This is part of an offseason series on various things of certain natures that each Blazer can work on during the summer to prepare for the 2010-2011 title push. This is strictly about on-court performance, so topics like trades and contracts are not discussed at length. Remember to click “Continue Reading” at the jump.
Moving into veteran territory now, there’s not a whole lot of mystery left with a 34 year old point guard now on his fifth team in the league. For Andre Miller’s career, he has a flat PER of 18, an assist rate of 35 percent and an effective field-goal percentage below 50 percent because he can’t make threes all with good decision making, a manageable turnover rate and heady defense despite physical limitation, especially against the screen-roll.
His numbers last year, despite a rough start, weren’t all that far off from those career marks, and that helped put him into the discussion for MVP of Portland’s season. No, he wasn’t Brandon Roy, but he’s crucial to the Blazers, and having consistent goodness and aggressiveness — as opposed to Steve Blakeness — helming Portland going into next season is a comforting thought.
Thing is, there are still a ton of unanswered questions with this team, largely stemming from the expected reappearance, and hopeful reemergence of Greg Oden. As well as Oden played in his 20 games last season, Portland’s offense never quite gelled, and no bankable rapport developed between him and LaMarcus Aldridge. Combine that with the fact that Nate McMillan was having fun with his easy bake oven, shoving Blake and Miller into the starting lineup and seeing what came out, and none of the time Miller spent with a healthy Oden was consistent in rotations, lineups or even offensive philosophy.
Clearly, for Portland to ascend the steps of contention, they will need the consistency that health provides, but it’s on Miller, co-keymaster of Portland’s offense, to build the machine. In the offseason and early months, he’ll have to perfect the pick-and-roll with Oden, keep Oden diving to the rim and finding takeoff space for alley-oops. He’ll have to direct Aldridge so that LaMarcus stays involved, and within 17 feet, of every offensive set. And above all, while everyone is figuring things out, he’ll have to keep all those important point-guard items — passing, timing, efficiency — consistent, just like him.
Yes, we could nitpick a few things here and there. Sometimes Miller needs a better sense of when it’s absolutely necessary to use that generous space allowed him by the defense for a jumper. Sometimes he’ll need to sacrifice his own herky-jerky, pump-faking scoring to earn Oden and Aldridge confidence-boosting buckets in the paint. Sometimes he’ll have to…no, he can keep yelling at the coach a couple times a year, that seemed to work out well enough. But mainly, there’s not enough changeable about Andre to warrant a bullet-pointed list like all the other young guys got. He’ll need to adapt, some, but the evolution of those around him is the bear (sic) necessity.
So who do we recommend for Miller’s summer reading? With Oden, Miller should have his most offensively potent center ever, with apologies to Marcus Camby in Denver. So, with Miller’s all-history lob-tossing, it makes sense to study someone else who makes use of an athletic center, someone like Jameer Nelson. Or you could go back to PG-C combos in the mid 90’s, like Greg Anthony with Patrick Ewing, Kenny Smith with Hakeem Olaujuwon or even Derek Fisher, coming into the league as a rookie with a freshly-signed Shaq.
I almost settled on an aged Avery Johnson, who made the twin-towers work with Tim Duncan and David Robinson, providing his own scoring balance. In fact, I was so close to going with Avery, that I’m just going to give you video of him anyways, and also because Game 4 of the 1999 Finals is fully uploaded:
But the man we’re going with for Miller to focus on this summer is Dennis Johnson, with whom Miller shares little athletically other than a kindred disability to hit threes. D.J. had all the tools in the world in front of him and he made the offense purr to a historical tune. He, along with the other Boston greats, encouraged a constant fluidity, movement of bodies, movement of space and most importantly, movement of the leather. And with everything running smoothly under his eye, he did whatever else the win required. That’s a lofty standard for Miller, and for a starting lineup that will have played very little together, but winning is the sport of idealism, and if Miller can take three parts D.J., two parts Avery Johnson and one part a little mix of the aforementioned guards, that approaching, and exceeding, an ideal.