Mike Miller the answer at small forward?

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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?

Two.

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.

14 Responses

  1. K215215 says:

    I actually love Mike Miller as a starting 3. Put a spot up shooter like him between Wade and Amare/Bosh and youre in business. The guy will hit all of those open shots Ive been watching Q, Cook, DWright & Mario butcher for the last two years.

    I wonder how much he’d cost. You would be really in business if you could afford to grab him and Chandler. Then you’re looking at this:

    pg: Arroyo/Mario/maybe Bledsoe
    sg: DWade
    sf: Mike Miller
    pf: Amare/Bosh
    c: Tyson Chandler

    That is a killer squad that could compete with the Lakers/Magic next year. The only problem with it is that to get to the nba finals, you are going to have to go through Lebron, so we’d definitely need someone who can guard LBJ out of the 3. I dont know if Miller is that guy.

  2. Joe says:

    I’m a huge proponent of Mike Miller at SF. He is consistently at 40% 3pt on high volumes and near 50% on long 2-pointers, he has point forward abilities, but most importantly for me he is one of the best-rebounding small forwards in the game per-minute.
    And remember what Riley says: “No rebounds, no rings”

    At 6’8″ he has better size to play there than Ray Allen, Joe Johnson, and John Salmons … and he will come at a fraction of the cost of those guys. Give me Miller at $5M over Joe Johnson at $17M any day. (Imagine what you could do with the extra $12M)

    As for whether he is fleet of foot enought to play SF, the dude has been playing SG about 80% of his minutes. If he’s quick enough to be considered a starting SG, he certainly has enough quicks to not embarrass you at SF. Don’t let the white guy stereotype get in the way … he is plenty quick for SF.

    But Albert, you forgot the most important part of this story. Riley tried DESPERATELY to get Miller at the 2008 trade deadline with Memphis. Riley was so worked up about it, he even vented to the media about how he kept ante-ing up, how he told the other GM “name your perfect deal” … but in the end Memphis was too afraid to pull the trigger on anything after the Gasol giveaway.

    http://www.slamonline.com/online/nba/2008/02/pat-riley-longs-for-mike-miller/

    Yes to Miller at SF. Now find us a center!

    • Albert says:

      It would have been nice to incorporate that story. I was instead focused on this past season. To my credit, I did mention Riley’s interest has spanned several seasons.

  3. K215215 says:

    While I would put Miller as the #2 best option at sf, I would say that best option is probably available right now on the trade market. Wait for it….wait for it….Andre Igoudala.

    Iggy is the perfect complement to DWade. He can guard any 2 or 3 (including Lebron), he’s athletic and can run, he can finish and he can create his own shots. Plus, he’s not a volume shooter. You run out Wade, Iggy & Amare/Bosh/Boozer and I think you’re in business. Surround them with some shooters and its killer.

  4. Jon says:

    A starting lineup consisting of Blake, Wade, Miller, Amare, and Oden may be the most injury prone lineup in NBA history. I do like Mike Miller, though. Any team Wade is on needs a spot up three point shooter who can consistently knock down shots. I’d much prefer Miller, but Korver is an option too.

  5. Heat-Struck says:

    I think Miller would be a great addition. He won’t cost too much, so you can still afford to add more depth at other positions, like say Center! Honestly, I would trade Beasley for a Sign and Trade with Miller. No one wants Beasley, especially us, and if we could turn him into Mike Miller, I would be thrilled!

  6. CB says:

    Mike Miller would be a great guy to round out the roster at 3m/yr. i actually dont think he will get 6-7m/yr. He’ll be great to provide relief to Lebron for us for 10 mins / game, holla.

  7. Heat-Struck says:

    …with that stupid interview where Bosh says that he wants to be the “man” and not a second option, I have a feeling that the best we’re going to get this offseason is Amare. Sigh… If that’s the case, we need to think about building depth, instead of overpaying for players (since we’re already going to have to overpay Amare). Miller will come at a nice price and would be in the perfect roll, like Albert says.

    Anyone like the following lineup?

    PG – Eric Bledsoe / Mario Chalmers
    SG – Dwyane Wade / Raja Bell
    SF – Mike Miller / Michael Beasley
    PF – Amare Stoudemire / Michael Beasley
    C – Brendan Haywood / Jerome Jordan (2nd Rnd Pick)

  8. K215215 says:

    I like that lineup a lot, but I think we have to get rid of super cool beas if we sign stoudemire. You cant have those two out together…we’d be better off trading beas for cap relief.

    I also would prefer they throw the max at Rudy Gay after Amare. He wants to come to Miami

  9. Heat-Struck says:

    I don’t like Michael Beasley, but having him off the bench would be really helpful with depth and rest for our starters. Our SF, PF and C would be covered with talent throughout the game! You could have a lineup of Miller/Amare/Haywood, or Beasley/Amare/Haywood, or Miller/Beasley/Amare, or Miller/Beasley/Haywood!

    PG – Bledsoe (28 min) / Chalmers (20 min)
    SG – Wade (36 min) / Bell (12 min)
    SF – Miller (36 min) / Beasley (12 min)
    PF – Amare (24 min) / Beasley (24 min)
    C – Haywood (30 min) / Amare (12 min) / Jordan (6 min)

    SIGN ME UP!!!

  10. Heat-Struck says:

    Just curious to see what it would take for that lineup to fit under the $56.5 mil cap.

    Amare ($17.7 mil)
    Wade ($16.5 mil)
    Haywood ($9 mil)
    Miller ($5 mil)
    Beasley ($5 mil)
    Bledsoe ($1.2 mil)
    Chalmers ($0.85 mil)
    Bell (Vet. Min)
    Jordan (?)
    2 cap holds ($1 mil)

    That’s very do-able! Especially if we can somehow get Amare to take less than 17.7 mil (which I doubt).

    • Albert says:

      From a salary cap perspective, your suggested lineup would look like this:

      Amare ($17.2 mil; assuming a max contract)
      Wade ($16.6 mil)
      Haywood ($9.0 mil)
      Miller ($5.0 mil)
      Beasley ($5.0 mil)
      Cook ($2.2 mil)
      Bledsoe ($1.2 mil)
      Chalmers ($0.85 mil)
      Bell ($0; signed via min player exception)
      Jordan ($0.47 mil)
      Jones ($1.9 mil; buyout)
      4 Roster Charges ($1.9 mil)
      Total: $61.2 million

      As you can see, the lineup would need to be modified, if we are to assume the projected $56.1 million cap proves correct.

  11. Heat-Struck says:

    Crap! I also forgot the $2 mil we owe Cook! We need to trade that scrub along with 2 of our second round picks…

  12. Heat-Struck says:

    All I know is, we’re going to need to pair up Amare (or Bosh for that matter) with a defensive big presence in the middle. I really think paying Haywood $9 mil would be worth it, because I don’t trust any centers around the #18 pick to get that done for us. Recent history has shown that guards out of the draft are more likely to contribute right away than big men would. I say use the #18 pick on a PG! We have many options for SF and PF in FA. For SFs there’s Lebron, Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay, John Salmons, Mike Miller, etc. For PFs there’s Bosh, Amare, Boozer, Nowitzki (not likely) or even keeping Beasly as the starting PF is an option. Haywood + a Max PF would be huge, especially in the East. Look at the top three East teams this year and their front court: Perkins/Garnett/Rasheed (bench), Howard/Lewis/Gortat (bench), Shaq/Jamison/Verajao (bench)/Ilgauskas (bench). Having a Haywood/Amare (or Bosh)/ Beasley (bench) would stick us right up there.

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