When Khris Middleton's name popped up in the final report of the trade that sent Brandon Knight to Milwaukee and Brandon Jennings to Detroit, little was made of it. A 21-year old who averaged six points in 17-plus minutes per game, he was easily overlooked. It wasn't even clear if he would have much opportunity to play.
One season later and Middleton increasingly looks like the weight that tipped the scales on that deal convincingly in Milwaukee's favor. His overall metrics don't look much different from his rookie year; he saw modest increases in TS%, PER, and even a decline in WS/48. He's still a limited player who doesn't offer much rebounding and doesn't draw fouls. But timing was finally on the Bucks' side, for they may reap the benefits of holding the contract of a young, cheap player who demonstrates a clear, useful skill. In Middleton's case, that's shooting.
Middleton quickly revealed himself as Milwaukee's best catch-and-shoot option. His 59.8% eFG% on catch-and-shoot jumpers (per NBA.com Player Tracking) was best on the team and ranked in the top third among all players who scored at least 250 points off catch-and-shoot jumpers. His game evoked fond memories of Mike Dunleavy Jr's smooth, controlled shooting, even if Middleton doesn't have quite the versatility Dunleavy offered.
The importance of shooting cannot be overstated in the modern NBA, and combined with Middleton's extremely team-friendly contract, his ability makes him a very valuable asset. But there are a few questions facing the Bucks when it comes to Middleton's future. Was his massive jump in three-point accuracy a fluke (research from Nylon Calculus suggests it's far too early to tell)? Is his skill valuable enough at his young age to justifying keeping him beyond his cheap rookie contract? Middleton was an easy player to root for and one of the few bright spots for last year's Bucks, but he's going to be overshadowed by a number of other players this season, and any regression could quickly render him very expendable.
Milwaukee Bucks Roster Asset Rankings
18. O.J. Mayo
17. Chris Wright
16. Zaza Pachulia
15. Jerryd Bayless
14. Johnny O`Bryant III
13. Ersan Ilyasova
12. Nate Wolters
11. Jared Dudley
10. Clippers' 2017 first-round pick
9. Kendall Marshall
8. Damien Inglis
7. Khris Middleton