After two years in New Orleans, Darius Miller remains exactly what he was when he came out of college. Excerpts from the scouting report prior to the draft:
- “shoots the three at a respectable rate”
- “can hit a mid-range shot off the dribble”
- “Has shown surprising ability to handle the ball”
- “Shows some passing skills”
Honestly, if I put together a list of his positive attributes I’ve seen so far, then that list would be about it. It’s not surprising he hasn’t changed much since he entered the NBA as a four year senior. Players of that age tend to come in with a more calcified skill set.
The good news about Darius is that the team actually did play better when he got minutes. The Pelicans outscored opponents by 1.1 points during his 16.1 minutes of play, which is pretty good on a team that was outscored by 2.7 points every 48 minutes. As we’ve noted before, the team has players that operate best when surrounded by shooters – and having a player who can shoot, drive a little and pass could really help free things up out there. The question, however, is how Miller produces when compared against average wings – particularly in those categories. Here are Miller’s per 48 averages compared to an average small forward or shooting guard in the NBA.
First off, the shooting numbers are important. If you simply looked at Miller’s raw percentages, you’d most likely be unimpressed by his 44% FG and 32.5% three-point percentages. However, his few extra points from threes and his decent free throw rate grants him decent numbers when it comes to shooting.
When he shoots.
And that’s the rub. All season long people (including Monty) have urged Darius Miller to shoot when he was open. And all season long he hasn’t. Miller posted a 12.3% usage rate. Among wings, that ties him for the 9th lowest rate in the league next to players like Quincy Acy, Gerald Wallace, Jae Crowder, and Thabo Sefolosha. Defensive specialists all. Only little used Steve Novak had a lower usage rate and was a guy asked to be a shooter. When you combined that with the fact that he’s a subpar rebounder, a low-yield passer, an average steals/blocks guy, you don’t see an impactful player.
Which makes you wonder how did he post a positive scoring differential on a team that was outscored on average by 2.7 points per 48 minutes?
Sometimes there is value in completing a deadly lineup. Every line-up but one that featured Darius with at least two players from this list – Morrow, Babbitt, Anderson, Anthony Davis, and Austin Rivers – outscored the opposition. (The one lineup that didn’t had the Steamer in it. Poor Stiemsma.) Since line-ups with Miller and two other shooters outnumber greatly line-ups that with fewer shooters, the reasons become apparent; Monty used Darius to roll out small shooting line-ups that attempted to outscore their opponents – and more often than not, did. Though he may not have contributed much to their production – he did contribute to making them hard to defend.
But what does all that mean? Should Miller, a free agent this summer, remain a Pelican?
I think the answer is really “meh.” The Pelicans can find players – particularly shooting specialists – that can match or exceed Miller’s shooting specialty and can’t help but shoot more often. The Pelicans can also find players who won’t be quite so terrible at rebounding, or could maybe offer more defensively. (By the way, I said he was a subpar rebounder earlier. I was kind. He had the 7th worst rebound rate in the league. Eric Gordon and Brian Roberts grabbed a higher percentage of rebounds than him.) Is the team looking for a fourth shooter to complete small line-ups of shooters and Miller is available on the cheap? Then they should consider him. That guy is the 13th or 14th guy anyways.
But if the team was looking for a player to be in a nine-man rotation and matter to their eventual success? That player isn’t Darius Miller.