2009-10 Season Review: Andre Miller

What can you say about Andre Miller?  In just one season he's been cast as the savior, the villain, the hero, the goat, the answer to Portland's point guard needs, a stopgap measure in need of replacement, the most inspirational Blazer, the most detrimental Blazer.  Check your watch.  Did it just move?  So did the read on 'Dre.

So who is the real Andre Miller?

Most importantly for the Blazers this year, he's the guy who played 82 games plus every game of the playoffs.  That alone earns him a medal of valor.  Only Martell Webster managed the same feat and only LaMarcus Aldridge got close to those two.  Any game, every game, Andre was doing something and that "something" was usually pretty good.

In most ways Miller's contributions to the Blazers were on par with what he's given his whole career.  His per 48 points and assist stats were dead on with his previous season.  His rebounds were slightly down, as were most of his per game stats by virtue of about 6 fewer minutes served per game.  If you had a quibble with his production it would show in his shooting percentages.  His overall field goal percentage was easily the lowest since 2002-03 and his three-point rate retreated over 8 percentage points from last year's career high of 28.3%.  Only his free throw percentage survived unscathed.  On the other hand that might not be a huge cost for a guy in his first year after switching teams and offensive systems.  The Blazers didn't expect a Renoir masterpiece in those categories so the art-store reproduction from the field and velvet Elvis from the arc didn't throw them.  In that sense Miller is like an inning-eating pitcher in baseball.  As long as he gets you into the eighth inning and doesn't miss starts you're happy.  The only other serious issue is that Miller had trouble taking care of the ball in the clutch this year but that doesn't become a major liability, particularly with Roy on the team.

Andre excelled in Portland in part because he was just what the Blazers needed.  The offense ran better in every way (except, ironically, assisted field goals) when he was on the floor.  His combination of intelligence, toughness, driving ability, and vision coupled with actually having the body to enforce his designs on the court filled holes that Portland missed in previous years.  The defense also performed better when Andre played, though to be fair some of that is by comparison to Rudy Fernandez and Jerryd Bayless playing.  'Dre will never be confused with a great defender.  But he's smart enough to get into the right place most of the time and he has enough mass and strength to bother opponents.  His +3.5 plus-minus per game does him credit in both of these areas.  Andre really helped the defensive rebounding too.  Whatever he is in the absolute sense, Miller's jack-of-all-trades production was a great fit for Portland in the relative sense this season.

But before we get too excited, we must point out the unique circumstances of 2009-10 which, after a certain point, opened up opportunities for Miller that had better not be there in seasons hence.  Certain things Miller will not do.  He will not take a subordinate role.  He will not give up his offense and remain effective.  He will not improve or become a player other than he is now.  The reality of Andre Miller is that you live or die with Andre Miller as he is, as became clear in certain regular season games and especially in the playoffs.  He's hard to handle when he gets his own way on the floor.  He doesn't have a ton of outs when the hand isn't going his way, however.  Whether that's something the team can live with remains to be seen.  He's older.  He's on a short-term deal.  There's no question of him being the long-range answer at point guard here.  As long as the Blazers can use him he'll be fine.  As soon as the tables turn or a better opportunity presents itself they'll likely have few qualms about moving on.  The assets Andre brings should become less critical to the team as its younger stars mature anyway.  If not Portland will have problems that even Miller at his best can't cure.

In the end, that's the final analysis on 'Dre.  You don't worry at all if he stays.  You know what you're getting, you know what you're not, and you know it's going to be mostly positive.  But you don't worry if you have to move him either.  Portland just has to find the right circumstances under which to do so without dropping the position cold, gambling, or reverting to the jury-rigged lineup they had prior.  Miller is more than welcome and worthy of praise as long as he's a Blazer.  He's a nice solution until Portland gets a bead on its next move.  Once that happens it'll be a great round of applause every time he visits and thanks for the memories.

Season Performance:  A-

Trend:  Static (or, if you prefer, fully matured)

Biggest Question Marks:  Andre doesn't really have question marks.  You either take him or you don't.

Future with the Team:  Good either way.

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