Age is just a number according to Andre Miller.
After joining the Sacramento Kings on February 19 in a trade for Ramon Sessions, the 39-year-old point guard gave the second unit a much needed facelift. At times Miller’s legs felt weary, but the 16-year veteran proved he could still hold his own in the association.
Miller is an unrestricted free agent this summer, but he has expressed interest in playing another season in the NBA.
Head coach George Karl lobbied for a reunion with his floor leader from the Denver Nuggets because Miller understands his offense and is a student of the game. The oldest active NBA player served as a coach on the floor and mentored young starter Ray McCallum.
Miller’s dedication to the film room and expertise on opponents’ tendencies has helped soften the consequences of his fading athleticism. In 30 games with the Kings, the veteran averaged 5.7 points in 20.7 minutes a night, his most since the 2012-13 season. With a strong post-up game and a bevy of crossovers, Miller was able to take 53.4 percent of his field goal attempts within 10 feet of the hoop, which he converted at a 54.4 percent clip. He was also effective at shooting long twos, making 62.5 percent.
Of course, Miller’s bread and butter is the assist, and his passing and vision on the floor is as good as ever. His 34.9 assist percentage as a King would rank him 11th in the NBA this year. Miller’s 3.4 turnovers per 36 minutes was a three-year high, but the facilitator was tasked with a heavy burden of lifting the Sacramento bench. Miller was a large reason for Derrick Williams’ best stretch as a pro, as the ball handler found the wing for physics-defying alley oops and a total of 35 assisted baskets, more than double any other teammate.
If anything, Miller is reliable thanks to his health. With a little luck and conservative play, the veteran missed no games to injury with the Kings. He’s missed three games to injury his entire career.
Jason Kidd figured it out, but Miller could never develop a consistent 3-pointer. A career 21.7 percent shooter from downtown, the guard hit 23.1 percent in Sacramento. Miller launched 0.9 attempts per game, his most in three years, out of necessity for a club which was anemic from behind the arc. Regardless, he struggled to make wide open looks and the opposition was more than willing to sag off the veteran and clog the passing lanes.
Defense was another black eye for Miller. At 39, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder was arguably more effective than Steve Nash in his prime, yet there were moments when the veteran was flat-out embarrassed this season. Miller’s instinctive first step and positioning kept him valuable on the perimeter, but opponents shot 19 percent better when they drove on him to the rim. Miller’s defensive results were inflated since he faced backup guards, and in short stints he looked like a turnstile against starters. In his current condition, the journeyman can’t slide over to defend off-guards and without a defensive stopper behind him, Miller’s lack of lateral mobility was exposed.
Additionally, Miller’s sore legs made him a liability in back-to-backs. He averaged 16.1 minutes in back-to-backs with the Kings but shot only 40.5 percent from the floor and 11.1 percent from 3-point range. Miller coupled this with even shoddier defense.
Miller has gone on record to say he’d like to return for another season in Sacramento. The reality is not that easy, since the Kings are slated to roll with Darren Collison and McCallum at the one, leaving Miller with crumbs. Sacramento continues to dwell in the bottom of the Western Conference, so it might make more sense to him to sign with a contender and compete for a second-string role. The free agent could also hang it up, which a summer with family may persuade him to do.
The era of 50-point outbursts and daily double-doubles for Miller has long gone, but the NBA always spares room for smart point guards. Miller’s future rests in his own hands, which he rightfully deserves after 15 years of quality pro basketball.
Cowbell Kingdom would like your opinion. How do you grade Miller’s season?