Name: Brad Miller
Birth Date: April 12, 1976 (33 years old)
Birth Place: Fort Wayne, IN
Nicknames: B-52, Bad News Brad, Cornrows, BM
Experience: 11 seasons
Previous Team: Sacramento (2003-09)
Contract: $12.3 million in 2009-10
Expect: Outside shooting
Don’t expect: Blazing speed
Let’s get a couple things straight: Brad Miller couldn’t outrun a bag of sand or jump over a nickle. But what Miller lacks in athleticism — and he lacks a lot — he more than makes up for in skill and veteran savvy. He’s by far one of the best outside shooting big men in the NBA, mostly from midrange although he can and will spot up for the occasional three-pointer. (In fact, Miller hit 41 percent of his threes in 2008-09 — 46.5 percent with the Kings but only 23.1 percent after he was traded to Chicago.). Miller’s jumper is so accurate (and feared by his opponents) that he’s often able to head-fake his defender into the air and drive (slowly but effectively) to the hoop. He’s not a great finisher due to his lack of power and leaping ability, but he’s good at initiating contact and drawing fouls around the rim. Miller earned 4.3 free throw attempts per game after coming to the Bulls in February. That was the third-best average on the team behind Ben Gordon (4.7) and John Salmons (4.4). And Miller is an 80 percent career foul shooter, so you want him going to the line.
Miller is also one of the best passing centers in the league. His assist numbers aren’t what they were during his heydey in Sacramento (which is partly due to his declining minutes and the fact that he’s no longer as integral to his team’s offense), but he’s great at hitting cutters and spot-up shooters from the high post. Miller doesn’t have the foot speed to get out on the fast break, but he’s ideal for halfcourt situations that call for bone-jarring screens and pick-and-pops. (Note that 92 percent of Miller’s jump shots were assisted during his 27 games in Chicago last season, so the Bulls obviously love to use him in pick-and-pops and spot-ups.)
It’s not all violins and roses on offense, though. Miller has no post game to speak of (which has become the standard for big men in Chicago ever since Elton Brand was traded away). For the most part, his scoring opportunities are created by teammates or laziness/mistakes by his defender…so don’t look for him to invent offense. Miller also got into the habit of forcing passes last season, especially during the playoffs, which led to painful (and often needless) turnovers. And because he spends so much time on the perimeter, Miller can’t be counted on to grab many offensive rebounds.
Miller’s defense is best described as “limited.” Again, this can be explained by his lack of athleticism. He can’t jump and has very little lateral quickness (or any other kind of quickness for that matter). Miller can bang with opposing centers on occasion, but the powerful, athletic bigs usually overpower him. Meanwhile, the quicker centers can get by and/or around him almost at will. He’s not particularly adept in help situations either, and he can be abused in screen-roll situations. Miller is a solid defensive rebounder…so he has that going for him. Oh, and he’s more than willing to commit hard fouls when he gets beaten or blown by on defense.
Miller has never played a full 82 games. Because he’s not a great athlete and hasn’t always worked hard to stay in shape, Miller has had the tendency to suffer injuries that cause him to miss time and/or inhibit his play. He also has a bad habit of arguing with officials and picking up needless technicals. Miller used to have a reputation for thuggery. Although that hasn’t been much of a problem in the last few seasons, he can probably be counted on for a handful of flagrants and maybe one controversial foul per season.
Believe it or not, Miller’s $12.3 million salary will make him the highest paid Bulls player this season (Luol Deng is second at $10.4 million). However, his contract expires next summer. This likely will make him trade bait during the season, since many teams will want to cut payroll heading into the Summer of 2010. This also makes Miller a candidate for the Contract Year Phenomenon, since his next contract could very well be his last.
Pervis Ellison, Michael Olowokandi, Kwame Brown. Those are three centers who were chosen number one overall in the NBA Draft…and all three of them were all-time busts. By contrast, Miller went undrafted and yet has had an solid 11-year career. And remember, he was an All-Star in 2002-03 (with the Pacers) and 2003-04 (with the Kings). This is a testament to both his skill set and his basketball IQ.
Assuming Joakim Noah continues to start, Miller will be perhaps the best backup center in the NBA this season. He’s a smart player who doesn’t make many mistakes. Miller led the Bulls in Player Efficiency Rating last season (18.6). He can’t be counted on for inside scoring or defense, but he can shoot, pass and rebound. Miller isn’t a leader, but he can make teams better with his versatile offensive game.
This is mostly stuff from his Sacramento days. Hopefully he’ll have a few more Bulls highlights after this season.