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Bucks' Middleton quietly thriving as free-agency may await

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Small forward Khris Middleton and the Milwaukee Bucks are off to an excellent start, with no less than Middleton hitting a 3-pointer in the final seconds to lift his team to a 116-113 win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.

How good has Middleton been? Try 19.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists and a winning attitude for the now 15-6 Bucks.

Middleton won't typically raise your eyebrows with highlight-reel dunks or behind-the-back passes. He's not going to dance after a big three or celebrate himself in any sort of look-at-me-everybody way.

But he is a major reason for the Bucks' early success, a player who many around the league will tell probably doesn't get enough credit.

"I have always been the kind of guy who just takes it one day at a time,” Middleton told Sean Deveney of the Sporting News. “Focus on what needs to be done that day. Don’t think too far ahead. Once you start thinking too far ahead, you get distracted by things that don’t matter on that day. So that doesn’t matter.”

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Others appreciate his professionalism and his production.

“He is as good a two-way wing as Klay (Thompson),” an opposing general manager told Deveney. “Nearly as good a shooter, as good a defender, a better playmaker. You can run things through him more than you can do with Klay. Khris would be as big a star as Klay if he were playing in Golden State, and he’s probably going to get similar money.”

As for money, Middleton is making $13 million this season. Compared to others who don't come close to producing what he does, that's a bargain for the Bucks. He is due to make $13 million again next year -- but can opt out of his contract during the end of this season.

"It’s a forgone conclusion that Middleton will opt out, because he is slated to double his payday if he does," Deveney wrote. "The Bucks, a source told Sporting News, are prepared for that reality and prepared to be aggressive when it comes to re-signing Middleton."

Middleton isn't saying much on the matter. That's not his style. He's not the type of guy to build up a bunch of buzz or try to string the Bucks along.

That much is quite obvious. Like many of the Bucks, he is flourishing under first-year coach Mike Budenholzer. For now, that appears to be good enough ... for Budenholzer, for the Bucks and for Middleton.