The Trail Blazers’ 50-year anniversary season is temporarily on pause as the NBA goes on hiatus to slow the spread of COVID-19. During that break, Blazer’s Edge is counting down the top 100 Blazers: players, executives, and other influencers who made the franchise what it is today.
No. 43 | Andre Miller
Games Played with Blazers: 163 Regular Season, 12 Postseason
*PTS: 13.3 | AST: 6.2 | FG%: 45.2 | FT%: 83.5
*Statistics are pulled from a player’s time in Portland
Joined Club: July 2009, signed as free agent
Departed Club: June 2011, traded with Rudy Fernandez, Petteri Koponen, and picks in a multi-team deal that brought the Blazers Raymond Felton (and others)
Place in History: Andre Miller’s tenure with the Portland Trail Blazers wasn’t spectacular. He produced respectable, near-career averages in points, rebounds, and shooting percentage. He had done better in Cleveland and Philadelphia before he arrived. He would do worse in Denver and a host of other stops after he departed. But let’s get real: Miller didn’t play in the NBA from the age of 23 to the age of 39, topping 80 games in all but three of those 17 seasons, by being average. He was an archetype, a dying breed, the kind of classic point guard that the Blazers would not see again after his departure.
Andre Miller did not shoot threes. He might have been an all-world player had the NBA abolished the three-point line. Back in the 70’s, when motion basketball reigned, he would have been considered a wizard.
Andre Miller did not score much at all compared to current point guards, or even his contemporaries. He averaged a gaudy 16.5 points with the Cavaliers in his third NBA season, taking (gasp!) 12.9 shots per game. Allen Iverson would average that many attempts in a quarter.
Andre Miller’s job wasn’t to light up the scoreboard. Instead he was the roundball equivalent of the Soviet Russia joke: basketball did not exist to make Andre Miller look good, Andre Miller existed to make basketball look good.
He did this by stubbornly sticking to his pure PG roots even as the world was changing around him. If he was open, he shot. If he was defended, he was going to move. You were going to move too. Somewhere in all that motion he would find the perfect angle for a pass. What happened after that was up to you, but don’t say Miller never got you the ball. Whether it was off the pick and roll, drive and dish, or just feeding you in the post, Miller was Amazon Prime: one-click, two second delivery, right on your front porch, every time.
If anybody thought they were going to interrupt the process, Miller had a few tricks up his sleeve. He could get to the cup if you overplayed. He could finish through contact and hit free throws with the best of them. Along with supernatural passing ability, that was a big enough bag of tricks to keep defenders guessing for the better part of two decades.
Miller’s game wasn’t explosive. He was a machine. Analyze, dissect, make something good happen. Lather, rinse, repeat until the game is won.
The Blazers brought in Miller during the Summer of 2009 when it became apparent that their cast of point guards—including Steve Blake, Jerryd Bayless, and Sergio Rodriguez—wasn’t going to get them over the top. If they couldn’t develop a starter in-house, why not get the guy who set the original pattern? It seemed like a match made in heaven, as Miller would have Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden, Nicolas Batum, Travis Outlaw, Rudy Fernandez, and Juwan Howard to choose from as targets of his passing prowess.
Reality was more prosaic. Most of the players listed above operated somewhere in the middle of the court, clogging up Miller’s space. Roy liked to have the ball in his hands, as did Aldridge and Outlaw. Working off of Miller usually led to success. Working instead of Miller didn’t.
Worse, Oden and Roy were battling injuries that would soon end both of their careers. Veteran leadership from Miller and Howard was supposed to be frosting on the cake. It wasn’t a suitable substitute for a real main course.
When it worked, though, it really worked. Miller had near-instant chemistry with Oden. The towering center worked best without the ball, as a thunderous finisher. Miller saw somebody he could feed incessantly. Had Oden remained healthy, Miller’s utility would have skyrocketed.
Miller also prospered in the playoffs, where he averaged 15 points and 6 assists playing 34 minutes per game, shooting 45% from the field and 42% (!!!) from the three-point arc. Yes, he took 17 threes in a dozen post-season games with the Blazers. He only attempted 27 total in his 2005-06 season with Denver. Wonders never cease.
Then you have famous veteran plays like faking the timeout against the New Orleans Hornets:
Tough-guy plays like flattening Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin in the lane:
And all the alley-oops, a skill he had in spades which helped propel him to (currently) 11th on the NBA all-time assist leaders chart:
But NOTHING will beat the game on January 30th, 2010, when Miller scored 52 points against the Dallas Mavericks, . This was like Squidward grabbing the spatula from Spongebob, turning on Tiny Tim, and making ALL the Krabby Patties. And yes, it was absolutely delicious.
Even though the stay wasn’t all that it was originally envisioned to be, the beautiful passes, long career, and 52 points make Miller more than worthy of the 43rd spot on the Trail Blazers Top 100 players and influencers list.
Share your memories of Andre below and stick with us as we continue towards #1!