The Bucks were able to easily handle the Bulls without him, but their opponent in the second round of the postseason, the Boston Celtics, is simply a different animal.
Now, it has been reported that Middleton is expected to miss the entire series against Boston, and it’s a big blow to the Bucks’ championship hopes.
Middleton is an All-Star-caliber player who does a lot for Milwaukee, and the team will be in trouble if he indeed doesn’t return at any point during the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Bucks Are Missing A Lot Without Middleton
The Texas A&M product is a versatile player who had a big hand in helping the Bucks win the National Basketball Association championship last summer.
He is a proven scorer who averaged 20.1 points per game during the regular season, making him the team’s second-leading scorer.
Middleton is also a good 3-point shooter and a key reason why Milwaukee was fifth in the league this year in 3-point shooting with a 36.6 percent accuracy.
But perhaps his biggest value to the team is his ability to go off and carry it through key stretches, especially in crunch time.
A few times last season, he had big fourth quarters that helped the Bucks claim big wins in the conference finals and the NBA Finals.
In Game 4 of the championship series, he unpacked 40 points, including 10 straight late, to help the Bucks to a 109-103 win and a tied series.
Khris Middleton dropped an #NBAPlayoffs career-high 40 PTS, including 10 in the final 2:07 of the Game 4 win!
— NBA (@NBA) July 15, 2021
Every all-time great such as Giannis Antetokounmpo needs a co-star such as Middleton to take the offensive pressure off him and even to take over in certain spots.
In addition to putting up points, he can also get his teammates involved, as he averaged 5.4 assists a game in the regular season.
But Middleton’s usefulness to Milwaukee isn’t limited to the offensive end.
He may not be a truly elite defender, but at 6-foot-7 and about 220 pounds, he can do a good job of containing opposing wings.
Khris Middleton is the NBA's most underrated player. He's dropping 20 points on nearly 50-40-90. He's a playmaker. He's versatile. He plays defense.
I wonder if there's even more to his game that the Bucks can tap into.
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) March 4, 2021
Who Will Pick Up The Slack Without Middleton?
For the Bucks to defeat the Celtics without Middleton, several men will need to step up their games.
Starting point guard Jrue Holiday is capable of putting up big points, and the Bucks may need him to average over 20 in this series.
Big man Bobby Portis stepped it up in Middleton’s absence, scoring in double digits in each of the last three contests against the Bulls, and he will need to continue to look to be aggressive.
As a team, the Bucks made 38.0 percent of their treys versus Chicago, and that type of marksmanship will need to continue.
But perhaps coach Mike Budenholzer’s biggest concern is containing Tatum, who owned the Brooklyn Nets in the first round by averaging 29.5 points a game.
It’s perhaps possible for the Bucks to overcome Boston, but right now it doesn’t seem likely.