Mike Miller the answer at small forward?
How many players in the NBA shot better than 50% from the field, 40% from beyond the arc and 80% from the line while averaging at least 30 minutes of playing time this past season?
Steve Nash. And Mike Miller.
Miller has quietly developed into one of the most versatile and efficient offensive players in the game today. He is a multi-faceted offense threat: he can shoot, he can drive, he can pass and he can rebound. He often plays more than one position during the course of a game, including a point-forward type role in some stretches. Miller is best suited to be a team’s third option, where his overall floor game can benefit his team greatest.
Sound good for a Heat team poised to add Bosh or Stoudemire alongside Dwyane Wade?
Miller figures to be one of the more quizzical cases in free agency this summer. The former Rookie of the Year in 2001 and Sixth Man of the Year in 2006 has faded into relative obscurity over these past two seasons. That’s what a year in Minnesota and another in Washington will do. But don’t let that allow you to diminish the impact of his talent – talent that made him the No. 5 overall pick back in the 2000 NBA Draft.
Over the course of his career, Miller has averaged 13.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Those numbers are nothing to scoff at, particularly considering he’s a career 40.5% shooter from downtown. Better still, Miller’s accuracy from the field has only been on the rise. He’s averaged 50.2%, 48.2%, and 50.1% shooting in the past three years, respectively, despite being the victim of having to play for some awful ball clubs.
Miller is perhaps the game’s ultimate floor-spacing wing player, with an ability to knock down shots from just about anywhere on the court. And although his shooting is his most celebrated asset, it’s certainly not his only one. At 6’8″, his tenacity on the defensive boards and his willingness to distribute the ball should not be overlooked.
He certainly hasn’t been overlooked by Pat Riley. In fact, Riley has looked squarely in Miller’s direction for the past several seasons – thinking highly of not only his ability but his first-class character and high basketball IQ. At the trade deadline in February, Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld spurned strong interest from the Heat. Of course he did. What did Miami have to offer? But now, with Miller an unrestricted free agent and the Heat with plenty of cap space, the game has changed.
Free-agency obviously depends on a number of factors. One, clearly, is money. For some, priorities two, three, four and five are also money. But not for Miller. Even before the frustrations of 2009/10 began to show in his on-court emotions as the season wore on, it was easy to sense that Miller desperately wants to play for a winner. Over the course of his career, Miller’s teams have won a combined 44% of its regular season games. In 20 total career playoff games (two with Orlando and three with Memphis), Miller’s teams have just two wins, obviously never making it past the first round. His last winning season was back in 2005/06.
So don’t think for a moment that this summer’s free agent shopping spree is exclusive to those teams with hoards of available cap space looking to rebuild. Ironically, it is those teams that start the off-season over the cap that may drive up Miller’s price.
Miller’s singular focus appears to be on winning a championship. With the Cavs set to fade into obscurity should Lebron James decide to bolt his hometown, the Magic figure to be an odds-on favorite in the Eastern Conference.
Miller has certainly taken notice.
Asked about the prospect of returning to the team that drafted him 10 years ago, Miller commented, “I would love to. Look at what they have. For a shooter, it is a dream come true. It would be exciting to go in there. Not only do they have a big guy who they have a chance to double, but they have shooters around the horn. It would be a fun experience for sure.”
It seems to make a lot of sense.
The Magic might have some voids to fill on the wings this summer. It’s unlikely that they’ll be able to re-sign both J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes. Redick is a restricted free-agent with a $3.9 million qualifying offer, while Barnes has indicated he will opt out of his $1.6 million contract for next season in order to pursue a pay raise. Both players figure to command more than that on the open market. Should the Magic lose one, Miller might become a viable alternative.
Of course, handicapping the NBA championship for next season could be one of the more difficult tasks in quite a long time. If Miami were to successfully pair Wade with Bosh or Stoudemire, South Florida could become a shooter’s paradise. Miller is a quality contributor whose skills will be best served in a supporting role around a team full of surefire playoff-caliber talent. He could thrive in such an environment.
In building a basketball team, Miller would be a wonderful addition. He’s unquestionably a team player, almost to a fault with his preference to get the ball moving rather than shoot at times. He’s also a good leader, whether it be in the locker room mentoring the younger players the Heat is sure to have at the end of its rotation or on the court leading by example with his unrelenting hustle.
Of course, there are downsides. Miller is advanced in age at 30 years old. It should be noted, however, that players who rely heavily on their shooting strokes age significantly better than those who rely upon their explosiveness. Defensively, Miller’s size is an asset but his foot speed is a liability. But a shift to his more natural small forward position would mitigate such concerns.
In the end, the positives seem to win out. Miller is one of those players that you always have to be aware of when he is on the floor… a nightmare for a team to defend, particularly when you also have to account for Wade and a premium power forward. That’s the true value of quality shooting from distance. It makes it difficult for defenses to rotate, and nearly impossible for them to double team. Can you imagine Dwyane Wade with open driving lanes?
Expect Miami to take a strong interest.