We talk about him more nowadays, and rightfully so, his resume demands it.
Khris Middleton, like many other NBA stars, has his share of inconsistent playoff performances. In fairness, it’s awfully difficult to remain consistent at the absolute height of the sport. Still, with Giannis Antetokoumnpo previously doubtful and now questionable with a knee injury, and with the possibility of him never being 100 percent during this NBA Finals series, if and when he does return, all eyes — once again — are on the other All-Star out in Milwaukee.
Though he hasn’t always been terribly efficient in these Finals — which, again, is hard to sustain in the postseason, generally speaking — Middleton’s undoubtedly been effective, otherwise the Bucks wouldn’t have gotten this far. The multiple-time All-Star swingman is averaging 23.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game through his 17 playoff starts. He’s currently shooting 43.4 percent from the field, and 33.8 percent from three, which are lower than his 48/41 splits in these same categories. Though, he’s still getting to the foul line close to five times per game, which is where he’s shooting 88.6 percent.
In the Eastern Conference finals, where the Bucks defeated the Atlanta Hawks 4-2, Middleton wasn’t exactly his best self in three of the first four showings. Save for a 38-point, 11-rebound, and seven-assist Game 3 explosion, Middleton had been toiling around 15 points per game on 34/9 splits from the field and from three. Yes, nine percent, 2-for-23. But in the final two games, both of which were without Antetokounmpo, the All-Star version of Middleton was back.
In Game 5 on July 1, Middleton recorded 26 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists on 10-for-20 shooting, including an improved (from the, again, nine percent) 2-for-6 from three, while also hitting 4-for-5 on free throws. And in the closeout Game 6, Middleton paced the offense with 32 points and seven assists. There, he shot 10-for-22 from the floor, 4-for-8 from three, and 8-for-8 on free throws.
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Middleton’s capabilities may even mirror that of another dude who will be playing right across from them in these NBA Finals, and with him on Team USA. If Giannis is going to be out for an extended period, or even just Game 1, Middleton playing Devin Booker to a draw probably won’t be enough, perhaps unless Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis can combine for over 50 points again. Then again, Jrue Holiday had 25 points and 13 assists that game, too.
Many of the Finals discussions are surrounding Chris Paul’s first championship ring being within his reach, the possible emergence of Booker into superstardom, and the health of Antetokounmpo. Middleton is someone else we should be looking to to answer some questions in this series. One way or another, he’ll have to.