How Khris Middleton Went From Second-Round Pick To A Star In The NBA Finals

By on July 8, 2021 in ArticlesSports News

For the most part, second-round draft picks don't turn out to be stars in the NBA. Sure, there are occasional exceptions — Manu Ginobili and Draymond Green were a couple of notable second-rounders — but generally, if you're not a first-round pick, you have a higher mountain to climb to reach NBA stardom.

Back in 2012, the Detroit Pistons selected a forward out of Texas A&M named Khris Middleton with the 39th pick of the draft. He only played 27 games that first season, bouncing between the Pistons and the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA Development League.

But sometimes NBA success is as much about opportunity as it is talent. And the summer after his rookie season, Middleton got an opportunity when the Pistons traded him, Brandon Knight, and Viacheslav Kravtsov to the Milwaukee Bucks for Brandon Jennings.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Middleton was able to contribute right away. Though that 2013-14 Bucks team wasn't very good, Middleton played in all 82 games and doubled his scoring, rebounding, and assists output. He was joined in the frontcourt by the Bucks' first-round draft pick that year, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Middleton continued improving and got his first taste of the playoffs in 2015. The Bucks rewarded him with a five-year, $70 million contract that summer. The previous year, he had made $915,000.

Though a hamstring injury limited Middleton's 2016-17 season, he bounced back stronger than ever. The following year, Middleton played in all 82 games and posted a career-high in minutes played and then-career-high in points per game.

Middleton's on-court success correlated with Milwaukee's winning ways, too. The team made the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019 and Middleton got a huge payday to stick around: five years and $178 million. 

In 2020, the Bucks had the best record in the Eastern Conference. Middleton made the All-Star team in both seasons and nearly posted the elusive 50%/40%/90% split from the field, free throw line, and three-point line during the 2019-20 season.

This year, Middleton set a career-best in assists per game as the Bucks made him an even bigger focal point of the offense. And alongside Antetokounmpo and offseason signing Jrue Holiday, Middleton has the Bucks in the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974.

By the time his current contract ends, he'll have earned more than a quarter of a billion dollars in salary. Not bad for a second-round pick that was traded away after his first season.

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