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

Khris Middleton was the Detroit Pistons’ forgotten man nine years ago. He is a star in the NBA Finals right now. Where did he come from?

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Second-round draft ees typically don’t develop into NBA superstars. 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 appeared in 27 games during his rookie campaign, switching between the Pistons and the NBA Development League’s Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

But occasionally luck as well as talent play a role in NBA success. 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.

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Middleton was able to make an immediate contribution. Middleton played in all 82 games for the 2013–14 Bucks despite their lackluster performance, and he doubled his production in terms of points scored, rebounds, and assists. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’ first-round draft pick that year, joined him in the frontcourt.

2015 saw Middleton experience the playoffs for the first time as he continued to advance. He was given a five-year, $70 million contract by the Bucks that summer. He had earned $915,000 the year before.

Middleton’s 2016–17 season was hampered by a hamstring injury, but he came back better 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 performance on the court and Milwaukee’s success also went hand in hand. The team made the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019 and Middleton got a huge payday to stick around: five years and $178 million.

The Bucks had the most successful record in the Eastern Conference in 2020. 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.

As the Bucks made Middleton an even bigger focal point of the offense this season, he achieved a career-high in assists per game. And alongside Antetokounmpo and offseason signing Jrue Holiday, Middleton has the Bucks in the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974.

He will have taken home more than a quarter of a billion dollars in pay by the time his current contract expires. Not bad for a second-round pick that was traded away after his first season.