It’s nearly the regular season folks, which means it’s time to start contrived “countdown to tipoff” pieces. Our series will be called the Calculated Countdown, where we take a particular statistic from last season that corresponds to the number of days left till tipoff and analyze it in the context of this upcoming year. Today we’re looking at Khris Middleton’s limber return to the roster unimpeded by a torn hamstring.
3 Days to Tipoff: Khris Middleton’s average speed was 3.96 last year
This is a silly statistic for several reasons, first of which is that it’s basically four. Second, average speed is a generally useless statistic unless you’re debating who might win the All Star Skills challenge competition. For what it’s worth, that would probably not be Khris Middleton. However, Middleton’s average speed last year was 3.96 miles per hour. For some context, that was third slowest on the team, in front of just Greg Monroe and Tony Snell. Gary Payton II was the quickest at 4.72 (may also have to do with the fact he was scrambling around for position all the time) followed by Thon Maker at 4.62. Again, in a vacuum, these are pretty much meaningless. Even outside that isolated context they’re about as useful as a broken vacuum.
It does provide us an opportunity to talk about Middleton and how he may perform in an expanded role this season with optimum health. He didn’t look hobbled, but he certainly appeared a step slower after returning from that gruesome hamstring tear. The previous year he averaged 4.09 miles per hour. While Middleton averaged less shots per game last year than prior years, he also averaged 0.7 less shots in the restricted area, while increasing his non-restricted area paint shots ever so slightly by 0.2. That’s minute, but could be indicative of a hesitance to get all the way to the rim, understandable given his lack of wiggle and fear of tumbling into another devastating injury.
Looking at where his points came from, the majority of the categories are even across the board from the year prior. Where the biggest discrepancies appeared were the dearth of unassisted field goals, which went from 45% of his makes in 2015-16 to just 38% last year. Perhaps a clean bill of health will embolden him to return to his old pull-up days, as he’s shot a number of pull-up 3-pointers already this preseason, but I’d be happy with him continuing to work as an off-ball spacer as much as possible. The other prominent change came on fast break points, which made up 13.9% of his points in 15-16 but just 4.9% last year. That may be the most telling statistic in regards to his injured state. While nobody would mistake Middleton for a fast break dynamo, he could work alongside Giannis and finish at the rim. More relevant to today’s game though is his ability to trail and chuck up a quick three while the defenses scramble. If he’s able to hustle down the court and spot up at in open pockets for Giannis, that should make for a deadly duo in transition.
Middleton may not have been appreciably different last year in regards to his game, or his speed, but there were enough subtle changes in his game that I’m looking forward to seeing a bit more fluidity with a healthy Midds all year.