Andre Miller: Preliminary Thoughts

So...Andre Miller, eh?  The Blazers needed an upgrade at point guard.  We've been speculating about the direction since the season ended.  As it turned out they went with offense instead of defense.  At this point I don't have any problem with that.

As I said in a post earlier this summer Miller has a lot to recommend him.  He's been a great passing point guard since he came out of college.  He has more offense than either of his new position-mates.  He gets inside and draws fouls, dimensions that have been missing from the point guard position.  He shoots free throws incredibly well.  He's experienced.  He's won in this league.  He's durable.

One of the main things to like about this signing is the contract.  Two years with a third-year option is perfect for a guy like Miller.  The Blazers haven't over-committed.  They won't be paying him for longer than he's useful.

Miller also has a couple drawbacks.  He's not a three-point shooter.  He's not the kind of defender who will improve our backcourt or take pressure off of the centers defensively.  Also, though the contract is short, it did take up most of Portland's cap space.  It's hard to shake the impression that this was the big free agent move that wasn't a big free agent move.  Almost any of the players discussed so far this summer would have made a bigger splash than Miller.

The best-case scenario for the Blazers is that Miller provides that veteran experience, some scoring punch, and takes the pressure off of Brandon Roy to make every play.  It could well be he's one of those "the whole is more than the sum of its parts" guys.  I could easily see the Blazers locking into place, feeling incredibly comfortable on the court, and raising their scoring average more than Miller's point total would account for.

The worst-case scenario is that Miller can't hit Steve Blake's outside shots causing the defense to collapse and clog the lane against Roy, turning Brandon into a distance shooter instead of a driver.  The defense looks crappy, the centers foul out, nobody knows whether Roy or Miller should be directing the show, and the point guard position gets more crowded but not better.

Some intriguing points are still up in the air.

Ben and I were talking about Miller earlier today and he pointed out an interesting fact.  Miller has never played with a 20-point scorer except for Carmelo Anthony (who is to 20-point guys what Britney Spears is to music stars).  I pointed out that he's never played on a team that's been considered particularly bright either.  Shawn Kemp's Cleveland squad, assorted youngsters in Clipperland...even this Philadelphia team is not exactly your classic basketball lineup.  One wonders how he'll fare when he doesn't have to be the brains of the group and when he isn't counted upon to be the second option offensively.  Hopefully this will be the kind of team he's always dreamed of playing with.

Ben already asked the question about what this move means to personnel.  If nothing changes right now Blake is the second point guard and Jerryd Bayless is looking for scraps.  But Miller isn't much more than a two-year solution and you don't want to be starting the point guard hunt from scratch in two years when you should be angling for a championship.  At face value, that would prioritize Bayless' development.  The tension is interesting.

My guess is that there's another move in store, though probably not during the summer.  On 95.5 The Game a couple weeks ago I said it felt like the Blazers would pull the trigger on a Hinrich/Miller/Sessions-type deal if one was available but that any bigger splash would wait until the season or perhaps a couple months later.  That's still my belief.  Portland yet has too many small forwards of similar age and production potential.  They now have a clearer pecking order at point guard but that same order makes either an expiring contract utility guy or a young prospect available for trade alongside their other assets.

I do think the Miller acquisition means that Joel Przybilla becomes even more important to the Blazers in the short term.  You didn't take any of the defensive pressure off of the big men.  You need two centers now.

In short, I'd say this was the definition of a "tweener" move.  It was a good acquisition but not great.  It has the potential to impact the team but not in an obvious or flashy way and probably not for more than a couple years.  The team spent money but the contract was short.  This was their guy but only after chasing a couple others.  Some questions are answered, others arrive.  This was a nice step but not the final step.

Overall I'm happy to have Miller here.  I'm excited to see if the offense and continuity improve.  I'm happy that Coach McMillan has another coach on the floor.  I have no worries that the point guard position will be executed better this season than we've seen in recent years.  I'm just not overwhelmed by this move nor do I feel like it's exactly what the Blazers had in mind when they entered the summer with cap space.

We'll see what happens.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

P.S.  Just thought of the perfect way to put it.  This move has the potential to be great for the Blazers.  It also has the potential to be so-so.  But see, with the main move of the summer I was hoping for more than potential.  I like Miller.  I like his addition.  But I'm not convinced that he is the definitive missing piece to put this team over the top.  That's still a maybe.

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