Andre Miller and his peers: a comparison with fun graphs

From the day Andre Miller was signed from Philadelphia, a great deal has been made of his well-known inability to score from anywhere outside the block-charge semi circle.  Additionally, Miller is a much higher usage player than his predecessor.  These two concerns have led many BEdge denizens to ask whether this skill set can complement a ball-dominant shooting guard like Brandon Roy, concerns Roy himself appeared to recognize through his comments in Ben's practice report yesterday.  In this post, I compare Miller to his peers: secondary perimeter options on 50 win NBA teams, in terms of shooting ability, usage, efficiency and Player Efficiency Rating.  I conclude that although Miller is a below average shooter for his role, being a low-quality shooter does not preclude players from succeeding in this role.  However, most of the successful number two perimeter options have comparable usage rates to Miller (with two exceptions which I explain below).  As such, the idea that Miller's ball-dominance and inability to shoot make him a poor fit next to Roy appear unfounded.

Why I picked these players

In determining what types of players worked together, I wanted a relatively stringent definition of "worked."  As such, I selected secondary perimeter options from teams with 50 or more wins.  Although some 50 win teams have offensive issues, that level of success bears some indication that what you're doing works decently.  To find the secondary perimeter option, I essentially used the perimeter player with the second highest usage percentage.  With that, my sample was (primary option in parentheses):

Mo Williams (LeBron James)

Jameer Nelson (Vince Carter)

Rajon Rondo (Paul Pierce)

Ron Artest (Kobe Bryant)

Chauncey Billups (Carmelo Anthony)

Tony Parker (Manu Ginobili)

Jason Richardson (Steve Nash)

Russell Westbrook (Kevin Durant)

Caron Butler (Jason Terry)

Andre Miller (Brandon Roy)

Andrei Kirilenko (Deron Williams)

Jamal Crawford (Joe Johnson)

I also included Jerryd Bayless (for kicks) and Kirk Hinrich and Steve Blake to compare a low-usage sharp-shooting secondary option.


First, let's look three point shooting.  On the Y axis is 3pt eFG (which is 3pt pct multiplied by 1.5).  On the X axis is 3pt attempt per 40 minutes.



From this chart, we learn that Mo Williams is a really good three-point shooter.  Also, there is a cluster of players around Miller who can't really shoot threes at all.  Any player below 50% on this graph is not posing much of a three point threat, as 50% eFG = 33% 3 pt shooting.  As such, fully half of Miller's peers pose a pretty weak threat from three.

Of course, you don't need to shoot a three to space the floor.  You can shoot jump shots from inside the arc.  Here's basically the same graph, with long 2s instead of threes:



What do we learn here?  Well, for one, Caron Butler would be advised to turn some of those long 2s into 3s, where they'd be worth an extra point.  Again, Miller is toward the bottom in terms of ability to shoot, as only Rondo performs worse.  However, there are a number of peers who do not shoot efficiently from just inside the arc.  Kirilenko, Westbrook and Parker are all shooting 40% or under from here, a shot which defenses are more than happy to concede if it means they can double Durant or Williams.  The best-shooting of this trio is Kirilenko, and he attempts few enough shots from that range to be less than a credible threat.  As such, we have five players who are not a particularly strong threat from either outside the arc or just inside it: Kirilenko, Rondo, Parker, Miller and Westbrook.

Note that our alternative models (Hinrich and Blake) fare very well in the shooting competition.  Let's move on to the rest of the comparison.

This is a chart you've probably seen a billion times before.  Y axis is offensive rating (points per possession used).  X axis is usage.  The upper right is where you want to be: the Kevin Durant zone.  Lower right is the Monta Ellis zone (low efficiency gunner), and upper left is the Jeff Pendergraph zone (high efficiency low possessions).



Note here that Miller is pretty much right in the middle in terms of both efficiency and usage.  That's about what you'd expect: average for a second option on a good team.  However, look what's happened to our shooters: they are so far off to the left, the graph needs to be expanded to include them.  I'll attempt to explain the lower usage of Artest and Kirilenko at the end of this post, but overall, the low usage rates of Hinrich and Blake stick out more when compared to other second options than Miller's poor shooting.

Obviously, Billups is the all-star here.  He's leading the way in shooting and overall offensive abilities.  However, when teams have to choose between floor spacing and a more varied game from their second option, they go for the guy who uses more possessions.  And the higher usage from a second option hasn't hindered these teams, as these are the top 12 teams in the league.

Here's one more graph, which attempts to capture more of the overall abilities of the players.  The important thing here is the Y axis, which is player efficiency rating.  I put assists on the x axis just because it wasn't included in the previous graph:



Here we see that Butler and Artest are clearly a cut below the rest of our second options.  Kirilenko soars because of his incredible efficiency on limited possessions, and also varied statistical contributions.  Hinrich and Blake languish, punished for the same low usage that apparently makes them desirable here.  Ten of the twelve 50 win teams see a relatively high usage secondary perimeter player as complementary to their star.  Five of those teams also have no trouble fitting in a player who is not much of a threat from the outside.  Is Portland exceptional in requiring a very low usage secondary perimeter player?  I'm not convinced.

Explaining Artest and Kirilenko

The two players who stand apart from other second options due to low usage are Ron Artest and Andrei Kirilenko.  The factor that binds these two together is that they both play for highly interior oriented teams.  Carlos Boozer leads the Jazz in USG at 25, while both Gasol and Bynum have 20+ USGs for the Lakers.  Could this be the Blazers with Oden?  Given the tepid time-table for his return, and likely rustiness when he does come back, it would be foolish to plan our offense around him for next season.  However, we are obviously all hoping that he can become a centerpiece on both ends of the floor.  As such, the Blazers should stick with the more orthodox model of a perimeter focal point alongside a relatively high-usage second option.  This is particularly the case as Miller can easily be offloaded before next year when we will hopefully become a more post-oriented team.


Of course, if we could put Chauncey Billups or Chris Paul alongside Brandon Roy we would.  Another high quality offensive player who can shoot would be awesome.  Unfortunately, we have to live in the world of the possible.  The reason Andre Miller was possible is because he's an old fart who can't shoot.  So the question is, would you rather have a very limited player who can shoot, or a much higher quality offensive player who can't as your second option?  A comparison with other quality teams indicates both that a relatively high usage secondary perimeter option is the norm, and that said secondary option need not be a great shooter.  Andre Miller can fit next to Brandon Roy, just like Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker fit next to their all-stars.

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