Emerging Talents: Brandon Miller and the Rookie of the Year Race

The Rookie of the Year race is dominated by two historic bigs, but there’s plenty of talent behind them too. Over the last few months, Brandon Miller in particular has developed splendidly in the shadow of Wemby and Chet. How good can the No. 2 pick be?

by Ole Frerks

It hasn’t been a good year for the Hornets. And yes, the history of this franchise is so impressive that this sentence would have been appropriate in almost every year of its existence – Charlotte last won a playoff series in 2002. During Michael Jordan’s entire 13-year tenure as team owner, the playoffs were reached twice (most recently in 2016). It REALLY hasn’t been a good year for the Hornets.

This season, the first without MJ, there will be no playoffs again. Since the trade deadline, the Hornets have experienced an unexpected revival and have won five of the last seven games, but they still only have 15 wins overall. Franchise Designated Player LaMelo Ball has only played 22 games due to ongoing ankle problems.

Things are going suboptimally again – and yet there are reasons for hope, one in particular. The decision to draft Brandon Miller and not Scoot Henderson at position 2 has aged well so far, even if the franchise was criticized for it in many quarters. The swingman is finding his way around better and better and is the main reason why a bit of hope is emerging again.

Miller has been increasing his output for months, February is now clearly his best month so far (20.5 PPG, 57 percent true shooting), even if he returned from the All-Star Break a little cooled down. However, it’s about more than the scoring numbers with Miller – he impacts the game in many ways, unusually positive for such a young player. This fact in particular makes it so interesting.

the essentials in brief

There are ten players who have had at least 600 possessions for the Hornets this season (Gordon Hayward, PJ Washington and Terry Rozier were among them, but are no longer there). Among these players, only Hayward had better on/off splits than Miller (+4.8) – the Hornets aren’t good with him on the court either, but are undoubtedly better than without him.

This is primarily because his most important skill on offense is one that every team needs: Miller is an excellent thrower, especially on the move. His movement is incredibly fast and precise; he hardly needs any space to get rid of the throw.

He is one of the most dangerous shooters on handoff plays (an excellent 1.18 PPP) and hits a total of 38 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes, which only seven players in the league surpass on at least five attempts per game. The Hornets are not blessed with good passers, so this value could look even better in a different context.

That ability alone makes Miller a player who makes offenses better with his mere presence – he doesn’t necessarily have to touch the ball to make an impact. It’s not uncommon for him to watch in one corner while the action takes place completely on the other side – he can’t be helped out under any circumstances.

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How much creation is there?

However, strong off-ball play is only one component of his game. Miller’s share of the game has been increasing for months and you can now see him creating things from the dribble very regularly. He has an effective pull-up jumper from mid-range and is currently hitting 47 percent of his long twos.

His length, athleticism and ball handling allow him to get rid of the throw even against reasonable contests. Sometimes Miller relies a little too much on this finish, but he doesn’t play with tunnel vision and sometimes shows good passes, especially from the pick’n’roll to the rolling big (such as Nick Richards).

Miller is not a player who constantly gives all his teammates easy finishes, but this role should be taken over again in the future anyway. The fact that the rookie doesn’t stand out as a ball stopper, but is willing to move the ball forward, will be particularly valuable if the team around him looks a little better.

The large construction site called Drive

As far as Miller himself is concerned, there is a really big construction site. His driving game scared off many experts back in college and is still a problem at the next level: Miller is shy of contact, hardly makes any free throws (2.2 per game) and is not a good finisher. He only takes a fifth of his shots at the ring and doesn’t hit 60 percent there, weak for such a good athlete. Only 48 percent of his layup attempts end up in the basket.

It’s relatively easy to see why this is the case. Miller feels more comfortable breaking off the drive early and taking a jumper from the edge of the zone; If a ring protector is waiting at the basket, he regularly bends his body to avoid it instead of going “through” the defender with full conviction. He lacks the strength and perhaps the ultimate explosiveness to match it.

As of now, he still lacks the appropriate footwork, for example a reliable Eurostep, to regularly compensate for these deficits (he can at least slow down well). The work in these areas in particular will ultimately determine how good Miller can actually become as an offensive player – whether he will be more of a complementary piece or a fixed point.

A good start

The good news is: Every team (also) needs good complementary pieces – and Miller can definitely be one of them. In addition to the already promising offense, he also has strong defensive skills and invests a lot of energy at the back – the Hornets’ youngest player has been complaining to his teammates all season long if they don’t run backwards in transition (which happens often).How I said at the beginning: They weren’t good years for the Hornets. However, with Miller they have drafted a player who can hopefully change things sooner or later.

This is more important than it sounds; Charlotte has consistently ranked in the bottom third of the season since 18/19 when it comes to defense. In the current season, only two teams are worse at the back. That will only change when more of their players like Miller focus on it (recently things have been looking up a bit – also thanks to new additions like Grant Williams).

As I said at the beginning: These were not good years for the Hornets. However, with Miller they have drafted a player who can hopefully change things sooner or later.

February rookie ranking:

  • 1. Victor Wembanyama – 20.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 3.3 blocks per game – 46.6 percent from the field, 31.7 percent three-pointers (53 games) (last column)

Alien that poses a daily threat to a 5×5 game and puts up a season-long statline that no one has achieved since Shaquille O’Neal’s MVP season. Straight on the way to becoming the best defender in the NBA.

  • 2. Chet Holmgren – 17.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.7 blocks per game – 54.2 percent from the field, 40.1 percent three-pointers (58 games)

Defensive anchor of a top-five defense who has left his mini-slump offensively behind him and achieved almost 72 percent true shooting in February. Probably the clear rookie of the year in each of the last few years.

  • 3. Brandon Miller – 16.5 points, 4 rebounds, 2.4 assists – 43.9 percent from the field, 37.6 percent three-pointers (52 games)
  • 4. Brandin Podziemski – 9.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists per game – 45.5 percent from the field, 37.4 percent three-pointers (51 games) (for analysis)

Incredibly smart all-rounder (and strong rebounder) who pushed two Hall of Famers (Chris Paul and Klay Thompson) out of the starting five in Golden State.

  • 5. Jaime Jaquez Jr. – 12.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists – 49.4 percent from the field, 32 percent three-pointers (52 games)

Strong all-rounder who already seems almost indispensable for the Heat. He’s been struggling with injuries lately, which has put a damper on his production.

  • 6. Dereck Lively II – 8.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.5 blocks per game – 74.3 percent from the field (41 games)

Strong rim runner who fills his (pretty simple) offensive role well and tries to keep things tight at the back. Unfortunately it’s a little too regular.

  • 7. Cason Wallace – 6.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists – 50.7 percent from the field, 41.6 percent from three (58 games)

His offensive role is small, but the share of the game could become larger in the playoffs – because: Wallace makes virtually no mistakes, is a strong defender, and hits incredibly confidently from outside. You would already see a lot more of him on other teams.

  • 8. Keyonte George – 11.7 points, 4.4 assists, 2.8 rebounds per game – 38.9 percent from the field, 34.9 percent three-pointers (53 games)

There are still ups and downs with George (a bit comparable to Scoot Henderson). Is thrown into the deep end by the Jazz and can confirm that with 33 points like against Golden State. Talented scorer and playmaker.

  • 9. Cam Whitmore – 12 points, 3.5 rebounds per game – 47.5 percent from the field, 38.3 percent from three (32 games)

Absolute scoring machine (over his last 10 games: 15 PPG in 19.5 MPG!) who isn’t interested in much else so far (0.5 assists), but at least has the tools to become a strong defender. And a scoring machine!

  • 10. Ausar Thompson – 8.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1 steal per game – 49.4 percent from the field, 17.2 percent three-pointers (58 games)

Great defender who is at least an acceptable throw away from being a really good player. Has become more of a focus again for the recently significantly improved Pistons (10.9 PPG in February).

2024-02-29 15:37:00
#Rookie #Month #Brandon #Miller #Hornets #hope

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