Stats: In the 2013-2014 season Darius Miller played in 45 games including 7 starts. In 16.1 minutes per game he averaged 4.4 points, 1.2 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 0.2 blocks, and 0.5 steals.
Highlight: On March 26th against the Clippers, Miller was 7/9 from the field for 16 points and was a plus three in 28 minutes in a two point Pelicans’ victory.
The good: The Pelicans were 5.6 points per 100 possessions better on the defensive end of the floor when Miller was on the floor. Miller isn’t going to ever be a star but his niche is clearly as a defensive wing off the bench. Yes the Pelicans’ defense is bad but 5.6 points is a lot and could be a very good sign going forward.
The bad: 32.5% from three. Miller made it work as the Pelicans were not really any worse on offense with him on or off the floor (0.2 points per 100 possessions) but he continued the issue that Pelicans had with basically anyone they tossed out at small forward; he didn’t stretch the floor. If he could bring that percentage up he probably could have an extended career as a three-and-d guy of the bench. Without it, it remains to be seen.
The Ugly: 4.2 rebounding rate. Miller finished dead last out of any New Orleans’ player to see extended minutes this season in rebounding rate. For a small forward on a team that struggled to rebound at times that can’t happen.
The season got off to a rough start for Miller who missed the first 14 games of the season thanks to a stress fracture in his foot. Once he returned he fit almost right back into the role that he had as a rookie, to come into the game play hard and not hurt the Pelicans.
As it turned out that bench unit actually had some good defensive moments for New Orleans as two-man lineup combinations of Miller and Jeff Withey, Miller and Alexis Ajinca and Miller and Anthony Morrow all held opponents to field goal percentages of lower than 43 percent. Meanwhile the four man bench unit of Miller, Morrow, Withey and Austin Rivers held opponents to just 40.8 percent shooting from the field in 87 minutes over 15 games, a small but encouraging sample size.
Offensively Miller didn’t add much, he scored just 10 points per 36 minutes, but he also didn’t torpedo anything either despite an inability to stretch the floor. He did it by being effective in the mid-range, where he shot 50 percent on 26 shots from 15 to 19 feet, and by staying away from the ball for the most part, as he finished above only Jeff Withey in usage rate among players who played significant minutes.(Seriously it was so bad I couldn’t find any pictures of Miller with the ball in his hands. It actually seemed kind of fitting) The most encouraging part is clearly the mid-range shooting, as it gives some hope that Miller can eventually develop into a league average at least three-point shooter.
The only place that Miller really hurt the Pelicans was rebounding the ball. He was mostly part of units without Anthony Davis and those groupings almost always struggled with rebounding. It wasn’t all Miller’s fault but at 6-8 he should be rebounding better than point guards. Which he didn’t. While his foot injury may have sapped a bit of his leaping ability Miller didn’t really do much better as a rookie so it doesn’t seem like a reasonable excuse. Outside of three-point shooting this is the area Miller needs to improve most and do so quickly if he wants a continued role on a team that hopes to be playoff bound next season.
The Pelicans clearly found something when they drafted Miller in the second round in 2012 and this season does nothing to change that fact. He was solid and productive in his minutes and stayed within himself. In a season filled with bad, it was one of the few bright spots. If Miller adds a three pointer sometime soon it will be hard to say that he wasn’t another example of a second round steal.