NBA

Is Khris Middleton Underrated Since He Plays With Giannis Antetokounmpo?

Khris Middleton is a veteran NBA player who has been named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team for the second straight season in 2019-20. He has been putting up solid states for the last few seasons, but he isn’t the type of household name that a player of his caliber should be.

Middleton is underrated, but there is a reasonable explanation for his relative anonymity — and it has to do with a teammate. He plays for the Bucks, and he is overshadowed by teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning NBA MVP.

Khris Middleton’s big contract extension

The Pistons drafted Middleton in 2012 before trading him to the Bucks the following year. His rookie contract lasted three years and paid him just under $2.5 million in total.

In the summer of 2015, he signed a new five-year contract with the Bucks, which was worth $70 million. Middleton declined the fifth-year player option on the deal, making him a free agent last offseason.

Declining the option paid off big for Middleton, who signed a new five-year contract with Milwaukee — and this time the total value of the contract is $177.5 million, paying him an annual average salary of $35.5 million and keeping him committed to the team through the 2023-24 campaign.

Khris Middleton excels on the court

While Antetokounmpo overshadows Middleton on the Bucks, Middleton plays well even when the “Greek Freak” isn’t on the court to help out. Middleton had a career game in late January when Antetokounmpo was out with a shoulder injury.

It was a home game against the Wizards, and Middleton took over the Bucks’ offense in Antetokounmpo’s absence. He dropped 51 points on Washington, while grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out six assists while leading the Bucks to a 151-131 victory against their conference rival.

And that wasn’t a one-game fluke. Through his first 46 games of this season, Middleton is averaging 20.5 points per game, which puts him on pace to set a career-high in the category. He’s also on pace to tie or set career bests in rebounds and assists, averaging 6.2 and 4.3 respectively.

Those numbers would make Middleton the best player on many teams in the NBA, but not on a Bucks team that is also home to the reigning league MVP.

Overshadowed by Giannis Antetokounmpo

At 6’7″, Khris Middleton is overshadowed by the 6’11” Antetokounmpo both literally and figuratively. Despite winning the MVP last season, Antetokounmpo may be having an even better season this time around and is likely going to join rare company as a back-to-back MVP.

In 48 games, he is averaging 30 points per game — almost 2.5 points better than his MVP campaign of 2018-19 — with 13.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. Those scoring and rebound averages put Antetokounmpo on pace for career highs in those categories, and his assists are just behind his average from last season.

This is why he gets so much publicity and his teammates, even as one as good as Middleton, aren’t as big of stars as they might be if they didn’t have to deal with having Antetokounmpo on the same team. The reigning MVP is only under contract with the Bucks through next season, so if he goes elsewhere in free agency after that, it could give Middleton a chance to finally shine as the star that he would be on many other teams in the NBA.

However, having Antetokounmpo isn’t a bad thing, as it gives Middleton and the rest of the team a good chance to win the NBA Finals and get that coveted championship ring that all players hope for.