TORONTO– Khris Middleton, like the Milwaukee Bucks’ season to date, was a disappointment in Saturday night’s 3-point shooting contest and afterward shared his thoughts on what could be a week of change for the Bucks franchise.
“With the trade deadline, you never know what could pop up, who gets traded and who stays,” Middleton told SheridanHoops in a one-on-one interview in a crowded Air Canada Centre. “As far as right now, we’re all going to be there.”
In terms of what roles Bucks players will have going forward after the break, that seems to be in a current state of fluidity.
Head coach Jason Kidd benched prized free agent signing Greg Monroe and Michael Carter-Williams— the team’s haul in the great point guard swap that took place in the waning moments of deadline day last year— in the last two games before the All-Star break, both wins, in favor of Miles Plumlee and O.J. Mayo. Both Monroe and MCW are reportedly available and expendable as Thursday’s trade deadline approaches.
Middleton expects to have the same team start the team’s final 28 games following the deadline, but things can change quicker than a release on a Stephen Curry jumper.
Monroe— who spurned the Knicks and Lakers to go to the Bucks because he felt they had the best chance of winning— and Carter-Williams represent the biggest roster changes since Kidd took over as head coach and influential decision maker at the beginning of the 2014-2015 season, and things have not gone as planned since their 41-41 campaign a season ago.
Milwaukee ranked fourth in defensive rating last year is down to 26th this season. Middleton admitted that the team still trying to find its rhythm a little bit despite being 54 games in.
“We’re still trying to figure out how we play together, how we gel together,” Middleton said. “It’s coming along day by day.”
If Middleton is impatient with the Bucks’ rebuilding process while seeing the team’s regression in terms of wins and losses, he hid it pretty well in Toronto. Whether team management has the patience to see things through with Monroe and Carter-Williams regarded as core players along with Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker is yet to be seen.
Middleton just wants the Bucks to continue to improve on the court, though continue may be the wrong word given the team’s results.
“We’ve got a young team that can learn each day, and each game means something to us right now,” Middleton. “So I’m looking forward to working with the team and having a strong second half.”
The Bucks are being outscored by -0.7 points per 48 minutes with Monroe in the floor, but that number goes to -9.8 per 48 with Monroe on the bench, per NBA.com. Milwaukee is -3.1 per 48 minutes with Carter-Williams on the floor and -5.8 with him off it. The whole team has negative on-court numbers, par for the course for a team 10 games under .500, but it’s losing by less with those two in the game.
Middleton said that he doesn’t prefer any one starting lineup over another, so long as the lineups Kidd uses are winning games.
“The best five out there, that’s what it’s going to be and play on,” Middleton. “We won two games in a row, so it’ll probably stay the same. Just whatever works for the team.”
Does management think that what works for the Bucks is a team without Monroe and/or Carter-Williams?
That’s a question we’ll soon find the answer to.
Shlomo Sprung is a national columnist for SheridanHoops who focuses on analytics, profiles and features. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. Follow him on Twitter.