Khris Middleton has come a long way in a fairly short time. I got to watch his freshman year at Texas A&M first hand, and while I could tell he was a talent, I never really thought of him as a guy who would make it in the NBA. Over his three years in college, he transitioned from co-star to face of the team, but his stats were never eye-popping.
I honesty figured he would end up like Acie Law and Donald Sloan, the two other most recent Aggie guards to get drafted into the NBA. Law was drafted in the first round while Sloan went undrafted, but both managed to float around as the third or fourth guard on several NBA rosters. Law plays in Europe now, and while Sloan seems to have found a small role backing up George Hill in Indiana, it's unlikely he'll ever be more than a fringe rotation guy. And coming into the NBA draft, it kinda seemed that was Middleton's ceiling too.
His first year with Detroit seemed to confirm this suspicion, but by the end of his second season he was firmly entrenched in the Milwaukee Bucks' starting lineup. Larry Drew tried to force Middleton into a role he was ill-suited for, playing him a lot in the post as a super small ball 4. Fortunately, Jason Kidd put him back where he belongs, on the perimeter, and he improved dramatically in his third season.
With Jabari Parker getting injured, and Brandon Knight traded, Middleton became arguably the Bucks' best player. Talent-wise, obviously Giannis Antetokounmpo is the guy, but Middleton was much more reliable and consistent, especially in the playoffs against the Bulls. Middleton shot over 40 percent from three the past two seasons, and took a pretty good leap defensively under Kidd's tutelage.
Middleton is a tall, lanky swingman, capable of playing and defending either wing position. At 23, Khris is clearly a quality young talent who can be relied on in that sought-after "3 and D" role. But can he be more? Because if a team wants to take him from the Bucks, they're going to have to pay him a lot more than a team should feel comfortable paying a role player.
To me, Middleton has already exceeded expectations in becoming as good a player as he has. And I love the kid. But as a restricted free agent, it's probably going to take something like a Chandler Parsons contract to land him. And if you're going to make that sort of investment, you better be sure you believe he'll keep growing into something more than just an excellent 3 and D guy.
Fit with the Mavericks
With Monta Ellis firmly out the door, the Mavericks will be looking to fill the starting shooting guard spot (among others) this offseason. All indications seem to point to Dallas moving in the opposite direction of Monta, wanting a bigger guy at the 2 who can defend and shoot well. Middleton fits that need perfectly.
That said, I do have some skepticism about how he might translate to a system like Dallas. A lot of his defensive improvement can be attributed to the aggressive defensive scheme that Jason Kidd runs in Milwaukee, and an offense that featured him as the primary option was...middling to say the best. Even so, Middleton is still young, probably still growing, and he sure looked good leading the Bucks in a thrilling playoff series against the Bulls.
But is he worth the price? Probably not. If you pay Middleton what it'll take to get him out of Milwaukee (assuming they don't go ahead and match anyway--which they probably will), you no longer have the room to make a lot of the other moves Dallas probably wants to make this offseason. You definitely won't get DeAndre Jordan or LaMarcus Aldridge, and it would be next to impossible to even bring back Tyson Chandler and Al-Farouq Aminu without filling out the rest of the roster with minimum-level players. Ultimately, Middleton probably isn't worth it.
And even if you decided Middleton and Parsons are the guys you want to build the team around going forward, it probably still doesn't matter. Most reports indicate that the Bucks will match any offer.
I really like Middleton, and honestly, I believe he could be the shooting guard of the future. But probably he will be that guard for Milwaukee, not Dallas.