New Orleans Pelicans MLE Tournament: CJ Miles vs. Jordan Hill

Published: June 4, 2014

In today’s MLE Tournament, Cavaliers swingman CJ Miles goes head-to-head with Lakers big man Jordan Hill. Don’t forget to vote at the end, and for all the matchups so far, click here. 

CJ Miles (3 years for $8.5 million)

by: Michael McNamara

For me, this battle comes down to one simple question; What do the Pelicans need more: Another shooter or Another Power Forward?

Over the last two years, over 52% of the shots CJ Miles has attempted have come from behind the arc, and he has nailed 39% of them, including over 46% from the corner last year. He is decent at creating for himself and can finish around the basket, but I am not going to stretch the truth here for the sake of my argument, Miles is a shooter – nothing more, nothing less.

He is solid from the wings, but is deadly from the corners and straight away, which is perfect because Ryan Anderson prefers to launch from the wings. Imagine being a defense as Tyreke drives and you have AD at the rim with Jrue and Ryno on the wings and CJ Miles in the strong side corner. What are you going to do? Picking your poison there is like choosing Cyanide or Arsenic. And that is just in the half court. Where Miles really kills you is in transition, where he was one of the most deadly players in the entire league this year, scoring 1.3 points per possession according to Synergy, and shooting 54% from behind the arc.

To see how valuable his shooting can be, all you have to do is look at the Cavs numbers when he was on the court vs. off. The teams eFG% went way up, as its turnover percentage went way down and the offensive efficiency rating was noticeable (107.2 when he was on vs. 103.5 when he was off). Defense faired far worse too when he was off (allowed a rating of 108.6 when he was off vs. 105.5 when he was on), leading to an On-Off differential of +6.8, which was 2nd best on the Cavs this season, behind only Anderson Varejao.

Defensively, it is hard to gauge his effectiveness. The Cavs were an absolute mess on that side of the floor these last two years. But when it was just him isolated against a wing, he did pretty good – forcing the opposing player to shoot just 33%. You can see an example of his activity and smarts here, as he takes on future teammate Luol Deng one-on-one and forces a turnover off the drive.  He also rarely fouls, which is huge for this Pelicans team, and forces a decent amount of turnovers – especially in P&R situations and off screens because of his length.

While it seems like Miles has been in the league forever, he just turned 27 in April and has less than 10,000 minutes of wear and tear on his legs. Physically, he is just hitting his prime and you can see him maintaining his offense throughout this contract while improving his defense as this coaching staff puts a focus on it, and Anthony Davis is back there deterring teams from driving.

And let’s talk about that contract for a minute. We are looking at a deal averaging less than $3 million per year for one of those guys who can get crazy hot at any time and go off for 30, effectively winning a game here and there by himself. You see these games where he just gets red-hot and there is nothing you can do to stop him. In early January, he scored 34 points on just 18 shots, including 10-14 from behind the arc. The season before that, he posts back to back 28 point games, shooting 11-19 from behind the arc over those two contests. Then, he drops 33 at Brooklyn on 15 shots, including 8-10 from behind the arc.

Miles can change a game with his shot and even when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands, he opens up the court for others because you just can’t leave him. It is a skill set that this team can not have enough of as they build around Davis and their drive and kick philosophy. Just look at their model – the Spurs model that both Dell and Monty come from. Guards who can penetrate and kick it to shooters. One guy goes down or is in a cold stretch, and the next guy steps up. Can’t have enough shooters, and Miles is a great one to put next to this terrific core.

On the other side of the coin, you have Jordan Hill – a guy I have been a fan of for a while. But I am a fan of his game outside of how he fits for the Pelicans. Because the simple truth is that he doesn’t. Dell and Monty are specifically looking for a guy who can bang with big body centers for 20 minutes a night to take the pressure off of AD down in the low post. Hill is a guy who spent nearly all of this year defending power forwards, and when he did occassionally cover centers he just got abused. For example, in the second to last game against Memphis, he covered Randolph for most of the night and was solid. Look what happened the one and only time he got matched up against Gasol in the post.

Hill ranked 243rd in the league, giving up over a point a possession in the post. And again, most of those came against power forwards, not the centers Monty needs him to slow down. It’s no coincidence that when Hill was available at the deadline and the Lakers were begging teams to take his salary off their hands that the Pelicans didn’t bite, even though it would have meant getting his Bird Rights. Quite simply, he is not the guy they need and if Anderson and Davis were healthy, he would probably fill up the stat sheet with DNP’s because you know Monty is going to give those 20 minutes to a more conventional center like Ajinca or Withey, who by the way, would be making less than half the salary COMBINED than Hill based on the 2 yr/$8 million contract we have him at here.

The good thing about CJ’s salary and his skill set is that it allows you to spot start him this year if you need to, then go out and get a top tier SF in 2015 and bring him off the bench. Maybe you split the MLE this year between he and Richard Jefferson and let those two hold down the fort until you can go get Chandler Parson, Jeff Green, or Kawhi Leonard next summer. With Hill, you are just throwing another undersized big into the mix where we already have Davis, Anderson, Babbitt, Smith, Ajinca, and Withey. Does Hill really stand out above those last three or is he just another guy? I don’t mind adding to the front line, but it has to be with a guy who is clearly better than the guys we have now. Jordan Hill is not that guy.

Meanwhile, Miles is a shooter in a league where that skill set is getting more and more valuable. He is a guy who can start or can come off the bench, and when he gets hot, he can change a game. When he is cold, you sit him down and the next shooter steps up. That is how the wing position should be built next to Jrue and Tyreke, as they will continue to break down defenses and kick out. Bring back Morrow and Smith, add CJ Miles and maybe sign and trade Aminu for Jared Dudley. Tons of shooters and depth combined with a chance to have enough flexibility to get another big piece next season while still having a valuable rotation piece in Miles. To me, the choice in this matchup is clear:

CJ wins this one by a few Miles.

Jordan Hill (2 years for $8 million)

by: Mason Ginsberg

When reviewing the players within this bracket, the player who jumped out at me immediately when weighing his ability and position vs. his contract was Jordan Hill. Throughout his 5-year career, Hill has been consistently solid while splitting his minutes pretty evenly between the power forward and center positions (according to data from He posted above-average PERs in all but one of those seasons, including a career-best 19.3 PER (!) last season in 72 games played (in case you were wondering, that would have been the second best PER on the Pelicans last season, ahead of every single player not named Anthony Davis).

So let me get this straight – our writers believe Hill can be obtained on a 2-year, $8 million deal, which would give the Pelicans yet another offensive threat as well as an effective defender with an ideal skill set to put next to either Anthony Davis or Ryan Anderson? When deciding between Hill and a wing player – one who is just a mere inch taller than a better-shooting wing like Anthony Morrow – who is completely missing the “D” portion of the “3 & D” skill set that so many are coveting, there isn’t much of a discussion to be had.

Before getting to Jordan Hill’s solid offensive game, allow me to quickly dispel concerns over the one negative that people will likely instantly point to when arguing against Hill – his defense. I will openly concede the fact that his post defense has lots of room for improvement. That being said, the writer with whom I am debating today wrote a column about a month ago which specifically noted that the need for a “low post defender” is incredibly overblown. One sentence in particular makes my case for Hill’s defensive qualifications better than I ever could:

And if the Pelicans do target a big man in free agency or via trade, it should not simply be a big body who can defend the low post, but rather a big that can defend the pick and roll and who can rebound.

Guess what Jordan Hill’s biggest strength on defense was this past season? That’s right, defending the pick and roll. Per Synergy Sports, he only allowed 0.88 points per possession while defending the pick and roll, a mark that is well above-average. If you don’t believe me, take it from Drew Garrison, writer for the excellent Lakers blog “Silver Screen and Roll” on SB Nation. The entire second half of the column to which I just linked (titled Why Jordan Hill is best frontcourt defender on Lakers roster) discusses two topics: how effective Hill is when forced onto the ball-handler on pick and rolls, and his elite rebounding ability. So, basically – according to Mr. McNamara’s late April article – Jordan Hill is already looking like an ideal fit for this Pelicans team, and that’s BEFORE we go into his offensive ability (a major catalyst in his near-20 PER).

Because we’re limiting these tournament posts to about 800-1,000 words for each side, I’ll have to discuss Hill’s remarkable work on the boards in greater detail after he moves on to the next round. For now, I’ll leave you with this tidbit: he is one of only four NBA players to finish the 2013-14 season with a PER over 19 and a total rebound rate over 19%. The other three? Andre Drummond, DeMarcus Cousins, and Dwight Howard. Not bad company.

On the offensive side of the ball, Jordan Hill’s 32nd best PER is validated by the Synergy Sports data as well, which rates him as the 38th most efficient scorer in the league at 1.04 points per possession. He is top-75 in the league scoring in four different ways – posting up, as the roll man in the pick and roll, cutting to the rim, and following up offensive rebounds. Arguably even more importantly, he appears to know what he is best at, as these four types of plays made up over 80% of his total possessions for the season. Only 5.8% of his possessions came as a spot-up shooter, and while he ranked 120th in the league on this type of scoring play, that number lumps him in with guards and wing players as well, which makes you realize that he performed very well in this regard for a big man. Furthermore, he was able to score at this level while finishing in the top 10 among qualifying big men in percentage of made field goals that came unassisted (essentially meaning that he did the work himself).

Examining Hill’s offense by shot locations paints an encouraging picture as well.’s stats page shows that Hill attempted about 52% of his shots right at the rim, about 28% of his shots throughout the rest of the paint, and the remaining 20% from the mid-range area. He made 66.9% of his attempts at the rim (7% above the league average), 41.9% of his shots in the remainder of the painted area (1% above the league average), and 42.7% of his mid-range shots (2.6% above the league average). One might expect that a front court player like Hill would be a below-average shooter when compared against the entire NBA, but that is not the case. Not only is Jordan Hill one of the best finishers in the league, he also has to be respected out to mid-range, which makes a huge difference on offense (just ask Tyreke Evans how he enjoyed playing with Greg Stiemsma).

As for Miles, while he is a decent shooter, he just brings you nothing on defense. It is really that simple; why not just bring back Anthony Morrow instead of going after someone new and less talented from the perimeter offensively? Synergy Sports rated Miles as the 252nd best defender in the NBA this season, which essentially means that on an average team, he would be about the 9th best defender. No thanks. The next small forward that is added to this Pelicans team needs to be a guy who can not only knock down a 3, but also defend, as New Orleans has no one at present who can guard any of the league’s top wing scorers effectively.

I’ll leave you with this last thought: imagine the Pelicans’ defense with Jordan Hill and Anthony Davis as the team’s front court while  keeping in mind the qualities that I have just shared with you about Hill’s defensive ability. Remember the days when New Orleans would get absolutely torched while trying helplessly to defend pick and rolls? Not anymore. With two big men as agile as those two guys, opposing offenses are going to have a really hard time taking advantage of mismatches. And, of course, he can score a little bit, too.


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