There was not much surprise when news broke that Milwaukee Bucks three-time All-Star Khris Middleton declined his option for next season. The option, worth over $40 million, would have made it very difficult for the Bucks to sign any new free agents. Make no mistake, though, Middleton will re-sign with the Bucks.
Adrian Griffin was hired as the 17th head coach in franchise history after an extensive search. According to various reports, Griffin (along with two other finalists) met one-on-one with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. After these meetings, a dinner was held between ownership, the front office, and two players.
Giannis, of course, was one of the players. The other was Khris Middleton.
Hiring a head coach is no small decision, which is why many players are not involved in the process. Middleton was invited to be a part of the Bucks’ choosing of Griffin. This indicates that both Milwaukee and himself plan on being together long-term.
There is no getting around the fact that Middleton’s 2022-23 season was disappointing. Injuries kept him out for much of the year and his 15.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists averages were not good. That being said, the context of returning from not one, but two major injuries is important to keep in mind.
Prior to his injuries, Middleton was fully healthy in 2021-22 and was an All-Star. He averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game.
A much more recent indicator that the Bucks still need Middleton can be found in this year’s opening round of the NBA Playoffs. Of course, Milwaukee lost that series, but Middleton averaged 23.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game.
This offseason, Middleton had an arthroscopic procedure to clean out his knee. It was a surgery that is not expected to keep him out at all. In fact, he should be able to resume full basketball activities by the beginning of July.
In other words, he will be fully healthy in 2023-24 and is more likely that not to return to All-Star form. His production against the Heat in the Playoffs proves that he has not lost what made him so valuable to the Bucks’ championship run two seasons ago.
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