Player Previews: Mike Miller


Nov 11, 2012; Memphis, TN, USA; Miami Heat small forward Mike Miller (13) dribbles the ball up the court during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Memphis Grizzlies defeat the Miami Heat 104-86. Mandatory Credit: Spruce DerdenUSA TODAY Sports

Ask a Grizzlies fan what they’re looking forward to most about next season, and chances are you’ll hear this guy’s name. Forget the new coach, forget Gasol’s continuing improvement, forget the promise of returning from the shortest offseason ever after a Western Conference Finals appearance; Memphians want to see some rain. Actual precipitation would be nice, too, after this August.

After passing on so many available shooters in free agency, the Grizzlies, frankly, lucked out. Miller was amnestied by the Heat and courted by Memphis, Oklahoma City, and Houston, ultimately choosing his former employer in what was a big coup for the Grizzlies in their rivalry with the Thunder. Not to mention he is the perfect (cheap) addition to a team that struggles with scoring and spacing.

Miller shot 41.7% from 3 last season, a respectable number, but down from 45.3% the year before. He averaged 5.4 shots per game in ’11-’12, down to 3.9 in ’12-’13, with more than two-thirds of those being from long range. It doesn’t sound like much, but let’s remember that the Heat were already well-supplied with shooters, and didn’t need to use Miller as often as the Grizzlies likely will. The Heat kept Miller hovering around 14 minutes per game, although he played significant minutes in the Finals, including more than 20 in Game 6. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this stat before, but I love it too much to let it go: Miller hit 10 of his first 11 shots in the Finals. That’s important, obviously, but also dually impressive: after a rough, injury-prone season, Spoelstra still had enough faith in Miller to call him up in the Finals, and Miller still had the form to be brutally effective.

Robert Pera seems to be one of Miller’s biggest fans, and insists on Twitter that Miller hasn’t lost his touch.

But let’s not be unrealistic: Mike Miller is not built for full-season, night-in and night-out play. He missed 50 games in the last two years, and played limited minutes even when healthy. He’s getting older. He’ll likely be even in terms of minutes with Quincy Pondexter, but his size and rebounding ability will mean he can be matched up with Jon Leuer and Kosta Koufos without forfeiting too many defensive boards.

I would also like to see him play with the starters from time to time (especially in the playoffs), for one reason: floor spacing. The Spurs swarmed to Miller in the Finals, leaving lanes to the basket and open post players, neither of which was available to the Grizzlies in the Conference Finals. Assuming Miller’s numbers don’t tank this season (knock on wood), opponents will have to leave Randolph or Gasol in one-on-one, which opens all kinds of opportunities down low. In other words: Mike Miller might be the key to getting the most out of Zach Randolph in his final years.