Khris Middleton

Middleton On Giannis’ Comments: “Business As Usual”

In an interview with ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, Bucks wing Khris Middleton says he wasn’t surprised to hear two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo openly discuss the possibility of leaving Milwaukee in the future if a better opportunity to win titles presents itself.

Eric Nehm of The Athletic previously wrote that the Bucks were well aware that Antetokounmpo’s foremost desire is to continue winning championships, which Middleton confirms.

I think it’s kind of business as usual either way,” Middleton told ESPN. “It doesn’t affect me personally. I don’t think it affects us as a team. I think this is something he said almost every year he’s come up in contract extension talks.

We always want him back for sure. Let’s be for sure and let everyone know that. We want this guy to come back because he’s one of the best players in the world. He’s one of the best players in franchise history. So when he says things like that, I think he just wants to challenge the team, the organization, to keep putting us in position to win championships.

But I think it’s just something that he just wants to keep putting pressure on everybody. And that’s himself also. He’s not just pointing a finger at everybody else saying, ‘You guys have to do this for me.’ I think he’s putting that pressure on himself to be better, to come in and be great every year. So there’s no pressure on, there’s no added pressure when he says that to us as a team, or me as a person, that I have to be better.”

Here are a few more highlights from Bontemps’ interview with Middleton, which is worth reading in full:

  • A three-time All-Star, Middleton re-signed with the Bucks this offseason on a three-year deal that could be worth up to $102MM, though the base value is $93MM. He admits he wasn’t sure if he would return after the East’s No. 1 seed lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2022/23. “I didn’t have a feel of what was going to happen,” Middleton said. “I was a free agent also, (and a player) that was coming off two injuries. I didn’t know if I was going to be the one that, you know, was going to move on, or a coach or another player. I think this time it just happened to be (former head coach Mike Budenholzer), which kind of caught us by surprise a little bit. But I think we kind of knew something was going to happen. Something was going to have to change for us to get to that next level as a team, as an organization.” The Bucks hired first-time head coach Adrian Griffin to replace Budenholzer.
  • Bontemps brought up the team’s aging core, with Middleton (32), Jrue Holiday (33) and Brook Lopez (35) all well into their 30s. Like Middleton, Lopez re-signed with Milwaukee in free agency, inking a two-year, $48MM deal. Holiday, meanwhile, could be a free agent next summer if he declines his player option for ’24/25. Despite their advancing ages, Middleton thinks the team still has a runway to contend for titles. “I know Jrue’s a guy that he still has a lot left in the tank no matter his age. … I hope he’s excited to come back, to sign an extension and be with us for a couple more years. … I think we have a good amount of years left where we could play at a high level and be a contender. And that doesn’t happen unless we have Jrue back also.”
  • After being limited to just 33 regular season games last season, Middleton said he’s glad to be healthy entering ’23/24. As Bontemps outlines, Middleton had wrist surgery in the 2022 offseason and dealt with a knee injury throughout ’22/23, which eventually required surgery. “This summer’s just been kind of about getting myself back together into being back to my old, natural self, as healthy as I can be, which I think I’m headed in that direction,” Middleton said.

Bucks Notes: Giannis, Middleton, Roster, Griffin, Beasley

Over the past couple months, Bucks superstar and franchise legend Giannis Antetokounmpo has dropped hints that he might leave Milwaukee if a better winning situation presented itself. In a recent mailbag, The Athletic’s Eric Nehm tackled that topic. Nehm writes that he believes Antetokounmpo’s comments aren’t news to the organization, and that it’s something they expected when he signed a super-max contract in 2020.

The Bucks know Antetokounmpo’s No. 1 priority is winning, Nehm writes, and they’ll continue to try building a contender around him. It makes sense that Giannis would be noncommittal about signing an extension with the Bucks because it would add just two years to his deal, limiting his ability to put pressure on the organization to win now.

If Antetokounmpo signs such an extension, he wouldn’t have the ability to threaten to hit free agency, and he wouldn’t make more money in the long run, as opposed to continuing to sign super-max extensions.

Additionally, Nehm doesn’t think Antetokounmpo was taking shots at his teammates when he said he wanted to make sure “everybody’s on the same page, everybody’s going for a championship, everybody’s going to sacrifice time away from their family like I do. Nehm says that his comments seemed to just be an explanation of his approach to the game rather than a shot at anyone in the organization.

According to Nehm, two years without a championship (the Bucks won in 2021) is two years too long for their superstar.

I thought we were going to win a championship, and it was going to be like a fairy tale and it’s done and we’re all going to be enjoying it,” Antetokounmpo told The Athletic, per Nehm. “We’re going to be partying for 15 years straight, but you win one and you’re like, ‘What’s next?’

We have more from the Bucks:

  • Bucks wing Khris Middleton has been a massive part of Milwaukee’s success since joining the team in 2013/14. Appearing on an episode of J.J. Redick‘s Old Man and The Three podcast (YouTube link), Middleton discussed the dynamics of the Bucks roster as an All-Star caliber player starting next to Antetokounmpo. “There’s never been a struggle about who is one and who is two [on the roster] between us,” Middleton said.
  • Addressing more questions in his mailbag, Nehm takes a look at the Bucks’ roster situation, focusing on an apparent lack of depth at the point guard spot. The Bucks have utilized their two-way contracts to address the position, with Lindell Wigginton and TyTy Washington Jr. among options to take on some rotational minutes. However, Milwaukee could look to simply have Antetokounmpo or Middleton bring the ball up the court, or even Andre Jackson Jr, according to Nehm. The Bucks would be in a bad position if starting point guard Jrue Holiday went down, though, and a trade to bring in a more reliable backup could be on the horizon.
  • While new head coach Adrian Griffin was with the Raptors, Toronto forced turnovers on 17.2% of their opponent’s offensive possessions, according to Nehm, which is an important factor to consider when looking to Milwaukee’s defense this year. This may affect Brook Lopez, the backbone of Milwaukee’s defense, with the Bucks potentially shifting to a more perimeter-oriented defensive style while Lopez acts as more of a traditional rim-protecting center.
  • Malik Beasley is going to be on his fifth team heading into his eighth NBA season. According to Nehm, while Beasley’s shooting and scoring numbers look great on paper, teams generally have concerns about his defense, leading to his current journeyman status.

Griffin Embraces Giannis’ Comments, Doesn’t Feel Added Pressure

New Bucks heaed coach Adrian Griffin is unfazed by recent comments made by superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo regarding his future, according to Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Antetokounmpo revealed in a New York Times interview that he wouldn’t sign an extension this offseason and only wanted to stay in Milwaukee long-term if he felt the franchise could compete for championships on a regular basis.

The real question’s not going to be this year — numbers-wise it doesn’t make sense,” Antetokounmpo said. “But next year, next summer it would make more sense for both parties. Even then, I don’t know. … I would not be the best version of myself if I don’t know that everybody’s on the same page, everybody’s going for a championship, everybody’s going to sacrifice time away from their family like I do. And if I don’t feel that, I’m not signing.”

Griffin indicated he’s on the same page with the two-time MVP.

“He wants to win and I want to win and it’s that simple,” Griffin said. “So I respect him. I respect what he’s accomplished in this league and we’re here together to win. So I have no problem with that. I think it’s a great partnership. We’re going to lead the team together. When he leads, the others will follow, so I think it’s great.”

Griffin doesn’t believe Antetokounmpo’s comments will add any extra pressure on him or the organization.

“Absolutely not. We’re here. We’re aligned. We’re here to win,” Griffin said. “And the one thing I talked to my team and our staff about is just embracing expectations. I have a really good roster. Instead of running from it, we want to embrace it. It just takes one day at a time though. Yes, we want to go far and deep into April, May and June but it’s about just one step at a time and taking care of our controllables and it starts with practice.”

Griffin has been in frequent contact with his top player, who underwent an offseason procedure on his knee. The new coach anticipates that Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, who also underwent offseason knee surgery, will be ready to go by the start of camp.

“That’s the plan,” he said. “They’ve been working their butts off, getting in the gym every day and just grinding.”

Central Notes: Middleton, Rubio, Jerome, Morris, Pistons

Khris Middleton‘s new contract with the Bucks includes a series of bonuses related to his total games played and the team’s postseason success, as Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel outlines (via Twitter).

According to Owczarski, Middleton will earn $1.5MM if he appears in at least 62 games in 2023/24 and $617K if the Bucks make the playoffs. He’ll also receive $206K if Milwaukee makes the Eastern Conference Finals, another $206K if the club makes the NBA Finals, and an additional $206K for a championship. Of those incentives, only the $617K playoff bonus is currently deemed likely, since Middleton and the Bucks didn’t achieve any of the other benchmarks last season.

Those figures add up to about $2.735MM — Middleton has approximately $2.963MM in total bonuses next season, so it sounds like at least one of his incentives is missing. However, Owczarski’s reporting gives us a pretty good sense of how the veteran forward would be able to max out his earnings in ’23/24.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • The Cavaliers are optimistic about Ricky Rubio‘s bounce-back potential in 2023/24, according to Chris Fedor of (subscriber link). As Fedor explains, Rubio is another year removed from ACL surgery and is expected to play for Spain in the World Cup, which could be a spring-board to a successful season. The Cavs’ addition of Ty Jerome was more about acquiring “playable depth” than an expectation he’ll usurp Rubio on the depth chart, Fedor adds.
  • Monte Morris, who was born in Grand Rapids and grew up in Flint, spoke on Saturday about what it means to him to get the opportunity to play for his hometown Pistons, per Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. “I always dreamed about playing for the Pistons, just where I grew up,” Morris said. “I was at the Boys and Girls Club a lot. We would get a lot of Pistons gear and I remember when Chauncey (Billups), Ben (Wallace), Tayshaun (Prince), and Rip (Hamilton) came down, it was like 2003, I believe. I was 8 years old running around the Boys and Girls Club. … I used to watch the games in the nosebleeds at the Palace. That pride of just being a Piston, I know what it feels like.”
  • In a separate subscriber-only story for The Free Press, Sankofa answers mailbag questions about the Pistons‘ rotation, Ausar Thompson‘s role, and Thompson’s potential ceiling, among other topics. Within a discussion of trade possibilities, Sankofa expresses skepticism that James Wiseman will be moved this offseason, but acknowledges that if the former lottery pick can’t crack the team’s rotation this season, his days in Detroit could be numbered.

Contract Details: Sabonis, Middleton, VanVleet, Russell, Clark

The Kings’ renegotiation and extension of Domantas Sabonis‘ contract includes $203.6MM in guaranteed money, Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype tweets. The five-year deal also includes $13MM in incentives, raising its potential value to $216.6MM.

Sacramento used $8.6MM in cap room to give Sabonis a raise on next season’s salary – from $22MM to $30.6MM — then added four more years via the extension.

We have more contract-related notes:

  • Khris Middleton has a player option in the final season of his new three-year deal with the Bucks, Scotto tweets. As previously reported, his contract includes $93MM in guaranteed money and another $9MM in bonus incentives.
  • Fred VanVleet‘s huge three-year contract with the Rockets includes a 15% trade kicker, according to Blake Murphy of Sportsnet (Twitter link). The previously reported team option for the third year is valued at $44.89MM.
  • D’Angelo Russell‘s two-year contract with the Lakers is guaranteed for $36MM, Spotrac contributor Keith Smith tweets. The second season is a player option and Russell has $700K in incentives for both seasons. Additionally, Russell has waived his implied no-trade clause.
  • Jaylen Clark‘s two-way contract with the Timberwolves is a two-year deal, Smith tweets.
  • Leonard Miller‘s four-year, $8.3MM contract with the Timberwolves is guaranteed for the first two years, Scotto tweets. The third year is 50% guaranteed, and the fourth year is a team option.

Contract/Cap Notes: Middleton, Lopez, C. Johnson, Watanabe, More

The three-year contract Khris Middleton signed with the Bucks only has a base value of about $93MM, well below the reported figure of $102MM, reports ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter).

As Marks explains, the deal features approximately $9MM in total incentives — $2MM are currently considered likely to be earned, while the other $7MM are unlikely (meaning Middleton and/or the Bucks didn’t achieve the criteria last season). For now, the forward’s annual cap hits, which take into account his base salaries and likely incentives, will be $29.3MM, $31.7MM, and $34MM.

Meanwhile, Brook Lopez‘s two-year, $48MM contract with the Bucks has a declining structure, according to Marks. The veteran center will earn $25MM in 2023/24 and $23MM in ’24/25.

Here are a few more contract and cap details from around the NBA:

  • Marks also has the specifics (via Twitter) on Cameron Johnson‘s four-year contract with the Nets, which includes several incentives and declines in years two and three before rising again in year four. Johnson has base salaries of $24.5MM, $22.5MM, $20.5MM, and $22.5MM, with annual bonuses of $4.9MM, $4.5MM, $4.1MM, and $4.5MM. Currently, a total of $4.4MM of those incentives are considered likely, while the other $13.6MM are unlikely.
  • The Sunsdeal with Yuta Watanabe is a two-year, minimum-salary agreement with a second-year player option, confirms Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). That was the common structure on the contracts Phoenix offered to free agents — Eric Gordon, Keita Bates-Diop, and Drew Eubanks received similar deals.
  • A pair of two-way contracts that have been signed early in the 2023/24 league year will cover two seasons instead of just one. Craig Porter‘s deal with the Cavaliers and Jaylen Martin‘s agreement with the Knicks are each for two years, per Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter links).
  • A handful of teams using cap room this season have renounced their free agent rights to one or more players in order to maximize their space. According to RealGM’s transaction log, the Pacers (George Hill), Kings (Terence Davis, Jeremy Lamb, Corey Brewer), Pistons (Hamidou Diallo, Rodney McGruder, and Buddy Boeheim), and Thunder (eight players, including Dario Saric, Jared Butler, and Nick Collison) all renounced players. In some cases, those cap holds had been on teams’ books for multiple seasons — they won’t be there going forward.

Bucks Officially Sign Middleton, Lopez, Beasley

The Bucks have officially completed three of their reported free agent signings, having re-signed forward Khris Middleton and center Brook Lopez while also adding swingman Malik Beasley, according to’s transaction log.

Middleton reached a deal with the Bucks during the first couple hours of free agency last Friday evening, reportedly agreeing to terms on a three-year contract that will pay him $102MM.

Middleton turned down a $40.4MM player option in order to secure a more significant overall financial commitment, though he’ll accept a lower salary in 2023/24. That reduction should help the Bucks’ luxury tax situation in the short term.

Lopez, who drew significant free agent interest from the Rockets, ultimately rebuffed Houston’s advances in order to return to Milwaukee on a two-year deal worth a reported $48MM. He and the Bucks reached that agreement on Saturday.

The veteran center and former All-Star had one of his best NBA seasons in 2022/23, bumping his scoring average to 15.9 PPG (his best mark since his Brooklyn days) and finishing as the runner-up in Defensive Player of the Year voting.

As for Beasley, he’s joining the Bucks on a one-year, minimum-salary contract after finishing last season with the Lakers. The veteran wing, who agreed on Monday to sign with Milwaukee is a career 37.8% three-point shooter on 5.8 attempts per game, so he’ll help spread the floor for his new team in 2023/24.

The Bucks are still on track to formally complete deals with Jae Crowder, Robin Lopez, and A.J. Green as well.

Bucks, Khris Middleton Agree To Three-Year Deal

The Bucks and Khris Middleton are in agreement on a lucrative new deal, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link), who hears from Middleton’s agents Mike Lindeman and Jeff Schwartz that the star forward will sign a three-year, $102MM contract to remain in Milwaukee.

Middleton turned down a $40.4MM player option in order to secure a more significant overall financial commitment, though he’ll accept a lower salary in 2023/24. That reduction should help the Bucks’ luxury tax situation in the short term.

One of the NBA’s most underappreciated players for years, Middleton averaged at least 20 points in four of five seasons and made three All-Star teams from 2017-22. Unfortunately, his contract year was a forgettable one, with Middleton limited to 33 games due to injuries as his scoring rate (15.1 PPG) and shooting percentages (.436 FG%, .315 3PT%) dipped significantly.

The 31-year-old wing looked more like himself in five playoff games (23.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 6.2 APG, .465/.406/.867 shooting) and felt confident enough about his earning potential this summer to decline his player option. The bet paid off, with Middleton landing another nine-figure contract.

A former second-round pick (39th overall in 2012), Middleton was drafted by Detroit, spending his rookie year with the club. He was traded to Milwaukee in the summer of 2013 and has spent the past decade building the team’s culture and winning habits alongside two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was a rookie during Middleton’s first year with the Bucks.

Middleton was instrumental to the Bucks’ championship campaign in ’20/21, averaging 23.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 5.1 APG and 1.5 SPG in 23 playoff games (40.1 MPG). Both sides will be hoping he continues his playoff form over the next three seasons.

Rory Maher contributed to this story.

Stein’s Latest: Middleton, Lopez, Crowder, VanVleet, Harden, Poeltl, Suns, Morris

The Bucks appear to be in a good position to re-sign several of their key free agents, Marc Stein writes at Substack. Stein gets the sense that Khris Middleton‘s return to Milwaukee is “all but assured,” and says Brook Lopez seems to be leaning toward remaining with the Bucks too, despite the fact that he’ll draw interest from rival suitors like the Rockets.

Interestingly, Stein hears that Milwaukee is considered increasingly likely to re-sign forward Jae Crowder as well. A trade deadline acquisition, Crowder had a forgettable postseason, scoring just seven points and missing all six of his 3-point attempts in 41 total minutes of action. However, he was effective in 18 regular season appearances for the Bucks, who gave up several second-round picks to land him.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • After he wrote earlier this week about the Rockets‘ interest in Fred VanVleet, Stein has been told by a “flurry of informants” that Houston is believed to be looking to sign the point guard to a two-year, maximum-salary contract. Such a deal would be worth just shy of $84MM based on the NBA’s latest cap projections.
  • The latest rumblings Stein has heard suggest that James Harden will likely return to the Sixers on a two- or three- year deal and that Jakob Poeltl is expected to re-sign with the Raptors for about $20MM per year, whether or not VanVleet remains in Toronto.
  • Veteran forward Yuta Watanabe and former NBA guard Mike James have been mentioned as potential targets for the Suns as they look to fill out their roster around their stars, says Stein. James, who has spent the past two seasons with AS Monaco, last played in the NBA in Brooklyn in 2021 and is close with Durant.
  • Clippers forward Marcus Morris remains on the trade block after a proposed three-team deal that would have sent him to Washington fell through last week, Stein says.

Kings Rumors: Barnes, FA Targets, Kuzma, Lyles, Sabonis

Harrison Barnes‘ departure from Sacramento this offseason appears increasingly likely, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who identifies the Pacers as a “strong contender” to sign the Kings‘ free agent forward.

As previously reported, Barnes’ connections to Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton and head coach Rick Carlisle could make Indiana an appealing landing spot for him. Fischer says Barnes is close with Haliburton, who played with him in Sacramento, and has support from Carlisle, who coached him in Dallas.

Here’s more on the Kings:

  • Sacramento’s decision to trade Richaun Holmes and the No. 24 pick in Thursday’s draft to Dallas in order to generate additional cap room has rival executives speculating that the Kings have a specific move in mind for free agency, says Fischer. While Khris Middleton and Draymond Green have been floated as possible targets, those veterans are considered likely to remain with the Bucks and Warriors, respectively, according to Fischer, who hears that the Trail Blazers and Pistons may nonetheless make a run at Green.
  • The name gaining the most traction as a possible Kings free agent target is Kyle Kuzma, according to Fischer. The Jazz‘s trade for John Collins should take a rival suitor for Kuzma off the market, Fischer explains, since Utah is unlikely to pursue another significant frontcourt piece in free agency after adding Collins.
  • Besides using their $33MM+ in cap room to pursue Kuzma, the Kings will also likely look to bring back free agent forward Trey Lyles and renegotiate and extend Domantas Sabonis‘ contract, Fischer reports, estimating that a new deal for Sabonis could be worth in the neighborhood of $120MM over four years.