Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton was easily one of the most impressive players during the first round of the 2018 NBA postseason.
The former second-round pick excelled on offense for the Bucks, dominating on various different play types against the Boston Celtics. He was excellent on spot-up plays as well as in isolation and as a ball-handler on pick-and-rolls. If he continues playing at this caliber next season, he will have a big deal coming in the near future.
In a recent column, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor said he performed “like an All-NBA player” during the seven-game series against Boston. In addition to his efficient scoring, Middleton was also a remarkable defender in the series. Still, his value on offense can not be understated.
Among all the players who have had more than 100 possessions in the postseason, Middleton was the most efficient with 1.28 points per possession. Behind him, in order, were Klay Thompson, LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
He averaged 1.61 PPP on spot-up plays. This ranked as the second-best mark (minimum: 15 possessions) in the first round, behind only Mike Scott. It was his most frequent role for Milwaukee (26.7 percent frequency) in the series.
But the 6-foot-8 forward also looked sharp when he was used for one-on-one plays. In fact, no one who had more than 10 isolation possessions was more efficient than Middleton (1.28 PPP) during the first round.
The only players who were more efficient than Middleton (1.00 PPP) as the ballhandler in a pick-and-roll offense (minimum: 20 possessions) were Ben Simmons, Chris Paul and CJ McCollum. This was an area where he excelled during the regular season, averaging 1.03 PPP. He ranked No. 7 overall (minimum: 100 possessions) on this play type.
He was a constant source of offense for Milwaukee in a series that matched them up against arguably the best defensive team in the league.
Middleton also posted up better than almost any other player who did so with high volume in the postseason as well. He averaged 1.23 PPP on his post-up possessions. This trailed only LeBron James and Middleton’s own teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo. He is a nightmare for defenders, though, because he can shoot from further back as well.
During the regular season, Middleton averaged 2.7 midrange field goals per game. The only players who had more were Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge. His accuracy (49.3 percent) ranked Top 10 among those with at least 100 opportunities.
He was 10-for-13 (76.9 percent) on shots from between 17 feet of the basket and the three-point line during the playoffs, averaging 1.61 PPP. Both were far and away the best among all qualified players.
The 28-year-old is under contract for $13 million next season, which is one of the best values in the NBA. He has a player option for the same amount the following season, though he will almost assuredly opt-out and test the open market if he continues his stellar play.
Take one look at the highest-paid players and his name is nowhere near the top.
Of course, there are top players who are still signed to their rookie deals like Nikola Jokic and Clint Capela. Once they become free agents, though, they will likely make more than Middleton next season. When looking at those who have already signed their second contract, he stands out.
Steven Adams signed for just short of a max deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The big man has been an invaluable talent for the team over the past few years.
You can also make a best-non-max-player case for someone like Draymond Green, who signed for $5 million less than a max deal, or Victor Oladipo, who signed a deal worth $21 million less than his maximum. Perhaps Gary Harris is in the conversation, as he recently signed a near-max contract extension with the Denver Nuggets and was highly efficient all year.
Another player who comes to mind is Kemba Walker, who is on a $12 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets. Tobias Harris (Los Angeles Clippers) and Robert Covington (Philadelphia 76ers) have relatively cheap deals too.
But neither have looked as sharp as Middleton did against Boston. The swingman certainly belongs in this conversation.