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2015 NBA free agent rumors: Khris Middleton the new Rashard Lewis?

Stan Van Gundy stunned the NBA when his Magic gave Lewis $110 million. Could he do it again by bringing Middleton to Detroit?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons have prioritized signing a starting small forward in free agency. With that in mind, Detroit Bad Boys will preview a number of possible candidates the Pistons could target with free agency set to begin at midnight Wednesday. Previously we covered DeMarre Carroll and Danny Green.

Stan Van Gundy has said that he will prioritize two unrestricted free agent small forwards (with DeMarre Carroll and Danny Green often mentioned as primary targets). But if he dips his toe into the restricted free agent market who might he target? If I were a betting man I'd say there's few better players that fit the SVG mold than former Piston and current Buck Khris Middleton.

Why he Fits

Middleton was not quite a throw-in in the Brandon Jennings-Brandon Knight trade, but he didn't garner any headlines. Interestingly, when it's all said and done he might turn out to be the best player of the three. Always known as a sweet shooter coming out of college he played one season in Detroit while recovering from a college knee injury and was sent off to Milwaukee where he was able to blossom into a pesky defender and top 10 3-point marksman.

Before we dive too deeply into the stats lets do a simple player comparison. All numbers are per 36 minutes.

Player A 21 6.2 14.5 42.7 1.8 4.4 40.9 2.2 2.8 78.3 4.1 3.3 1.3 16.4
Player B 23 6.1 13.2 46.7 1.7 4.1 40.7 2.0 2.4 85.9 5.3 2.8 1.8 16.0

Player B is Khris Middleton. Player A? Bradley Beal. If you offered to pay Beal $12 million per season would anyone really blink? Yet, some observers think it would be crazy to offer the same to Middleton. Yes, Beal has age on his size, but the real difference is that Middleton has been out of the spotlight in Milwaukee while Beal has been John Wall's running mate in the nation's capital.

Incidentally, Middleton is also light years better on the defensive end and has the versatility to play the 2, 3 or 4 position in the NBA.

He's also just 23 years old and could grow alongside Reggie Jackson (25), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (22), Andre Drummond (21) and Stanley Johnson (19).

He could be a dynamite and versatile defender, allow Detroit to play small with him at power forward and he's a 40 percent career 3-point shooter who can be expected to improve for the next couple of years. In short, he could become Van Gundy's newest Rashard Lewis. The same Lewis Van Gundy's Magic didn't hesitate to give a $110 million contract to pry him out of Seattle in 2007. Then, Van Gundy signed an already fully formed player who was 27 years old.

Time for another player comparison. Again, all numbers per 36 minutes.

Rashard Lewis 27 7.1 15.4 46.1 2.3 5.9 39.0 4.1 4.8 84.1 6.1 2.2 1.0 20.6
Khris Middleton 23 6.1 13.2 46.7 1.7 4.1 40.7 2.0 2.4 85.9 5.3 2.8 1.8 16.0

Again, Van Gundy signed Lewis to a $110 million deal. At the time it was seen as one of the biggest overpays in free agent history. But Lewis had a great first couple of seasons in Orlando and Van Gundy went to the NBA Finals.

Why he Doesn't Fit

From an on-the-court perspective, it's hard to see how Middleton doesn't fit. But from a business standpoint it gets a little more complicated. Quite simply, Middleton is a restricted free agent and the Milwaukee Bucks seem to love him. Whatever Detroit would offer him, the Bucks could match and they probably would. But in the meantime, Detroit's money would be tied up for 72 hours and other free agents would be scooped up by other teams. That's what makes going after restricted free agents so risky.

Also, while Middleton shot a healthy 40.7 percent from 3 and hit 41.4 percent the year before, he's not exactly prolific. He attempted 268 treys, good for 64th in the NBA. That's just above Devin Harris and just below Derrick Rose.

He's also much more deadly from the corners hitting greater than 50 percent from both sides of the floor, but is much less dangerous from the above the break 3. He's also pretty exclusively a catch-and-shoot long-range threat with nearly all his long-range attempts coming in that scenario.


SBNation has guessed that Middleton will sign a four-year $40 million deal with the Bucks. I think that's low, but if the Pistons want to force Milwaukee to think about possibly not matching it will take maybe $13 million to $14 million per year. Maybe even the full max. Would it be worth it?

He's a great shooter, versatile defender, and rangy enough to be played in multiple positions in an SVG offense.

But a max deal would definitely mean you're paying for potential and think he could be even better outside of Milwaukee, a team that attempted the fifth-fewest 3-pointers in the league. If Van Gundy signed Middleton to close to a max deal there would be an outcry similar to when the Magic signed Lewis, but Detroit would be paying for the prime seasons of a serious long-range shooter and underrated defender. In SVG we trust?