Last Word on Pro Basketball’s Top 30 NBA Players: Khris Middleton

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Although ranking the top 30 NBA players in today’s game is an incredibly difficult task, The Last Word on Pro Basketball staff has taken it on. Debuting at number twenty-nine in the countdown is Milwaukee Bucks small forward Khris Middleton.

Top 30 NBA Players

Number 29 – Khris Middleton

Khris Middleton’s path to greatness is defined by resilience. At each level of his career, “Khash” has been doubted and underrated, yet he’s invariably surpassed expectations each and every time. In high school, Middleton was an unremarkable three-star recruit in the already subpar Class of 2009. With limited scholarship offers, he opted to enroll at Texas A&M, a school better known for its award-winning track team than its historically awful basketball team. Middleton had a slow start in College Station, shooting a horrific 8% from the field in his first three games. Despite these struggles, he forged on. Due to an injury to a starter, Middleton surprised everyone as he unexpectedly carried the Aggies to the NCAA tournament. The next season, Middleton really came into his own, leading the team in scoring while earning a berth as a Second Team All-Big-12 selection.

Expectations were high for Middleton and the highly-ranked Aggies heading into his junior season. Unfortunately, due to a rash of injuries and just poor play in general, Middleton and his squad vastly underperformed. As the Aggies descended into the cellar of the Big 12, Middleton’s draft stock simultaneously plummeted. Ultimately, the Detroit Pistons picked him in the second round of the 2012 NBA draft.

Middleton’s career started out on the wrong foot, and it only got worse during his first season. Middleton averaged a putrid 6.1 points in just 27 games, spending most of that year with the D-League’s Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Following his subsequent trade to the Bucks, however, Middleton’s career began to trend up. His point totals increased every year, and he developed a reputation as a sharpshooter alongside burgeoning star Giannis Antetokounmpo. Now, eight years after entering the NBA as an unheralded prospect, Khris Middleton has established himself as one of the best players in the league.

Strengths

Khris Middleton is one of the best two-way players in the league. Offensively, Middleton is a historically efficient shooter. This past season, he averaged 21.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists while shooting a stellar 42 percent from downtown on six attempts per game. In fact, he was only the eleventh player in NBA history to have an effective field goal percentage of 57.5 percent despite using 26 percent of his team’s possessions. In addition, he was on pace to join the elusive 50/40/90 club. Most impressively, he does this all in an off-ball role, as he does not need the ball in his hands to succeed alongside Antetokounmpo.

On the defensive end, Middleton is above average. While he may never make an All-Defensive team, his defensive role is seminal to the Bucks. Middleton has good size at 6’8, and he is especially good at perimeter defense. With his size and outstanding instincts, Middleton can adeptly defend even the most elite wings.

Weaknesses

Despite his all-around game, Middleton does have a few weaknesses. He struggles to get to the rim at times, often settling for midrange jump shots instead. This can be attributed to his inadequate athleticism and lack of quickness in comparison to his defenders. In addition, Middleton struggles with consistency, as he seems to disappear from time to time. For instance, Middleton failed to reach the 20 point mark in sixty percent of his games in 2019. For a two-time All-Star who’s calling card is shooting, that is simply unacceptable.

Finally, Middleton excels at the most inefficient shot in today’s NBA: the midrange jumper. Despite his historic accuracy from this range, his volume here is far too high. If he improved his shot selection and instead took more shots from beyond the three-point line, Middleton would become even more deadly and efficient. There’s no question whether Middleton possesses the ability to sink such shots. On the contrary, Middleton simply needs to utilize his strengths in a more extreme manner.

Career Accolades

Middleton has won a number of accolades over his basketball career. He was the South Carolina Basketball Player of the Year for two consecutive seasons as a high schooler. In college, he was nominated as a unanimous preseason All-Big 12 Team selection, as well as an All-Big 12 Second Team member. In the NBA, Middleton was an All-Star in 2019 and 2020. Given his upward trajectory and trademark resilience, there’s no question that Middleton will continue to accumulate accolades in the future. For now, he ranks inside the top 30 NBA players.

Last Word on Pro Basketball Ballots

We believe in full transparency in the top 30 NBA player rankings so we are going to disclose the ballots of our player rankings and where each contributor had each player ranked.
Tyler Marling – Site Manager – 27th
Chase Gage – Managing Editor – 28th
David Knight – Marketing Manager – NR
Zach Kircher – Associate Editor – NR
Matthew Waldman – Associate Editor – NR
David Ward – Author – NR
Avinash Chauhan – Contributor – 25th
Adam Zigner – Contributor – 26th
Albert Dadson – Contributor – NR
Dylan Guest – Contributor – 26th
Raheem Bashir – Contributor – NR
Nathan Levine – Contributor – 27th
Bill Huan – Contributor – 27th

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