Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Blazers Improvement '10: Andre Miller

Sometimes the best really is saved left for last. After targeting not one, but two other players in free agency, Portland finally "settled" on Andre Miller in late July. At first, the marriage between the two seemed vexatious at best: a ball-dominant guard, not known for his ability to hit the open jump shot, playing alongside Brandon Roy and with an established point guard in Steve Blake already on the roster? The relationship figured to end before it even got started, but everything changed after a mid-season, heated altercation between Miller and Coach McMillan over a late-game decision the previous night. Headlined by a career-high 52 point game in Dallas and keeping his NBA "Iron Man" streak intact, even more impressive considering the amount of games the team missed totaled over 300; Andre was able to lead the squad to a 50 win season and another playoff berth. Although Miller was arguably Portland's team MVP for the 2010 season, he'll once again have to silence the critics who insist he isn't the man for the job.
  1. Jump Shooting
  2. Throughout his 11 year career, there haven't been very many hurdles in Andre Miller's way he hasn't been able to clear: stature (6'2", 200 lbs.), court vision (career 7.2 apg average), and durability (612 consecutive games played). Even though everything about his game screams consistency, his outside shot has not followed suit. Despite playing the fewest amount of minutes since his rookie year (2500), Andre attempted the third most three-pointers in his career (80), connecting only 16 times. No, ‘Dre didn’t all of a sudden become infatuated with the long ball; it’s a product of being the point guard in Nate McMillan’s offense.

    To say it’s impossible for a 34 year old player to abruptly become an adequate long-range shooter after so many years of subpar results would be inaccurate. Just look at Jason Kidd. Kidd, much like Miller, was maligned his whole career for not possessing a jump shot, even to the point where he was referred to as “Ason”, because he had no J. Through hard work and strenuous repetition in the gym, Kidd has transformed into one of the better three-point shooters in the league, knocking them down at a 40% clip or better each of the past three years. With both players having comparable shooting techniques (flat footed, ball placement in front of face), it wouldn’t be wise to doubt Andre Miller becoming a serviceable three-point shooter.

  3. Chemistry

  4. It’s never an easy transition for a player to make, coming over from one organization to another. There are different styles of play, philosophies, and new players to gel and create chemistry with on the court, especially when that player is the lead guard. Being a point guard brings added responsibilities and needed instincts in order to succeed. Not only are they held accountable for their own play, but their primary objective is to get everyone else involved and know precisely how, where, and when each of their teammate likes the ball placed. But ball placement is only half the battle. A simple head nod from a wing player could mean they’re taking off back door or want a lab pass throw in their vicinity. They’re obligated to memorizing these non-verbal gestures and recognizing them in the heat of the moment.

    Learning the ins and outs about his teammates is only one piece to the puzzle for a newly transitioned point guard. Andre must also adapt to an entirely new playbook and figure out how to carve his niche into the offense, finding out exactly where he’ll be able to pick and choose his spots to operate. Given the talent and depth of this current Trail Blazers roster, he’ll have to feed plenty of others first before he can think about himself; quite a daunting task for a player on a new team, playing under a new coach, and living in a new city. Taking into consideration everything that transpired over the course of the season, it’s remarkable how well Andre was able to fit in. If the team stays relatively healthy, there’s no doubt the fans, media, and organization will get to see the true impact Andre Miller can have on the Portland Trail Blazers.

With a finely tuned jump shot and a healthy group of teammates surrounding him, don’t be shocked if Andre makes a serious push for his first ever All-Star appearance as well as being the ringleader of team pushing for 60 wins.

1 comment:

  1. Miller and Camby literally saved the season. Props. And in terms of his 80 3s taken, I wouldn't be surprised if half of those were only to beat the shot clock.