Mike Miller has been with the Grizzlies for a total of seven seasons making him one of the franchise’s longest tenured players. His first six years with the team were from ’02-’08 and his seventh was just this past year when they brought him back. Oh, and bringing him back this past year was one of the best moves the Grizzlies could have made.
The Grizzlies scoring output this past year was dismal at best. This was in large part due to injuries, as Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen, Courtney Lee, and Quincy Pondexter all missed time. With those players being gone throughout various points of the season, there was one player who played in all 82 games: Mike Miller. Yes, THE Mike Miller who hadn’t played 82 games since his rookie year in 2000. He had struggled with injuries throughout his entire career, but this year he had perfect attendance. You might be thinking, “Okay, so what? He played every game, but the Grizzlies still couldn’t score.” This is true, but you have to remember that his role has been limited (20 mpg last year) as he ages. At this point in his career he isn’t going to be able to carry the scoring load like he did back in ’06-’07, but his value now is how he is utilized off the bench.
What exactly does Miller bring off the bench? Yes he does score, but not abundantly (7.1 ppg last season). What he does do is score efficiently. This is something that the Grizzlies really struggled to do as a team, which led to their 27th ranking in points per game.
Fun fact: Mike Miller is 18th all-time in three point percentage. Top 20 in NBA history. That’s pretty impressive especially when you consider that it’s higher than both Ray Allen and Dell Curry. Having someone that you can send onto the floor and have him make a three pointer 45.9% of the time(his percentage last year) is a very valuable asset on a team that doesn’t shoot well as a whole. Miller was not only an important part the team statistically last year, but he was a leader as well.
The problem is that there is only one Mike Miller. There are other players who play a similar style though, and the Grizzlies need to pick up a few more. High efficiency scorers who can stretch the floor are essential in the NBA today. That being said, you absolutely need to pair efficient shooting with good defense. The Grizz have the defense part down, but again, the scoring is lacking.
You look at the Spurs model and see what type of players they have. San Antonio currently has six players who shot over 40% from beyond the arc last year. This stretches the floor for Tim Duncan down low, and it also opens up lanes for Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. The team is also excellent defensively, and it seems to work pretty well as they are currently in the finals.
Memphis, on the other hand, had three players who shot over 40% from beyond the arc, and two of them didn’t combine to play 82 games (Jon Leuer and Jamaal Franklin). You need to combine excellent defense and offensive efficiency to win in the NBA. The Grizzlies shooting percentages were far too low, and we know what happened as a result.
All this comes to back to #13, Mike Miller. Miller is a free agent going into the off-season, and I believe that one of the Grizzlies top priorities should be bringing him back on a veteran’s minimum (or similar) contract. He will give you two things that you desperately need: Three point shooting efficiency and leadership. Keep Z-Bo, Gasol, Conley, Allen, and the core together. Add some other efficient shooters a la the Spurs, and this could be a very dangerous team going into next year.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is the fact that the Grizzlies need to bring back Miller. He will be an essential part of the team this upcoming season, and hopefully with a few other additions, the Grizzlies can get it done.