One night after Giannis delivered in every single way possible and with little help, the Bucks get a shot at making good in the second game of this home back-to-back when Portland arrive at the Bradley Center for their only appearance of the season.
This one is not on national tv, and it hasn’t got the marquee matchup feel of Lebron vs. Giannis. But make no mistake – its going to be just as tough. Portland come in 2-0 tonight after taking apart Indiana 114-96 on the back of their own ‘big three’: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic.
There has been endless discussion online amongst Bucks fans, all wondering who will be the legitimate star number two and three options on this team that can help Giannis to lift the Bucks to heights they haven’t seen in 15 years. Is it still Jabari Parker, currently rehabbing his second ACL in three seasons? Is the 7″1′ beanpole Thon Maker going to become a real difference maker in time? Or is it Khris Middleton, the sharpshooting, smooth-moving two-way wing?
Ive long been a staunch defender of Middleton, believing that he is an all-star level talent though not a guy that can carry a team on his own. Last year’s brutal hamstring injury set back my hopes of that happening last season but I remain extremely optimistic after a long summer in the gym that he can get to that level in this season. Having said all this, watching his start to the season, I had to investigate into something i believed was a long standing issue: the curious case of early season Khris Middleton.
It was in season 14-15 that Khris first took a big leap from talented young shooter to outstanding two-way young talent, (despite not too many outside of Milwaukee realising it at that point), finishing the season in the top 10 in RPM. But when looking at his month to month splits for that season, you notice he didn’t start the season shooting the ball very well at all. Then 15-16 showed the same trend. In 16-17, though injury interrupted a similar trend again. Here are some numbers:
14-15 – Oct/Nov, 15 games, FG% 0.391. Rest of the season FG% 0.485.
15-16 – Oct/Nov, 18 games, FG% 0.376. Rest of the season FG% 0.461.
16-17 – Returned Feb, 6 games, FG% 0.408. March, 18 games, FG% 0.478.
Admittedly, last year’s numbers feel slightly cherry-picked, as he dropped off to end the season when the lack of conditioning and heavy workload Jason Kidd threw him straight into appeared to take its toll.
Through two games this season, Khris has shot 9/27, including 1/10 from three (and chuck in 8 TO’s, some which have been excruciatingly lazy and hard to watch). Its hard to put my finger on exactly why Khris starts so slow, from all reports he works as hard as anyone off the court and he doesn’t strike me as the type of guy that would come in underdone. But for whatever reason, he takes awhile to get going. This doesn’t provide any comfort for Bucks fans right now, and after watching last night its hard not to be impatient.
I really hope Khris shoots the lights out and drops 30 tonight and makes me look silly, but my gut tells me it probably won’t happen. Whatever does happen over the next few weeks though, no matter where you think Khris fits in a championship contending roster, the 17-18 Milwaukee Bucks aren’t going anywhere if Giannis doesn’t get any help. Khris has to be the guy, and ill sit back tonight and hope he can buck the trend.
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