Khris Middleton is making his new five-year, $178MM contract seem like a wise investment, writes Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Middleton has become more efficient, putting up numbers close to his career averages in just 27.8 minutes per game, the fewest since his rookie season. The 29-5 Bucks have been so dominant that they haven’t had to rely as heavily on their top players.
Middleton is averaging 18.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, and his numbers rise to 24.1/7.2/4.9 on a per-36-minute basis. He is making a strong bid for his second straight All-Star appearance, even though he’s not as well known as many other stars.
“I think that’s the way he likes it; he’s going to go out there and do his job every night regardless of if people recognize him or not,” teammate Brook Lopez said. “It’s not important to him. I think – I don’t think, I know – the guys in the locker room and on the coaching staff appreciate what he does, no question, night in and night out. That’s what matters to him. He’s just trying to go out there and win.”
Here’s more from around the Central:
- Tristan Thompson is too important to the Cavaliers‘ future to be traded away, argues Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Thompson is one of four expiring contracts left on Cleveland’s roster after this week’s trade of Jordan Clarkson, and Fedor thinks the Cavs should try to re-sign him to help stabilize the rebuilding process. Not only is Thompson excelling on the court, averaging 12.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per night, but he is seen as a leader by his young teammates and was an outspoken defender of John Beilein after reports surfaced earlier this month that many players had lost confidence in their new coach.
- History was made last night in New Orleans as Pacers guards Aaron Holiday and Justin Holiday were on the court at the same time as their brother, Jrue, notes Scott Agness of The Athletic. Justin opted to sign with Indiana as a free agent over the summer so he could play alongside his little brother. “He’s just being there and helping me feel more comfortable,” Aaron said. “He’s been in the league for a while so he knows the ropes, and I’m pretty much just following his lead. He’s obviously a leader at heart and in the way he works.”
- Zach LaVine is thinking about returning to the dunk contest to try to reclaim his title, relays Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. The Bulls guard won the competition in 2015 and 2016. ‘‘I know I’ve still got some dunks left, and my legs have been feeling good,” he said. “Maybe I’ll have to go practice, but I don’t know yet. I’ll probably have to let the NBA know soon.’’