Khris Middleton of the Bucks is a great litmus test for how close someone follows the NBA. If their reaction is “who?” or “why did he get a $70 million contract?” they don’t follow the league that closely. People who do — including front offices around the league — love the guy. He can defend multiple wing positions, is shooting 40 percent from three, has the handles to run the pick-and-roll, and is a quality player who is young and improving.
After some initial talks, the Wolves told Milwaukee they would swap Ricky Rubio for Middelton, and when the Bucks declined, Minnesota even discussed the possibility of tossing in a protected 2016 first-round pick, per league sources familiar with the matter. Other outlets have reported Milwaukee’s interest in Rubio — Jason Kidd seems to have a thing for rangy point guards with busted jumpers — but Milwaukee never seriously entertained trading Middleton, sources say.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker were never on the block, leaving Milwaukee with only one real counter: a point guard challenge trade of Michael Carter-Williams for Rubio. Minnesota obviously wasn’t doing that, and the discussions died, sources say.
The number of discussed trades that never happen would stun many observers, and this was another long those lines.
Minnesota offering up Rubio is significant and speaks to how much they value a better shooting wing player — the Timberwolves are 10.7 points per 100 possessions better with Rubio on the court this season. He means a lot to them. But with Karl-Anthony Towns inside and Andrew Wiggins attacking from the wing, the need for shooting becomes evident in Minnesota (and Rubio certainly isn’t providing that). Long term Minnesota valued Middleton more than Rubio.
Just so did Milwaukee.
Just consider it a note heading into the summer — the Timberwolves are looking for wing shooting. If they find it, a real “3&D” guy to go next to Wiggins, the Timberwolves get a lot better.