Khris Middleton was once the toast of the Big 12 in 2010, when he took over the conference for about a month en route to some high billing as Kevin Durant lite. He's now in the NBA, where he'll look to find a more consistent role than the one he carved out during his last season at Texas A&M.
After a strong sophomore season that saw the Aggies make it to the second round of the NCAA tournament, his numbers dipped across the board this year, as his squad failed to break .500 and didn't receive any postseason tournament invitations under new head coach Billy Kennedy.
In a weird way, Middleton and Jeff Fuller, who plays for the Aggies' football team, should have entered their respective drafts a season ago. But that's a story for another article, and you can't argue with anyone who makes it to the NBA, no matter the path.
What Middleton Brings
Middleton shows a nice touch in the mid-range game, which is likely the best attribute he takes to the next level. When he was knocking down those shots with consistency as a sophomore, he was extremely difficult to guard, because he then forced defenders to contest his three-pointer, drive to the basket and pull-up game.
He's also a solid rebounder, pulling in more than five boards per game in each of the last two seasons. His 6'7" frame is prototypical for today's small forward, but he only weighs 215 pounds, which means he'll need to work on getting stronger to guard the more physical forwards in the league.
Injuries limited his production during his junior season this year, limiting him to only 20 games. His averages dropped across the board, most notably a 26 percent shooting mark from behind the arc and a 41.5 percent clip from the floor—both paltry numbers for a scoring forward.
But the talent and athleticism seem to be there—even if it's mostly from the sophomore campaign—and scouts recognize that in the right system with the right coaching, Middleton's skills could turn from raw and undeveloped to crisp and smooth.
What Experts are Saying
Although the general consensus is that Middleton made a mistake for leaving early for the draft, DraftExpress makes a great point about the tumultuous situation in college station for Middleton should he stay.
The Aggies are moving conferences, the coach that recruited him (Mark Turgeon) bolted for Maryland before last year and the new coach (Kennedy) was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, leading many to believe now is just as good a chance as any to make the leap, since the Aggies likely won't make much national noise anytime soon.
Aside from that, one of the biggest upsides is his still growing frame. He's considered a late bloomer by nbadraft.net, meaning he could have a Paul George-like growth spurt and wind up being 6'10". Most scouts agree that the talent is there, but it's going to have to be harnessed by coaching and hard work at the next level, which Middleton should be able to accomplish.
To me, Middleton falls into the James Anderson, Jordan Hamilton category of Big 12 guard/forwards who should have stayed in college another year. All could end up being productive in the NBA, but those two have found themselves on the bench for their short careers.
He's not NBA-ready enough to come in and contribute on either end, but based on his draft stock and reports of his approach as a hard worker, drafting him here might turn out to be a steal down the road.
Look for Middleton to spend his first year doing what most rookies do: Soak in the speed of the game, learn the offense and get water and travel bags. His chance will come, but he won't be a regular contributor for at least a year or two.
Middleton may not be "NBA ready," but this isn't a bad direction for the Pistons to take with the second-round pick. Although it will definitely take him some time to adapt to the pro game, I can see him developing into a bench contributor who can spell Greg Monroe and do some damage against second-string big men.
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