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The Starting 5: Khris Middleton the Glue Guy

Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire

The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet

1. How the Quiet Khris Middleton Keeps the Milwaukee Bucks in Harmony – Britt Robson, SB Nation

A few years back, Zach Lowe joked that the day Detroit and Milwaukee swapped Brandons would eventually be known as the Khris Middleton trade. With Brandon Knight in Phoenix and Brandon Jennings recovering from a torn Achilles on the Pistons’ bench, Khris Middleton’s role with the Bucks makes Lowe look like a prophet. Robson’s profile describes just how much Middleton means to Milwaukee, both as a personality and a player. His shooting is clearly essential for a team that can get bogged down on offense, but his impact on the culture of the team is subtler. His role in recruiting Greg Monroe seems obvious in retrospect, but frankly hadn’t occurred to me, and the effort coach Jason Kidd is putting in to helping Middleton grow into a leadership role with the team shows the confidence they have in him.

 2. Watching Paul George, Who Is Getting It All Back – Robert O’Connell, Vice Sports

With Jason Concepcion in limbo and Rowan Ricardo Philips still getting into his rhythm over at the Paris Review, I’m ready to call Robert O’Connell the best pure writer working in sports journalism. He manages to build suspense around the moment of Paul George’s injury, which should be impossible considering most basketball fans have watched that scene as many times as they can stomach. From there he goes on to describe George’s uniquely relaxed and effortless game in equally languid prose, capturing the sensation of watching him play better than any grainy six-second Vine. Read it, and look forward to the next piece in the series.

3. The Hawks need Dennis Schroder and Jeff Teague to learn to play together – Jesus Gomez, BBALLBREAKDOWN

People refer to the Hawks as Spurs East on a fairly regular basis so it’s fitting that Gomez, who cut his teeth over at Pounding The Rock, would take on the intricacies of their offense. Here, he takes on the development of the Dennis Schroeder/Jeff Teague backcourt, and how Atlanta has fared when their two point guards share the floor. He looks into the pair’s surprising struggles on offense, contrasting their play with the more dynamic two-guard sets run by the Spurs. His conclusion, supported by careful analysis, is that both Teague and Schroeder are simply inexperienced with the demands of playing off ball, and it’s hard to disagree. He’s equally right to predict future experimentation in Atlanta however, as an offensive attack with the complexity and imagination of both point guards working together would be well worth any temporary setbacks.

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4. Warriors Ball Movement Reaching New Heights – Seth Partnow, Nylon Calculus

The idea that any part of this Warriors team could still have new heights to reach is staggering, like Godzilla spontaneously sprouting wings, or snow setting fire to the earth. According to Partnow’s analysis though, they’re sharing the ball at an unprecedented pace, and it’s driving their offense more than ever before. They’re doing the NBA Voltron thing that gives hoops nerds so much pleasure, combining all their exceptional skill sets and individual strengths to form something far greater than the sum of their parts. And, as Partnow notes, this also points to the collaborative culture they’ve built in Golden State, and their uncommon willingness to let an individual moment in the spotlight go for the sake of greater collective success.

5. Pelicans’ Ish Smith Making Most of Unexpected Opportunity – Shlomo Sprung, Sheridan Hoops

I’ve been trying to hold out hope for the Pelicans throughout this horrid start to the season, but with AD now out as well, it may be time to admit that the whole thing is an almost unmitigated tragedy. The only thing keeping it from being a “Grave Of The Fireflies” level heartbreaker is the redemption of Ish Smith, an undersized point guard signed by New Orleans only three days before the start of the season to shore up the holes in their roster. Smith, one of the fastest players in the Association, has hit the ground running with the Pellies, playing more than twice his career minutes average. Sprung’s profile dives into Smith’s performance, his relationships with Alvin Gentry and Jrue Holiday, and how it feels to finally get a shot after living for so long on the fringes of the NBA.

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