The Milwaukee Bucks have started training camp as they prepare for the 2023-24 NBA season. This particular camp certainly has a great deal buzz surrounding it. Of course, that is because Milwaukee recently acquired seven-time All-Star Damian Lillard from the Portland Trailblazers in exchange for Jrue Holiday and a 2029 first round draft pick (Grayson Allen was sent to the Phoenix Suns as part of the deal as well).
As practices have begun, Bucks media members have noticed that one player is missing on the practice floor: three-time All-Star Khris Middleton. Over the last few days, head coach Adrian Griffin has been cryptic in his responses to questions regarding the reason Middleton was not practicing. So, today, the media simply asked Middleton himself.
Milwaukee Bucks Star Khris Middleton Is Following the Recommended Timetable for His Recovery
After the Bucks were eliminated in the first round of the NBA Playoffs by the Miami Heat, Middleton underwent another surgery on his injured knee. The knee injury, combined with wrist surgery last season, kept him out for most of last season. When he was healthy, he was severely limited in what he could.
Eric Nehm of The Athletic asked Middleton about his recovery and if there is anything that he thinks will keep him from being ready for the start of the regular season:
“Nah. I feel great. It’s just a progression. You can’t just get thrown into the fire. That’s how you don’t heal properly or you reinjure yourself, so just taking it step-by-step, like I’ve been saying and they’ve been telling us what to do. As players, we’re anxious to get back out there as soon as we can, as soon as we feel like we can, but sometimes we’re just not ready yet and they know that.”
The Bucks tried to rush Middleton back last season. He missed the first 20 games of the season before making his debut. However, he played in just seven of the next eight games before missing 18 more consecutive games.
Milwaukee, obviously, is trying to avoid that this year, and bringing Middleton along slowly is part of their plan to keep him healthy all year.
Nehm later asked Middleton if this was an injury that the team would have to “manage” going forward, but Middleton did not think so. He is of the opinion that this course of recovery is going to help him be strong enough to play a full season without much load management.
Believe It Or Not, the Milwaukee Bucks Are Better with Khris Middleton Than They Are Without
Of course, Middleton was the second option on the Bucks team that won the 2021 NBA Finals. Still, there were plenty of fans that wanted Milwaukee to move on from the three-time All-Star this offseason. Instead, the Bucks signed him to a three-year $102 million contract.
And there is good reason they did, too. The best players elevate their games in the NBA Playoffs, and Middleton has done that consistently over the course of his career. During the regular season, Middleton holds career averages of 17.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game.
During the postseason, however, Middleton holds career averages of 20.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. In five of his last six playoff series, Middleton has averaged at least 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game. The only series of these in which he did not was the Chicago Bulls series in 2021 when he was injured and ruled out for the rest of the Playoffs.
How Good Are the Milwaukee Bucks If Khris Middleton Is Their Third Option?
Now that Milwaukee has acquired Damian Lillard, Middleton no longer is the team’s second scoring option. Rather, he is the third scoring option behind two players that each averaged over 30 points per game last season.
And it is not like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Lillard are scorers who do not share the ball. Lillard has not averaged less than 7.3 assists per game in any of his past four seasons. Giannis has not averaged less than 5.6 assists in any of his past five seasons.
To be sure, Lillard will take more shots than Holiday did, but his outside scoring ability mixed with Giannis’ inside scoring ability is going to open up so many more opportunities for Middleton and other shooters. Last season, Middleton attempted just 18 uncontested jumpers all season.
With Lillard and Giannis on the floor with him, he should get plenty of more open shots. And when that happens, well, the rest of the league should watch out.