indication as to how high they’re willing to go for Khris, but if they will match a contract up to $15 million a year, then you probably won’t see Middeton in Dallas next season.
Statistics via ESPN.com