Looking at Which Star Would Best Complement LeBron James and Anthony Davis - Lakers Daily

Looking at Which Star Would Best Complement LeBron James and Anthony Davis

Jeff Hanisch / USA TODAY Sports

A team almost always requires at least two to three All-Stars in order to win an NBA championship. In the case of the Golden State Warriors from 2017 to 2018, four All-Stars were necessary to bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy.

For the Los Angeles Lakers, a third All-Star may be the only missing piece that brings this team back to title contention.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis are excellent building blocks, and though these two are among the best players in the game, they will need another player who can keep defenses from focusing on them.

While many believe that the Lakers would do well to pursue Kyrie Irving, D’Angelo Russell, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler or Kawhi Leonard, none of these superstars would complement James and Davis quite as well as Khris Middleton.

The Milwaukee Bucks forward reportedly declined his $13 million player option for next season, something that he was expected to do so he can earn more money in free agency.

If Middleton and the Bucks can’t agree to a deal, the Lakers should be one of his prime suitors with a four-year max deal in hand.

Here’s why:

Offense

Khris Middleton Raptors

Last season, Middleton averaged 18.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.0 steals per game as the second-leading scorer for the Milwaukee Bucks, the team with the best record in the NBA (60-22). The first-time All-Star knocked down 37.8 percent of his shots from behind the three-point line. Additionally, he shot the ball from long distance 6.2 times a night while making an average of 2.3 threes per game, both career highs.

In the playoffs when defenses are tighter, his shooting is even better. Over the last four years, the seven-year veteran has averaged 17.9 points per game, while shooting an outstanding 44.6 percent from beyond the arc.

But more than just his personal stats, it’s his actual contribution to being part of the team that matters. He’s an excellent floor spacer particularly in an offense that features a premier slasher like 2018-19 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

With Middleton on the court, the Bucks had an offensive rating of 115.6 which was third-best in the league, behind only the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. When he’s off the court, that rating drops to only 111.9, or just 11th overall.

These numbers are with Middleton playing with only one other All-Star on the Bucks roster. With the Lakers, he will have the benefit of playing off of two top-tier players, who can give him all the real estate he needs to shoot the rock.

Even if James takes a breather, Middleton and Davis together are a potent enough duo to keep the Lakers from having a letdown offensively.

Defense

Khris Middleton and Kawhi Leonard

Middleton has the size and length to defend the best swingmen in the league. The 6-foot-8 forward is often tasked with the job of locking down the opposing team’s best player. He could take a huge nightly load from James’ shoulders by doing the same for the Lakers.

As with the offensive end of the court, Middleton was also critical to the Bucks’ success last season on the defensive end. The Bucks were No. 1 in defensive rating (105.4) with him on the court but they moved down to second place (106.1) when he was not on the floor.

When they faced the Warriors in the regular season, he limited Kevin Durant to just 14.0 points per game on a woeful 9-of-29 shooting (31 percent) from the field. And that’s just a sample of his exceptional defense against an elite offensive player like Durant.

Davis would certainly appreciate having a player that he doesn’t have to babysit on defense and simply focus on his own defensive assignment as well as any strays that get into the lane inevitably.

Overall

James has always thrived with shooters around him, something that was sorely lacking from his team last season. More often than not, the shooters he’s had around him were specialists, including Ray Allen who was a shell of his old self when the two played in Miami.

Middleton, on the other hand, can spot up from three-point territory, play both on and off the ball, and also post up or take his man off the dribble. That’s a versatility that would be most welcome on the Lakers.

Perhaps more importantly, Middleton has the perfect attitude for a team with two superstars as he doesn’t have the ego that comes with being an alpha dog for another team. He would happily concede to more accomplished teammates and just go about his business of scorching the nets from downtown.

The Lakers should put the Texas A&M University product at the top of their list of free agents to sign this summer. As a seven-year veteran, Middleton could sign a four-year, $141 million contract with a team other than the Bucks.

If they do their job right and sign Middleton to a max contract (while filling out the rest of the roster with a good mix of veterans), the Lakers could potentially become a 60-win team just a year after missing the playoffs.

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