Nate McMillan was simply terrible with point guards. Now that his super slowed down offense and his confidence sapping rapport is out of town Trail Blazer point guards Raymond Felton, Johnny Flynn, and Nolan Smith have a much better opportunity to flourish. Nate had his strengths in Portland and as the Blazers Head Coach he clearly demonstrated that his knowledge of play-calling and the ability to get guys to execute was tremendous. The playbook that he used was clearly one of the best in the NBA as it proved to contain a multitude of outstanding pro-sets and unstoppable plays. Coach McMillan relied heavily on his own play-calling as the lions share of the Blazers offense as he preferred a slower pace and generally initiated the offense with myriad plays that would change just about every time down the floor.
Many NBA coaches cannot get their players to be patient and disciplined enough to execute a sophisticated offense that is designed to pick apart opposing defenses with intricate plays. The Hawks and 76'ers are perfect examples of teams that have players that refuse to conform to a sophisticated offense. They in fact play dumb. Younger guys tend to want to jack up shots early in the shot clock when they see their first open opportunity to score. It takes great coaching to get them to learn a more patient basketball game and McMillan was a genius at doing that. In fact he was too good. Nate was definitely a play calling guru but he did not understand how to induce a natural offensive flow that allowed his perimeter scorers to play with free and uninhibited chemistry.
Nate's fatal flaw was that he had an imbalanced offensive philosophy. He refused to allow his PG's to initiate the offense with a pick and roll and shoot early in the shot clock nor did he demand lead passes to create easy fast breaks. He was a coach that demanded a slow down game that used constant ball movement and player movement in the half-court and would shy away from 2-Man and isolation plays (the reason why Brandon Roy looked uncomfortable in the offense). After two full seasons as the Head Coach Nate McMillan's refused to allow his guys to play free and our Trail Blazers were buried as a perennial low scoring team.
Nate would usually only utilize pick and rolls to cap off plays late in the shot clock. He'd force his point guards to shoot in aggressive defensive situations while dribbling over a pick and roll while the shot clock was running down; thus creating an unnecessary amount of pressure for his PG's. Almost every other team in the NBA allows their PG's to initiate with a pick and rolls early and often. By the eyeball test a good percentage of NBA PG shots come within the first 14 seconds of the shot clock off a pick and roll.
Nate's crummy offensive philosophy was murder on the point guard position. Raymond Felton is a 7 year veteran and was brought into Portland to run the point after averaging 17 points and 9 assists with the Knicks the year before. Like all of Nate's PG's he sorely underperformed and he ended up having the worst season of his career. The exact same thing happened to the former all-star PG Andre Miller when he came to Portland as a free agent.
When Andre arrived Coach McMillan made a bone headed decision to start Steve Blake over Miller and split time heavily between the two when it was clear to every person who had followed the NBA that Andre Miller was and always had been a much higher caliber of player than Steve Blake. Eventually Andre confronted McMillan on the situation and got his much deserved starting spot but he too had the worst season of his 13 year career in Portland before leaving. Jarret Jack is another PG who simply played at a higher level under a head coach other than Nate McMillan. In fact Jarrett had the worst season of his career in Portland and immediately showed improvement the next year after leaving for the Indiana Pacers.
Portland is at the beginning of a new era and they need to properly evaluate what got them into this position. If Nate had a history of under utilizing point guards that blossom on other teams then perhaps the PG's on our current roster have more value then what we have seen from them. When our new coach comes in I will not be surprised to see him start one of our current PG's next season because he may see their intrinsic value where McMillan couldn't.