Khris Middleton Injury: How the Bucks May Fare Without Star Guard
The Milwaukee Bucks were looking like a team with serious promise. Stocked with tantalizing young talent and a brand new $100 million deal with versatile swingman Giannis Antetokounmpo, it’s quite arguable they were on the verge of making some noise in the 2016-17 NBA playoffs.
Down Goes Middleton
Milwaukee’s promising new season took a turn for the worse on Wednesday night, however, when the team learned that star guard Khris Middleton was diagnosed with a torn hamstring.
Milwaukee forward Khris Middleton has suffered a torn hamstring and will undergo surgery, league sources told The Vertical. Story coming.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) September 21, 2016
Per reports, Middleton is currently expected to miss up to six months, which could put his entire 2016-17 NBA season at risk. Milwaukee seems to tentatively be holding out hope for a Middleton return later in the year – especially if the Bucks can make the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Seeking Outside Help
Milwaukee may not wait around to find out if they can get Middleton back, however. The best route may instead be to kill Middleton’s season before it starts to ensure he returns for the 2017-18 campaign at full strength.
Reports suggest that the Bucks are already looking into possible options they could trade for, in the event Middleton ultimately cannot return to the court this season.
Milwaukee isn’t confusing itself with an immediate title contender, but Jason Kidd and co. don’t want to lose games just because they’re one man down. That’s not to say Middleton is just another player, of course, as he was Milwaukee’s leading scorer with 18.2 points per game during the 2015-16 season and also remained a lights our contributor from beyond the arc (.396). Needless to say, both aspects of Middleton’s offensive game will be sorely missed without a key addition via trade.
— theScore (@theScore) September 22, 2016
The Bucks still have some offensive firepower via big man Greg Monroe, versatile scorer Jabari Parker and the ever talented Alphabet, but it’s safe to say they didn’t have anyone who can stroke it from deep or score in bunches like Middleton could.
Middleton is likely to remain a long-term fixture of a budding franchise, but for now Milwaukee’s main focus is to stay competitive and keep getting better while they wait for one of their cornerstones to return to full strength.
There simply aren’t any awesome scoring options out in free agency. If there were, they probably wouldn’t be free agents. That’s not true – J.R. Smith is by far the best available option. Unfortunately, it feels like a lock that he’s going back to Cleveland. Maybe former Cavs teammate Dellavedova can talk him into taking the plunge, but odds are if the Bucks are going to make a big move, it’s coming via trade.
Depending on what Milwaukee dangles, they could go after a number of interesting players that could be available. It’s the NBA, so pretty much anyone could be had for the right price, but these are the guys we wouldn’t be shocked to see Milwaukee take a gamble on:
- Gerald Green – Celtics
- Jeremy Lamb – Hornets
- Doug McDermott – Bulls
- Will Barton – Nuggets
- Nick Young – Lakers
- Nik Stauskas – 76ers
- John Jenkins – Suns
- Kevin Martin – Spurs
- Rudy Gay – Kings
- Alec Burks – Jazz
This certainly isn’t a murderer’s row, but these guys all have offensive skill-sets and for one reason or another don’t see to be in their current team’s long-term plans.
Rudy Gay has been very vocal about wanting out of Sacramento, while guys like Green, Lamb, Young, McDermott, Stauskas, Jenkins and Barton all can score the ball and are either key bench players or merely bench fodder.
Burks is actually a high upside talent, but due to injuries he could be buried in Utah. Martin is an aging veteran, but he’s wasting away in San Antonio and could probably still put up quite a few points per night and come at a fair price.
There is also the possibility of Milwaukee not making any trade at all and trying to promote from within. One obvious option is hoping second-year shooting guard Rashad Vaughn can step up and earn big minutes as a key starter. Judging off of what he did last year, however, that’s not a logical assumption. Milwaukee could also opt to start Michael Carter-Williams at the point and use either Dellavedova or Antetokounmpo at the two spot.
There doesn’t seem to be an easy answer currently on Milwaukee’s roster, of course, which makes trading for a Khris Middleton replacement the best solution.
Betting on the Bucks
The loss of Khris Middleton is truly potentially devastating. Milwaukee was not a playoff team a year ago, as they struggled to maintain a consistent, reliable offense and the hard-nosed defense they’d brought to the table the year prior slowly eroded with the addition of soft big man Greg Monroe down low.
Monroe is still around to prevent the defense from reaching new heights, while Middleton’s size, length and effort aren’t there for the perimeter. Milwaukee did take measures to offset any defensive limitations this summer, as they brought in Matthew Dellavedova to potentially jump start a lethargic point guard position and also pick up the defensive intensity.
Defense could still remain a serious issue, however, and that’s bad news considering the Bucks gave up over 103 points per game while going just 33-49 last season.
Add in some more issues for an offense that put up just 99 points per game and just lost their top scorer, and things could get bad in a hurry.
That has us wonder; are the Bucks headed for an even worse year without Middleton around, or can they figure out a way to come together and improve, overall?
Even before the Khris Middleton injury, the Bucks’ odds to do much this year didn’t look great. Over at Bovada they had just +10000 odds to win the 2016-17 NBA Finals, and playing inside a conference with the Cleveland Cavaliers ahead of them naturally made things more difficult.
Milwaukee still has some options, as we’ve touched on. If they make the right move, they could still have a shot at matching last year’s production and possibly even surpassing it. Kidd brings good coaching to the sidelines and they still have a litany of talented players. If they bring in the right scorer to help replaced Middleton, they can remain competitive.
This wasn’t a title contender or even a locked in playoff contender even with Khris Middleton, hoever. With Middleton out for either the entire year or most of it, the odds of the Bucks doing anything of merit this year took a substantial hit.
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