Didn’t You Know? Andre Miller Is Underrated

Trail Blazers are flaming out right and left, and with Brandon Roy slowed for an undetermined amount of the year, it’s once again time for us to loudly declare that Andre Miller is underrated.

To comprehend why Miller’s stock seems to fluctuate wildly within each season, consider the odd mix of talent and shortcomings that have obliged Andre Miller to scuttle under the radar for so long. For one thing, he can’t jump, which is, you know, the best way to tell if a player is any good. Also he can’t shoot from further than 15 feet away and boasts a career Three Point FG% of 20.7, or 4% worse than Rajon Rondo’s career average. Last year, according to Hoopdata.com, the only place on the court  from which Miller shot better than 50% was “at the rim” (60%). Yet he’s probably the only guard with these limitations to put up for 50+ (last year against Dallas) in the modern era. He’s also led the NBA in Assists and ranks as one of the best pure point guards of the 2000s. Does this mean he’s good? It can be difficult to process these conflicting inputs when it is our sports fan instinct to define through dichotomy: good / bad, tough / soft, win / lose.

Just keep in mind that Miller has made every team he’s ever played on (a total of 5) better.

Image by Anthony Bain

Miller is famous for his “old man game,” which is really a seminar in body position, strength, and patience. Dre also has some of the broadest shoulders at his position, allowing him to extend away from the defense for clean layups off his herky-jerky charges to the hoop, not unlike Tyreke Evans or Gilbert Arenas. And against Memphis last Tuesday, Miller abused Mike Conley in the post for a couple of clutch buckets, backing him under the hoop in a drab display of power and balance before dropping in another yawnfest of a bucket. OK, you get the point, he’s not particularly exciting to watch—but note the result: a high percentage shot (with virtually no chance of turnover) that he converted for two points.

Plus, because he’s so effective around the rim, the Trail Blazers can invert their offense the same way they do with Roy, put Miller in the post, and run efficient offense through him.

Yet he’s also the guy who’s never bothered to increase his perimeter shooting percentages and has an offseason regimen that rivals Vlade Divac’s rigorous diet of hot tubbing and cigarettes.  Then again, he’s the only Blazer currently in the top 40 in the league in PER, and hasn’t skipped a game in nearly eight seasons. His contradictions resist classification.

In part because Miller does some things very well but is brilliant in no facet of the game, and in part because he hucks a gross, flat, wounded duck of a jumpshot—he’s both superior and limited. Usually we focus on the limits at the expense of appreciating consistent production, until Miller is once again in a position to make plays for a contender. Then, somehow ever sneaking up on us, his paunchy torso becomes rugged; his direct attacking style seems deceptive. As the Blazers struggle to survive another injury-marred season, Portland fans are hoping Miller’s play once again convinces us that he’s underrated.

@BeckleyMason/Beckleym@gmail.com

@AnthonyBain/Bain.Anthony@gmail.com

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