Bucks’ Khris Middleton declines $40 million player option. What do we know?
With the 2023 NBA Draft now just hours away, the free agent scramble has now become even more intense as teams seek to seal the deal before it ends.
Though it certainly comes as a shock given how critical he is to the team, it’s understandable that the Bucks star might want to review his options at the very least. Following an injury-plagued campaign that ended in disappointment for the team, it makes sense.
Khris Middleton declines option with Bucks
According to reports, Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton has declined his $40 million player option and with that, will now become a free agent. It’s worth mentioning that Middleton could in fact still return to the Bucks on a new deal, however, by opting out he now has the opportunity to listen to the offers of other teams before making a decision on his future. You will of course recall, that Middleton entered the NBA back in 2013 when he was drafted by the Detroit Pistons, but a year later he was traded to the Bucks and has been there since that day. This is to say, whether he stays or goes his status amongst the Bucks faithful is assured. After all, the three-time NBA All-Star was key in helping team talisman Giannis Antetokounmpo clinch the franchise’s first NBA championship in 50 years when they defeated the Phoenix Suns in the 2021 NBA Finals.
What happened to Khris Middleton?
If you’ve followed him, you will remember back in early April, Middleton suffered a knee injury against the Chicago Bulls - the same team against whom he suffered a playoff series-ending knee injury in 2022. Though he did manage to return in time to play in the playoffs this year, it was a small consolation after being limited to just 33 games on the season due to reoccurring knee issues. This is all to say, it’s been a tough time for Middleton and the Bucks. Ultimately, the Bucks star has suffered from knee soreness for the majority of his career, admitting that the problem has been with him since he tore his meniscus in college.
So, what do the Bucks do?
In truth, this is a tough call. The last time the Bucks were able to call on a fully fit roster, they won the championship. This is a team that still possesses one of the top 5 players in the NBA: Giannis Antetokounmpo, and moreover a solid supporting cast. With that said, Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and Brook Lopez are all on the wrong side of 30 now i.e., one has to ask: “How much gas is left in the tank?” The good thing is Antetokounmpo is still only 28, meaning with the right tweaks this team could still very much contend for a title.
In the end, the key here is whether to commit to a player who has documented injury issues and like others on the team is in his 30s, or let go of a player who when healthy is among the elite figures in the league. It’s a case of being between a rock and a hard place at this point. Let him go and you lose the second-best player on the roster, keep him and there is the potential for being stuck with a massive contract for a player who can’t compete. What we can say for sure is that Middleton will have no shortage of suitors, though his age and salary demands may be a deterrent for some. As always, watch this space.