Khris Middleton

Central Notes: Middleton, LaVine, Cavaliers, Budenholzer

Sharpshooting Bucks All-Star wing Khris Middleton has been a key part of Milwaukee’s blistering 31-5 season start. He spoke with The Athletic’s Sam Amick at length about his tenure in Milwaukee, his chemistry with 2019 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the team’s outlook.

“So far, we’ve been special this season,” Middleton relayed to Amick. “But we know it’s just the regular season. That end goal of being the last team standing is our main focus.” The Bucks finished the 2018/19 season with a league-best 60-22 record, but fell to the eventual champion Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals.

“We lose Malcolm [Brogdon, to the Pacers in free agency], a big piece of what we did last year,” Middleton continued. “But the guys we had in the locker room were guys who we still felt could get the job done.” Antetokounmpo’s offensive improvement this season has helped, too. His play with the Bucks has already put him in the driver’s seat for earning repeat MVP honors.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Despite an intimidating January schedule, optimistic Bulls guard Zach LaVine remains confident in his team’s ability to compete for a playoff spot in the East. “We understand the position we’re in,” LaVine said, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I think we’ve thrown some games away. I think we should be right in that hunt. As poorly as we’ve played some nights, we can still make up for it.”
  • The Cavaliers continue to struggle in late-game situations this season, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes. They coughed up a lead in the fourth quarter yet again tonight, this time in a 109-106 loss to Charlotte. Fedor notes that this failure to close games is a symptom of the team’s young, relatively green roster.
  • Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer was named the NBA’s Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for December, according to Bucks.com. Milwaukee boasted the league’s best record at 13-2, and led the NBA in offensive rating (115.5) and defensive rating (99.3).

Central Notes: Middleton, Thompson, Holidays, LaVine

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:

 There’s more from the Central Division:
  • 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.’’

Khris Middleton Ready To Return

Bucks forward Khris Middleton said he’ll return to action on Wednesday for a home game against Atlanta, the team’s PR department tweets.

This comes as a surprise, even though coach Mike Budenholzer indicated that Middleton might be ahead of his projected timetable to return from a left thigh contusion. Middleton was expected to miss 3-4 weeks after suffering the injury on November 10. He has gone through contact work in practice and played in 5-on-5 scrimmages in recent days.

The 28-year-old All-Star is averaging 18.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG and 2.9 APG after posting averages of 18.3/6.0/4.3 in the same categories last season.

The career 38.8% three-point shooter signed a five-year, $178MM contract in free agency this summer to remain Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s sidekick. The Bucks have continued to thrive despite the absence of their second-best player. They have won eight straight and have the best record on the Eastern Conference.

Injury Updates: Winslow, Thomas, Middleton, Vucevic

Justise Winslow has been sidelined most of the month with a concussion but he’s closer to returning, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. The Heat’s point forward is expected to practice on Tuesday. Winslow hasn’t played since November 5. He suffered the brain injury in a collision with Nuggets forward Paul Millsap. Coach Erik Spoelstra said Winslow formally remains in the protocol, Winderman adds.

We have more injury updates:

  • Raptors guard Matt Thomas has a fractured left middle finger and missed Monday’s game, Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press tweets. The rookie suffered the injury at Atlanta on Saturday. Thomas, a shooting guard out of Iowa State, is averaging 4.8 PPG in 11.3 MPG while making 53.8 percent of his 3-point attempts over 12 games.
  • Bucks forward Khris Middleton has gone through contact work in practice and played 5-on-5 as recently as Monday, coach Mike Budenholzer told Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). Middleton suffered a left thigh contusion on November 10th and was expected to miss 3-4 weeks. Budenholzer said Middleton might be ahead of the original timetable for his return.
  • Magic center Nikola Vucevic said his right ankle sprain is not as severe as he originally feared when he suffered the injury last Wednesday, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. However, he also has a bone bruise that will take some time to heal. He hasn’t been able to do any kind of running, Robbins adds. Vucevic is expected to miss a minimum of four weeks.

Khris Middleton Out Several Weeks With Leg Injury

Bucks forward Khris Middleton is expected to miss multiple weeks with a left leg injury, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. There’s no serious damage to the leg, Charania adds.

The injury is a thigh contusion and is expected to cost Middleton three or four weeks, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets.

The 28-year-old All-Star was injured during the team’s win over the Thunder on Sunday. He’s averaging 18.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG and 2.9 APG after posting averages of 18.3/6.0/4.3 in the same categories last season.

The career 38.8% three-point shooter signed a five-year, $178MM contract in free agency this summer to remain Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s sidekick. With Middleton on the shelf, the Bucks will likely have to go a little smaller at the wing spots with Sterling Brown, Pat Connaughton and Donte DiVincenzo picking up additional minutes.

Central Notes: Bledsoe, Giannis, Rose, Hutchison

Eric Bledsoe is expected to be ready for the Bucks‘ opener on Thursday, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel relays.

“I kind of knew what it was, in a sense,” said Bledsoe, who suffered a rib cage injury earlier in the preseason. “I knew it wasn’t nothing serious… I knew I was going to bounce back.”

Bledsoe will join Brook Lopez, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and newcomer Wesley Matthews in the Bucks’ starting lineup, Velazquez adds in the same piece. Matthews will take over for Malcolm Brogdon, who was traded to the Pacers this offseason.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today argues that the Bucks have done everything right to keep Antetokounmpo around long-term. Milwaukee can offer Giannis the super-max next summer.
  • How Derrick Rose performs will go a long way toward whether the Pistons make the postseason, Rod Beard of The Detroit News writes. Rose signed a two-year deal with the club this offseason.
  • There are plenty of questions surrounding second-year Bulls forward Chandler Hutchison, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times, who notes that it may be hard for the club to find rotation minutes for Hutchison even once he’s recovered from his hamstring injury.

Central Notes: Rose, Beilein, Giannis, Brogdon

Guard Derrick Rose signed with the Pistons because he feels the team can contend, Vince Ellis of the Free Press writes. Rose inked a two-year, $15MM deal with Detroit in free agency to lead its second unit. “I’ve had all the accolades in the past. I’m past that. Now I want to win,” he said. “The only thing on my résumé I’m missing is a championship and being here, seeing what happened last year with the Raptors in (the) East, you never know what can happen.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers are amazed by new coach John Beilein’s work ethic and the 66-year-old’s energy level, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “He has more energy than I do,” forward Larry Nance Jr. said. “He’s always going, always has something on his mind, always something he’s ready to talk about, teach and coach. It’s really exciting to see because as a player that’s what you want. You want somebody that is so eager to get started that they can’t even slow down.
  • The Bucks bet on continuity in their efforts to convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign a super-max extension next summer, Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes. They managed to re-sign Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and George Hill in free agency and only lost one starter, Malcolm Brogdon. “We brought back a big part of the group; we believe in continuity,” GM Jon Horst said. “We think that gives us an advantage to have continuity. … This group looks like they’re growing, looks like they’re getting better, looks like they fit and they make sense and that we can compete and sustain success for a long period of time with this group and that’s been the goal.”
  • Despite Brogdon’s departure, the Bucks have plenty of options at shooting guard and small forward, Ben Steele of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out. “I think the vision going forward is with the addition of Wes Matthews and Kyle Korver as wings that have proven that they are elite-level shooters and great defenders,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Got young guys like Donte (DiVincenzo), Pat (Connaughton) and Sterling (Brown) that are all proven to some degree.” Hill, who signed a three-year, $29MM deal, is another option for Budenholzer.

Central Notes: Horst, Pistons, Kornet, Holidays

Eric Nehm of The Athletic recently sat down with the Bucks’ award-winning GM Jon Horst to discuss the team’s free agency this summer. Here are a few noteworthy passages from Horst’s interview.

Regarding the team’s ability to bring back Khris Middleton on a five-year deal:

“Khris was always a focus… He’s our second superstar, our second star. He’s an All-Star. He’s been one of our best players for a long period of time here… Khris was a target obviously and he got a contract that represents that and we think it’s a great contract because we got our second All-Star locked up for the next five years.”

Regarding the team’s trade of Tony Snell and a first-round pick for Jon Leuer in order to create the requisite cap space needed to re-sign Brook Lopez:

“When we got Brook last offseason, we understood, at some level, how important he was going to be to us… (and) we also understood if he’s as good as we think he’s going to be, it’s going to present a lot of challenges.”

“So, we spent the entire year trying to prepare for that… Just different things we did throughout the year were in preparation to position ourselves to either be prepared to keep Brook, be in a position to keep Brook or be prepared to react if we couldn’t… I don’t know if a lot of people saw it coming, maybe after the Tony Snell deal. Then, maybe they were like, ‘Okay, this is how they’re going to try to do it.’ But before that, I don’t think people saw the moves we lined up to position ourselves to hopefully keep Brook and I’m very thankful we were able to.”

Regarding the decision to trade RFA Malcolm Brogdon to Indiana and whether the luxury tax was a factor in that decision:

“I think there’s a lot that goes into restricted free agency. It’s a monster. Malcolm is very, very important and we knew how important he was to our team. It will be hard to replace him. I think we’ve done the best that we can and we’ll continue to work in ways to be creative and fill that gap.”

“I would say the luxury tax was only part of the consideration for not matching or not being willing to pay Malcolm the market that he was able to get from Indiana. Whether or not he had that market from anywhere else besides Indiana, I don’t know. The decision on Malcolm was much more about our internal evaluations, the roster fit, the ability to be flexible and have options going forward and just building a team that, as I always say, can sustain success over a long period.”

There’s more from the Central Division this afternoon:
  • Horst confirmed in the above interview that the Bucks were not able to create a traded player exception when they traded Brogdon to Indiana, as the signing of George Hill with cap space occurred after the trade, and teams lose their exceptions (other than the Room MLE) when they go under the cap.
  • Taking a look at what each player’s role may be for the Pistons’ during the 2019/20 season, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com opines that there are five guys locked in to being sure-fire rotation pieces – Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, and Derrick Rose, and three who will almost certainly join that group – Markieff Morris, Tony Snell, and Bruce Brown.
  • The Bulls are hoping that the three-point shooting ability of free-agent addition, big man Luke Kornet, will be a nice complement next to starter Wendell Carter Jr. and fellow reserve, rookie Daniel Gafford, writes Sam Smith of Bulls.com.
  • Pacers’ new addition Justin Holiday is excited about the prospect of playing with his baby brother, reserve point guard Aaron Holiday, reports Scott Agness of The Athletic. “It was the best situation I had at this time,” Justin said. “(T)he Pacers obviously being a contender every year and going to the playoffs, and then also them having my brother was something that was very, very enticing for me. To be able to be a part of that culture and play with my brother, I think it made it pretty simple where I needed to go.”

Bucks Re-Sign Khris Middleton

JULY 11: Middleton’s new deal with the Bucks is now official, the team confirmed today in a press release.

“Khris is a critical piece of our core,” GM Jon Horst said in a statement. “As an All-Star, Khris was an integral part of us winning 60 games and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. He has also established himself as a leader on our team both on the court and in the community. We’re thrilled Khris is staying in Milwaukee and look forward to even more success together.”

JUNE 30: Free agent Khris Middleton will re-sign with the Bucks on a five-year, $178MM contract, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The deal is expected to include a player option in the final season.

Middleton, 27, is coming off a season where he averaged 18.3 points, six rebounds and 4.3 assists per game, shooting 44% from the field and 38% from 3-point range. He was a key contributor to the Bucks’ success last season, helping the team reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

Middleton was eligible to receive a maximum salary of $189,903,600 on a five-year contract, so the Bucks will get a slight discount below that rate. Milwaukee is still paying him more than he could have received from any other team — a rival suitor’s offer would have maxed out at around $141MM over four years.

Milwaukee is also expected to re-sign center Brook Lopez to a four-year, $52MM deal, as reported by Wojnarowski. The team will bring back veteran guard George Hill as well, agreeing to re-sign him to a three-year, $29MM deal after waiving him to avoid a $17MM guarantee for 2019/20.

While the Bucks did well to lock up most of their key free agents, Malcolm Brogdon won’t be back. The Bucks have reportedly agreed to a sign-and-trade to send Brogdon to the Pacers, who will pay him $85MM over four years. Milwaukee will get back multiple draft picks, including a first-rounder, in exchange for Brogdon.

The Bucks are on track to stay out of the tax with Brogdon out of the picture. The team could use its $4.8MM room exception to add another rotation piece.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Free Agent Rumors: Middleton, Butler, Kanter, Temple

According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, the quietness surrounding the free agency destination of Bucks’ All-Star forward Khris Middleton is because interested front offices are universally presuming that Middleton is going back to Milwaukee on a “monster” five-year deal.

Middleton, 27, is eligible to sign a five-year, $189.904MM maximum-salary contract with the Bucks, while rival suitors can only (relatively speaking, of course) offer up to $140.791MM over four years.

Echoing Stein’s sentiment from rival front offices, Gery Woelfel of Woelfel’s Press Box reports that Middleton is expected to re-sign with Milwaukee, adding that Brook Lopez and George Hill are also considered good bets to return.