How does Andre Miller fit with the Wolves?


Before Thursday, Andre Miller hadn’t really been mentioned as a possible free agent signing for the Wolves. By the end of the business day, however, that had changed in a hurry.

Miller signed with the Wolves on Thursday, catching Wolves fans (and bloggers) completely off-guard. With a couple of days to digest the move, it’s time to break it down with a bit more precision.

The premise of the Miller signing was simple: Flip Saunders wanted a veteran backup point guard, and rookie first-round draft pick Tyus Jones and third-year journeyman Lorenzo Brown didn’t fit that job description. While Saunders had publicly waffled on the idea of adding another point guard to the roster after drafting Jones, his tune changed once again after Las Vegas Summer League.

While Lorenzo Brown has shown the ability to be a competent backup point guard both through his play in the regular season last year and heavy minutes in Summer League this July, Saunders apparently remained unconvinced that Brown is indeed the best fit to be Ricky Rubio‘s primary backup moving into training camp in the fall.

That said, the Wolves will be keeping Brown around as long as possible in fall as insurance. He knows the system, of course, and has earned the opportunity to compete for an NBA roster.

But we all knows that Saunders loves his veteran mentors, and Kevin Garnett and Kevin Martin were the only players on the roster north of 30 years of age before the Miller acquisition.

Ultimately, the Wolves didn’t need to add another point guard. Rubio, Brown, Jones, and Zach LaVine (in a pinch) were enough. But Saunders believes in the value of players like Garnett and Miller, and no doubt has some designs on pushing for a .500 record and a (long) shot at a playoff berth, meaning that adding a veteran point guard made some sense.

Many of the veterans on the free agent market wouldn’t have been much of an upgrade, and I feel confident in saying that Miller was the only realistic point guard option out there that would be an improvement on simply standing pat with Brown and others. Let’s take a look at why Andre Miller is a solid fit with the Wolves roster.

In a piece that I wrote while the Miller signing was being completed but before anyone had really caught on that it would be done in a matter of hours, I stated the following:

"Let’s start with the harsh realities, and there certainly are a few. Miller is 39 years old and will turn 40 before the end of the 2015-16 regular season. He’s also shown clear signs of declining play over the past three seasons, which were split between Denver, Washington, and Sacramento. Miller has never been a three-point shooter, converting just 21.7% of his long-range attempts in his career and shooting only 6.8% of his field goals from beyond the arc, although that number rose to 11.8% over the past four seasons.On the other hand, he has a career assist rate of 34.8% and knocks down free throws at 80.7%. He has an extremely low usage rate, which would work much better next to Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad than, say, Mo Williams did last year.Miller is also absurdly durable. Over his 16-year career, Miller has played in 80 or more games 15 times (2013-14 being the exception, when he missed 24 games) and every single game on the schedule ten times."

That’s the quick, dirty summary of Miller’s shortcomings as well as the value he’ll bring to the Wolves. Not mentioned above is his defense, which has always been poor but is approaching Kevin Martin-levels of horribleness. The biggest issue with Miller’s addition is that he’ll almost certainly play heavy minutes alongside Zach LaVine, who was an atrocious defender as a rookie.

The rest of that bench unit will probably include other minus-to-average defenders like Shabazz Muhammad, Adreian Payne, Nemanja Bjelica, and Gorgui Dieng or Nikola Pekovic, so Miller only exacerbates the weakness. But despite being a solid defender in his own right, how much would Lorenzo Brown really move the needle as the best defender on an already-poor defensive unit?

Now that we’ve established the negative aspect of the acquisition, let’s take a look at one of Miller’s better games with the Sacramento Kings in the second part of the 2014-15 season.

Ignore the jumpers for a moment and concentrate on the three or four head-manning passes in transition. Imagine Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad on the wings receiving those passes. Maybe it’ll be Andrew Wiggins and Kevin Martin at times.

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Now, check out the two lobs that were converted by the Kings in the above video. Imagine Karl-Anthony Towns and even Adreian Payne and Gorgui Dieng catching those lobs over the opposition’s unsuspecting big men.

Lastly, pay attention to the two buckets that Miller converted out of the post. While scoring in the post is far from the most efficient way to put points on the board, having a second-unit point guard that is not only capable but also comfortable with operating from that spot on the floor is a perfect fit for this year’s Wolves.

Think about it. Both Muhammad and Miller prefer to play in the post. That means that whether they play alongside Wiggins or more likely LaVine, the oppositions biggest guard and biggest wing will be forced to respect the tandem of Muhammad and Miller down low, leaving LaVine plenty of space and in most cases a much smaller defender to beat on the perimeter.

Miller’s creativity, passing ability, and post game are all welcome additions to the Wolves back court. Throw in any kind of mentoring/coaching-on-the-floor that he can provide regardless of how intangible it might be, and this signing makes a ton of sense for the Wolves.

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