2010-11 Portland Trail Blazers Roster Rundown: Andre Miller

Having covered LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy in earlier installments, the post-post-season march through the Portland Trail Blazers roster continues today with a look at their primary point guard, Andre Miller.  After a year of controversy in 2009-10, Miller returned to his sophomore campaign with the Blazers sporting solid play and an adjusted style of contributing.  Some numbers to put Miller's season into perspective:

 

10-11

09-10

Change

Games

81

82

-1

Minutes

2650

2500

+150

MPG

32.7

30.5

+2.2

FG%

46.0%

44.5%

+1.5%

FT%

85.3%

82.1%

+3.1%`

FGA/36

11.5

13.1

-1.6

FTA/36

4.0

5.6

-1.6

TRB/36

4.1

3.8

+0.3

AST/36

7.7

6.4

+1.3

STL/36

1.5

1.3

+0.2

TO/36

2.7

2.5

+0.2

USG%

20.6%

23.8%

-3.2%

AST%

35.7%

30.3%

+5.4

AST/TO Ratio

2.87

2.57

+0.3

ORTG

111

111

---

DRTG

108

108

---

PER

17.8

18.1

-0.3

TShooting%

52.9%

53.0%

-0.1%

NETPTS/100*

+10.8

+9.2

+1.6

PPG

12.7

14.0

-1.3

PPG/36

14.0

16.5

-2.5

Instinctively you look at Miller's scoring drop and say, "That's not a good thing."  Hold on there kemosabe.  Miller's numbers show not only improvement, but his irreplaceable role for the Blazers this year.

Click through to find out more. 

2009-10 was an exciting inaugural year for Miller and the Blazers...productive enough to have fans chanting his name for team M.V.P. when the season concluded.  But 52-point outpourings in Dallas couldn't quite conceal the fractious nature of Miller's contributions.  The early off-court friction was well-documented but even on the court Miller's game--due to team injuries, acclimation, or nature--seemed to supersede more than complement his teammates.  When 'Dre had the ball in his hands he was a bull, often charging and seldom diverting.  When he didn't have the ball in his hands he was a non-factor.  His defense was pedestrian, his catch-and-shoot game nonexistent.  When Miller was brilliant everybody noticed.  When he wasn't it was hard to see him.  His effective games drifted towards the new-school point guard philosophy:  master of the game with the ball in his hands all the time, making things happen.  The problem was, this team didn't really need a new-school point guard.  They needed the old-school guy, the set-up man, the guy who could score when you needed it but mostly gave up his offense for the sake of getting teammates going.  Portland didn't need another king, they needed a king maker behind the throne, getting all the nobles in line and making sure the crown was stable.

In 2010-11 the Blazers got their man.  And his name was Andre Miller.

Miller's point production dropped this season but that was a blessing, not an indictment.  He played more minutes, took fewer attempts, and notched a higher percentage on the shots he did take.   All through the year Miller came through with key buckets when the team was struggling on offense, sacrificing volume scoring at other times.  That's not decline, it's efficiency.  And it was smart...just what this team needed.  LaMarcus Aldridge was the king this year.  Who put him on the throne, instilling that confidence and verve with the pinpoint alley-oop passes that got him rolling?  Andre Miller did.  Miller's shots were down, his free throw attempts were down, his usage rating was down, but his assists and assist percentage went up.  Old school point guard FTW.

Other than rising minutes, rising shooting percentages, rising assist rate, falling shot attempts, and more time spent shooting jumpers than driving, everything else remained fairly level.  Miller played in every game save the one for which he was suspended.  Rebounds and turnovers stayed near last year's rates.  Offensive and defensive ratings unchanged, PER all but.  Miller was Miller.  He just fit in better and gave the team more of what it needed.

The number that yet again bears examining is Net Points per 100 Possessions.  The +10.8 rating, up from +9.2 the year before, supports what most observers sensed instinctively during the season:  Portland had nobody behind Miller who could do his job.  The Blazers tried Armon Johnson, Patty Mills, Brandon Roy, Nicolas Batum, and Rudy Fernandez.  Sooner or later the offense buckled every time.  Towards the end of games Portland found some success with Miller-less lineups because of added defense or particular plays on offense, but minute-for-minute, possession-for-possession nobody even came close to keeping the offense on track like Miller did.  9.6 of that net 10.8 point gain came on the offensive end.  That's huge.  Not even Aldridge equaled that number.

Miller still has drawbacks.  He's not a good defender, though Portland's younger, quicker, longer wings gave the team the luxury of better disguising Miller on the defensive end this year.  He's not going to pull the defense out with his jump shot and opposing defenses may not be that concerned with any scoring he does.  He's not getting younger.  His game is not going to evolve much more.  His intensity sometimes wanes.  He's not a three-year solution for this team, let alone the semi-mythical Point Guard of the Future.  But the future ain't here yet and right now Miller's shortcomings pale in comparison to what he's been able to give this team with some slight adjustments to his style of play.  Having little alternative short of a trade for a bona fide starting point guard (a difficult maneuver to pull off in this day and age) the Blazers and their fans have little recourse but to applaud unabashedly the difference Miller makes right now.  If you're stuck with somebody not quite ideal, Andre Miller ain't a bad guy to get stuck with.

As always, the Blazers will be looking to improve the squad and Miller's name is certainly on the list of available players. Given his age and contract status, he's certainly touchable in a trade sense.  He might be among the more likely Blazers to be traded in the coming year.   They just can't trade him without addressing the hole he'd leave in the course of that deal or in a parallel move.  Love him, appreciate him, but hold him lightly.

Season Grade:  A

Stock Market Recommendation:  Hold (unless you want to gamble on an investment with more upward mobility. Be aware, though, that you might have to drop your shares at a moment's notice.)

As always, share your own reflections about Andre Miller's season below.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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