Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Despite 'Average' Play, Miller Represents

Most Griz fans are well aware that 4 current players participated in international, Olympic qualifying tournaments this year. Shades of Blue has reviewed the play of Pau Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro for Spain and Darko Milicic for Serbia (and his, um, performance).

I’m going to delve into Mike Miller’s play for Team USA.

Of the 4 Griz players, Miller had the least impact on his team. This was, of course, due to Team USA being composed of nothing but top tier NBA players at least 3 of whom are future Hall-of-Fame players.

Despite his limited role, I don't want to take anything from Miller. I thought just being invited to the try outs said a lot about Miller as a player and by itself was a high honor. Miller was originally on the bubble to make the team. Just before cuts were finally made, I read arguments on both side regarding Miller's status. Here is what one prominent NBA writer wrote:

Since Miller is considerably less mobile than Redd, there's no strategic reason for him to be given a uniform.

Though Mike DeCourcy made a much better argument for his inclusion.

If I asked you to find the single essential member of that team by perusing that list (of 15 invitees), would you come up with the right guy? Would you recognize that the U.S. absolutely needs Miller to be an important part of this team?

In the end, Nick Collison, Kevin Durant, and JJ Reddick (why was he even invited?) got cut from the 15 man roster and Team USA (correctly) kept Miller.

Miller competed mostly with Michael Redd and Tayshaun Prince for reserve playing time at the wing. In the Las Vegas tryouts, Miller shined while Redd was off. For the most part, the opposite was true during the 10 FIBA games. Miller and Redd were the resident 3-point specialist, with the two leading the team in 3-point attempts. Below average 3-point shooting was identified as one of the weak spots in the last Olympics.

Speaking stats, Miller averaged 7.9 ppg and 38% on 3-pointers. The 38% was by all accounts a disappointing number. It is about 2 percentage points lower than his NBA career average despite the 3-point line being closer. In comparison Redd's numbers were much better (which is who everyone will compare Miller with because likely one of the wing players is going to get bumped to make room for another big come '08). Redd averaged 14.4 ppg on 45% on 3-pointers.

Though I must say, although Redd averaged more points and shot better from beyond the arc, I think Miller is a better overall fit for Team USA. I think Redd forces too many shots. Miller is at his best being setup for open catch and release 3's against either a zone or trailing the break. Team USA has plenty of players that can force shots.

What grade would you give Miller for his 2007 Team USA performance? The consensus seems to be 'average'.

ESPN's Sheridan gives Miller a C+:

Had his best game of the tournament Saturday with four 3-pointers and 14 points, but was erratic in the games before that and shot only 43 percent overall, 37 percent on 3s. Can't see him having any chance of making next summer's team unless injuries make Michael Redd and/or Joe Johnson unavailable.

SI's Chris Mannix gives Miller a C:

He was brought on board to shoot threes, and when he couldn't do that effectively (38 percent), he lost his usefulness. Expect Wade to snatch Miller's spot next year.

Looks like the conventional wisdom will be that Mike's Team USA roster spot is as good as gone next year. Regardless, I'm proud to see a Grizzly on the team, even if he underperformed. Miller represented the Grizzlies well (and I'm extremely happy he came away unhurt). We have been told that Iavaroni's system needs good 3-point shooters and if Miller was good enough at that skill to be selected for Team USA as a 3-point specialist, my guess is he is going to follow up this summer with the confidence and opportunity to have a career year in the NBA.

No comments: