Less than a week before the start of training camp, a key player in the Milwaukee Bucks starting lineup went down with an injury that will keep him sidelined for an extended period of time. Per a report from Shams Charania of The Vertical, shooting guard Khris Middleton suffered a torn left hamstring that will require surgery to repair. Here’s what you need to know about the injury, how long Middleton will be out of the lineup, and his NBA career to date.
1. Per a team release, Middleton will be sidelined for approximately six months
Bucks general manager John Hammond stated Wednesday afternoon that Middleton, who played collegiately at Texas A&M, will undergo surgery that will result in his missing six months. Without Middleton, second year shooting guard Rashad Vaughn will have the opportunity to earn more playing time. Vaughn, who played one season at UNLV before turning pro, averaged 14.3 minutes per contest in 70 games played last season.
Vaughn accounted for 3.1 points per game, shooting just 30.5 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from three-point range. The Bucks signed veteran guard Jason Terry in free agency, giving them a player who can provide quality minutes on the perimeter, and among the players in training camp will be former Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon and Orlando Johnson. Also of note in the backcourt is the signing of point guard Matthew Dellavedova, who will figure prominently in the rotation. But none of those players have the size that Middleton, who is 6-foot-8, brings to the table at the two-guard spot.
2. Middleton could have been part of the NBA’s tallest backcourt tandem
The Bucks will still have one of the more interesting backcourts in the NBA, if only because of who head coach Jason Kidd wants to play at the point. That would be 6-foot-11 Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose athleticism, length and versatility have made him one of the NBA’s best young players. Antetokounmpo, who agreed to a new four-year deal earlier this week, saw extended time at the point in 2015-16 with Michael Carter-Williams (37 starts) and Jerryd Bayless (18 starts; now with the 76ers) also getting their chances to run the show.
A backcourt pairing of Antetokounmpo and Middleton had the opportunity to cause fits for opponents given the size of both, not to mention their playmaking abilities. Antetokounmpo (4.3 apg) and Middleton (4.2 apg) ranked second and third, respectively, in assists a season ago with Carter-Williams’ 5.2 assists per contest leading the Bucks.
3. Middleton started all 79 games he played in last season, leading the team in scoring
What hurts both Middleton and the Bucks is that he was coming off of the best season of his career to date. While the Bucks as a team disappointed by failing to return to the playoffs that wasn’t the case for Middleton, who established new career highs in points, assists and steals. Middleton averaged 18.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.7 steals per game last year, starting all 79 games in which he played.
Middleton shot 44.4 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from three in 2015-16, remaining close to the percentages he posted in 2014-15 (46.7 % FG, 44.4 % 3PT) despite the increase in scoring opportunities.
4. Middleton avoided major health issues as a pro, playing in 79 games or more in each of the last three seasons
After playing in just 27 games as a rookie with the Detroit Pistons in 2012-13, splitting his time between the NBA and the team’s D-Leage affiliate, Middleton has missed a total of six games during his three years in Milwaukee. In his first season as a Buck, Middleton played in all 82 games and averaged 12.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. As his role has increased with the Bucks so have Middleton’s numbers, making him a key cog in Jason Kidd’s rotation.
Middleton made 58 starts in 2014-15, a year in which the Bucks reached the playoffs despite losing forward Jabari Parker to a torn ACL. Middleton’s improvement in 2014-15 coincided with a contract year, and he was handsomely rewarded for that production.
5. The Bucks and Middleton agreed to a new contract last July
After averaging 12.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game with the Bucks in 2013-14, Middleton was even better in his third season in the NBA. Middleton averaged 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per contest in 2014-15, and the Bucks made the move to get him re-signed on the first day of free agency last summer.
The two sides agreed to a five-year deal worth $70 million, with the contract paying Middleton a base salary of $14.7 million in the first season of the contract. Per the terms of the contract Middleton will be paid $15.2 million this season, and he holds a player option of $13 million in the final year of the deal (2019-20).
Milwaukee made sure to take care of the face of their franchise, a 6-foot-11 phenom who will run the point this season.Click here to read more