The Miami Heat, facing tax penalty doom with potentially the league’s second-highest team salary, amnestied perimeter threat Mike Miller. The running joke is that Miller has long with a trebuchet: a Middle Age siege weapon that can hurt you from afar, in this case the three-point line, but that has the mobility of a rock. But, despite his limits, he’s a hot free agent commodity and has helped Miami in many ways for the past three seasons. At 33, he’s no spring chicken, but Miller’s move and eventual new home is worth examination because of his shooting prowess, and what he provided for Miami.
At the moment OKC, Memphis (where he played before), and Denver are frontrunners in nabbing Miller’s ticket. Memphis might benefit most from a Miller addition as they were dead last in 3-point field goal attempts, as seen on ESPN, and was only outdone by six teams in terms of 3-point percentage suckage. They won’t climb to the top of long distance-shooting charts but with Miller in tow they might be able to break into top-20 territory, and just having another certified shooting threat on the floor would make life easier for Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. It would also be a good thing for the basketball world as the Grizzlies might be just another shooter or two away from being legitimate threats for Western Conference champs.
Denver could also benefit from a Miller signing as they weren’t much better than Memphis on the 3-point front. They ranked at No. 19 for 3-point field goal attempts, but shot worse (34.3%) than Memphis did from deep. So shooting more wasn’t a sounder strategy for them. Their roster is in all kinds of disarray so bringing on Miller might not do much for them or the former 6th Man of the Year.
OKC, in another odd roster move, also want Miller’s talents, but outside shooting isn’t necessarily a gaping hole for them. Sure, they’ll miss Kevin Martin’s outside stroke―he shot a tenth-best 42.6% from long range last year―but their biggest concern is ball movement (and depending on who you ask, offensive schemes).
But even on Memphis, can Mike Miller be an asset worth having? He’s a very old 33, moves like a man with a backboard for a spine, and was falling out of favor in Miami until Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. A look at Miami’s championship success might reveal the future of his oncourt pedigree and how Miami just lost a major piece of its 2013 (and 2012) championship puzzle.
The Headband Game, now better remembered as The Game The Spurs Gave Away, and officially known as Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals, wouldn’t have gone Miami’s way if it weren’t for Miller. Yes, Ray Allen’s shooting genius is what won them that game but Mike Miller allowed the Heat to have success against San Antonio’s book smart defense.
With Wade on the bench, and flanked by Chris Andersen and three shooters, Miller one of them, LeBron James went into Neo mode. Without James’ fourth-quarter performance and his own clutch three-pointer, Ray Allen’s three doesn’t matter. But James was that effective and unreal because of what Chalmers, Miller, and Allen on the floor as complementary satellites did to floor spacing. Miller will never be Miami’s best shooter when Allen is on the floor but he’s been integral in both of the Big Three’s NBA championships. They may have Rashard Lewis, Shane Battier, who helped win Game 7, Norris Cole, or James Jones to take Miller’s spot as a LBJ performance enhancer but none have bolstered Miami’s small ball dominance as much as Miller nor have they performed quite like the former NBA Rookie of the Year has for them on the biggest stage.
Miami remain the favorites to win next year but without Miller they’ll have a harder time leveraging LeBron’s ungodly talents—unless, of course, they can sign another 40%-plus shooter for cheap (which seems unlikely as they’re shopping for big men to help fix size issues). Other teams won’t raise too much in stock with his addition but they’ll get someone who can shoot under pressure, can rebound soundly, and will sacrifice his body, and its future health, for the sake of the team. The greatest value in nabbing him apart from his low-40s 3-point percentage might be that at least Miami will no longer have them to suit their game.
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