FanPost

Mr. McMillan, meet Reality.

 

Okay, it has been a long time since I've posted on this site - I believe it was during the playoffs last season, so forgive me if this topic is a total rehash of others. I knew this would be too long to be a comment by itself so I decided to put it up as a post. Also forgive the length! Wow, I had no idea I had this much to say when I started.

As you will have noticed from the title, I'm not too thrilled with Nate McMillan's in-game decisions as of late... Well, I'll be honest: I have to expand that to his general decisions and the direction he seems to be going right now. Read on if you're interersted.



Problem 1: Our All-Star Shooting Guard is not a Small Forward and is not excelling in that position.

Yes Brandon is sized similarly to a lot of guys at the 3 so that he shouldn’t have to be facing guys with a large height advantage over him most nights, and it will only be those bigger guys who will really give him fits - like Gerald Wallace - but Brandon has distinguished himself in the league as a 2 and he would be best utilized at the position of 2 not at the 3. Some believe that it shouldn’t be a big deal for Brandon to be playing the 3. I don’t think they have taken into account how much Brandon has exploited the size differences he’s had against other 2 guards up until now. Placing Brandon at the Small Forward position takes away the strength advantage and height advantage Roy is so used to having. Brandon is not well-equipped to defend at the SF position. He’s relatively small and he’s never been known as a fast guy who can keep fast guys in front of him. Roy simply doesn’t have the physical strength or the length necessary to bother guys like Carmelo Anthony who he will likely have to play the next time we meet Denver if McMillan sticks with the current lineup. Sure, Brandon has shown some inspiring stretches and moments on defense, but have those been against anyone at the SF position? The defensive highlight that comes to my mind as the best example of Roy’s ability to play defense was the blocked shot against Joe Johnson in a game last season (if I am remembering that correctly). Roy played Johnson to a stand-still and was excellent in that moment when the game was on the line, but Roy has never been the guy that brings that sort of intensity on the defensive end of the floor for 48 minutes and even if he was, I don’t know if he would be capable of sustaining that sort of effort while trying to do the same on the offensive end of the floor as well, nor should he have to. I don’t think I need to mention that Joe Johnson is not a 3.

Another issue with moving Brandon to the 3 while trying to gently work Miller into the starting lineup is that it is too much change at once for Roy to absorb. Nate has taken a player that is used to being the one with the ball in their hands, the star shooting guard that creates the offense who is very capable of taking advantage of mismatches by exploiting his strength over other 2s and he's made him to play a game that is essentially reversed every single aspect of his game that has enabled him to be an offensive power in the league. No ball in his hands to create on offense and pitted against same size or bigger guys who he can’t really overpower to get his shot off. It is no wonder to me that he’s been left really trying to figure out what his role is in this new scheme of things.

The last part of problem number one isn’t as big of an issue for the team, but it may be a big issue for Brandon’s mentality going forward and is something to consider: Brandon may even miss the All-Star game completely if he continues to play from the SF instead of the SG spot as the coaches aren't going to vote him into a position he hasn't been playing leading up to the All-Star break and he’s not at the top of the list of Small Forwards to be sure.

 

Problem 2: The three-guard lineup has really not worked out well.

In fact, I'd venture to guess that the only reason it has worked at all is because we are playing sub-par, no, absolutely horrible teams and just about any lineup Nate could throw together would beat the likes of Minnesota or Memphis.

There are arguments that say, well we’re without Travis and Batum so we’re short at the three and that is why things are staying this way. It may be why Nate is sticking with this lineup, but I don’t believe for a minute that it is the best decision, regardless of how poorly Webster is playing at the moment, after all, what is the difference between Blake playing the two and not hitting any shots and Webster playing the three and not hitting any shots? If both Blake and Webster are non-existent offensively speaking, then it shouldn’t matter which one is in the starting lineup. That discounts Webster’s better defense however and therein is another reason the three-guard lineup just isn’t going to work: Both Rudy and Webster can play the three and one of them would be an improvement over Blake whether you favor offense or defense. All I know is that putting the issue of Blake vs. Miller – which I will talk about in a moment – finally to rest in favor of Miller would allow our best three currently available to play as the best three currently available and put our star 2 back where he’s been successful his entire career.

 

Problem 3: Nate needs to wake up and realize he can't live out his dream to be the starting PG for the Sonics vicariously through Steve Blake.

Steve Blake is a better than average PG in the NBA, however he is not as good as Andre Miller at distributing the ball or scoring. It was reported that the Blazers signed Miller to be another creator that can get into the paint and score in order to take some pressure off of Roy over the length of the season. Another reported benefit which we were to expect is that he is an excellent distributor and has great court vision with the ability to run the fast break better than Roy or Blake. As far as I know, I think there was also the issue of what he could do to improve the ability to get the ball into the post to Oden and Aldridge. Miller creates an offense that usually features guys moving around which allows for penetration and easy looks, not standing around because the ball is being held at the top of the floor for 13 seconds out of 24 which was a major problem for the Blazers last season.

 So far, there have been only a couple of games that McMillan has allowed Miller to play as Miller has proven he can play throughout his career and as far as I remember those games went pretty well. When Miller is running the offense without a lot of interference, Oden get the benefit of getting the ball in his hands down low, Aldridge gets to take advantage of his ability to run the court faster than anyone that can guard him in transition and Roy doesn’t have to take a beating like a rented mule every night. The only foreseeable problem in my mind with a lineup of Oden, Aldridge, Webster (or Fernandez), Roy and Miller would be the adjustment that Roy needs to make in learning how to be more active without the ball to get easy baskets around the rim or to get open on the wings – something every great player that wants to win a championship eventually needs to do and just a slightly easier transition than his current assignment.

Nate has made statements – as well as Roy – that Miller would be better with the second unit because that unit could be the really active and fast unit that needs a better ball distributor. I do believe that they’ve made the choice to keep Blake in the starting lineup for two reasons and neither of them have anything to do with Miller being a better fit in the second unit. Nate has publicly stated that ever since he was a PG on the Sonics and they brought in Gary Paton to replace him in the starting five without allowing him the ability to fight for the position, he’s been the type of guy to shy away from doing that as he thinks it was a mistake on the part of the Sonics. While I can sympathize with the frustration I am sure he felt in that situation, I do not agree that the approach he has taken in regards to the addition of Miller to the team has been a healthy alternative at all. In Seattle Nate had a reasonable case against Payton being named the starter without having played a single NBA game. That isn’t the case with Andre Miller and it simply cannot be said that the situations were similar on any level. McMillan may see things differently, but Miller has statistically out-performed Blake nearly every year of his career in most categories except perhaps three-point percentage. Here are the details courtesy of www.nba.com

Steve Blake Career Averages:

G

GS

MPG

FG%

3P%

FT%

OFF

DFF

RPG

APG

SPG

BPG

TO

PF

PPG

433

275

25.6

0.407

0.390

0.789

0.3

1.8

2.1

4.2

0.7

0.1

1.44

1.51

7.6

 

Andre Miller Career Averages:

G

GS

MPG

FG%

3P%

FT%

OFF

DFF

RPG

APG

SPG

BPG

TO

PF

PPG

829

777

34.8

0.459

0.208

0.802

1.2

3.0

4.2

7.3

1.4

0.2

2.69

2.48

14.5

 

Steve Blake is excellent at running an offense that needs a calm and steady hand, one that features players who may not have the best shot selection like Outlaw or one that tends to have more turnover problems when running as a rookie like Cunningham or a young and over-aggressive SG like Bayless (assuming Rudy gets the nod for the 3 spot with the starting group) and he would fit with Webster as they’ve played well together before. In my mind, there is no really significant reason that can be pointed to that is keeping Steve Blake in the starting five beyond McMillan’s preference, except maybe Brandon Roy’s opinion.

I don’t think anyone needs to be reminded of the details about Brandon’s penchant for playing along-side Steve Blake. He is obviously comfortable with Blake for several reasons, which are understandable, but the limitations and knocks on the team about not having a second scorer in the paint and not being able to get easy baskets aren’t going to go away with Steve running the point. Miller is the better guard plain and simple.

I am hoping that Roy, having now played more than half of his time of this young season at the three and not getting any positive traction in that role, will see the benefits that Andre is providing for Greg (when he’s allowed in the game which is point 4) and LaMarcus and realize that Miller is the best fit overall for the team’s success and let McMillan know that he is fine with Blake coming off the bench. So far I’m not sure he’s been able to get out of his usual introspective mode long enough to notice that LaMarcus and Oden excel when Miller is in the game, but I’m sure he’s going to realize it soon. This should be the last straw that breaks McMillan’s determination to have Blake in the starting five and when that happens, I think we’ll finally see some dependable cohesion and fluidity to the offense.

 

Problem 4: As alluded to above, Oden needs to be in the game more. Nate is not his baby-sitter and Oden shouldn’t be treated like a child to be managed rather than a man that needs to and is capable of learning.

Since the new rule of “one foul per quarter” was implemented, I’ve seen some upside and some definite downside. The upside is that Oden comes into the game in the second half as fresh as the first spring daisy after a soft rain shower. He dominates the other team’s bigs because they are at this point starting to get a little tired. And while that is all well and fine, it would be very deceptive list as a benefit entirely. The list of reasons this idea will be detrimental in the long-term is longer than the single potential benefit in the short-term. For one thing, Oden looked out of sorts in the second-half of the game against Golden State when he finally came back in. Despite being dominant in the first quarter with the limited time McMillan allowed him when he did come back in the team didn’t use him because without him and LaMarcus in the game during the second quarter, they had no post presence defensively or offensively and things had deteriorated to where they weren’t able to really establish themselves again in the game.

However, beyond the Golden State debacle, there is an underlying problem with yanking Oden out of the game when he gets quick fouls. He’s never going to learn to play through it. Yeah he might have a lapse in the minutes where both teams are trying to establish themselves, their positions on the floor and getting into a rhythm, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to continue to foul. Nate needs to let Greg figure it out for himself and if that means that Greg fouls out of a couple games, then so be it. Taking him out of the game is basically telling him that his coach doesn’t think he’s capable of playing the game without causing problems. In the long run is that the message you want your starting center who is supposed to be able to dominate defensively and be an offensive threat in the post? “You’re not capable of learning how to play through this, so I won’t let you try.”

Greg’s presence in the middle has been a boon to every aspect of the team’s defense. Pryzbilla is a good defensive center, but Oden is exceptional even as a second year player in the NBA. Yes, we may have to not have him for a key stretch or two of a few games during the season because he’s still learning not to foul, but in the long run, isn’t that better than delaying the inevitable by keeping him on the bench for amazingly long stretches of games? Greg isn’t a child and McMillan shouldn’t be taking a punitive approach to how he allots minutes if he wants to field the best team they can.

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