The Milwaukee Bucks enjoyed a surprising amount of success in 2014-2015. And by retaining their consistently underrated best player this summer, Jason Kidd and company will be primed for far bigger things going forward.
…according to a person close to the scene, Khris Middleton won’t be a free agent for long and will reach a quick agreement to remain with the Bucks.
The former second-round pick was one of the best bargains in basketball last season. Middleton played 2014-2015 on a $915,523 salary while averaging 13.4 points per game on 56.3 percent true shooting and emerging as an elite perimeter defender. And not only did his +6.9 net rating lead the Bucks, but his +6.07 real plus-minus ranked 10th in the NBA overall.
Needless to say, Middleton is due a mammoth raise this summer. Though he’s nothing close to a household name, the 23-year-old will soon be paid like one nonetheless. Considering the imminent salary cap spike before 2016-2017 and four-year, $42 million extension afforded to Alec Burks of the Utah Jazz – an objectively inferior player – Middleton should garner a comfortable eight-figure salary.
In fact, there’s a possibility some opportunistic team will give him an approximately $60 million contract over four seasons. While that seems an overpay for a player with Middleton’s reputation and raw statistical profile, context is necessary to understand the justification behind it. He averaged 16.8 points per game on the same stellar efficiency after the Bucks traded Brandon Knight last February, and has made steady progress offensively in each of his three seasons since being drafted 39th overall in 2012. And at 6’7, 215 pounds with a 6’11 wingspan, Middleton is a handful for the opposition as both a primary and help defender.
Should his breakout 2014-2015 campaign serve as an indicator of impact to come, he’ll prove the rare “3-and-D” type who offers a semblance of shot-creation and ancillary playmaking. While that won’t make Middleton a star in the traditional sense, he’ll still be a very valuable player nonetheless – one whose potential $15+ million salary will be more than palatable under a salary cap that’s $90 million and rising.
Truly great teams are built on a foundation of franchise-changing individual talents, and the Bucks could have two in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. But no championship hopeful has ever reached that exalted level without less heralded players than its superstars providing immense, if less obvious, influence.
The jury is out on Milwaukee’s top prospects realizing all of that potential. If they ever do, though, Milwaukee should be well on its way to legitimate contention – and Middleton will be a major reason why.