Since the end of the season there’s been a lot of talk about who we need to aquire this summer in order to fill the astronomical craters that NSA satellites have spotted at our three and five positions. The debate that rages across PtR these days mostly revolves around if those are Linas Kleiza, Rasheed Wallace, Trevor Ariza, Tiago Splitter or Ian Mahinmi/unknown 2010 free-agent shaped holes denting the AT&T Center's pristine hardwood floor.
Personally, I think the best way for us to solve our problem at the five is to wait and see if one our Euro big men pans out as a running mate for Duncan. With the possible addition of Bouroussis things are looking up for the frontcourt.
However, even if all of our potential future bigs turn out to as good as an injury free Yao Ming the gaping chasm at the three position remains unaddressed. If this season has demonstrated anything it that we are weakest at the small forward position. Currently, when Finley is out on the floor there is absolutely no defense (and sometimes no offense as well) and Bowen, although a stellar defender, possesses an offensive repertoire which consists of shooting the open three and a Bonner-esque floater.
It’s probably a good idea to remind everyone that the three position is technically supposed to be the most versatile in basketball. A traditional small forward should have the ability to bully guards in the lane and on the block, pull his weight in rebounds and be quick enough to get around the big guys. In short he should be a matchup nightmare everywhere on the floor. Unfortunately, the players we have available right now are either so specialized and/or geriatric that opposing coaches have no problem adjusting to their presence on the court.
In order to address the one dimensional nature of our small forward line I have one player who in my eyes would make the perfect Spur, Mike Miller.
I have felt for a while that Miller is in part the missing link to building a new championship side. With Bowen and Finley most likely gone by the end of next season and no immediate candidates to take over the starting slot I think the time is right to put his name in for consideration as the next possible Spur.
The current incarnation of the Spurs offense relies a great deal on shooting the three-ball. In order to reliably get open looks from the great beyond there are two ways: drive in and collapse the defense (a la Tony Parker) or play inside out basketball (a la Orlando Magic). Despite the gorgeousness of his post moves, fabulousness of his bank shot and madness of his skills Tim Duncan is probably too old to bang around inside for 35 minutes a night. Considering that our potential future Euro-center’s are not exactly point scoring jackpots the Spurs will most likely need to depend on both the bigs drawing attention inside and Parker and Ginobili’s ability to drive in to create space for open shots.
This situation is exactly where Miller’s size, three-point shooting and above average dribble penetration will benefit us the most. Weighing in at 6-8 and 218 pounds M&M’s is capable of playing with both the big and small lineups. When the starting lineup of Duncan and Parker are in Miller can play in his natural three position, act as a secondary ball handler and score from the three point line. Averaging 6.6 rebounds a game and 4.5 assists per game in Minnesota, it is a good bet that he will both be able to corral the long rebounds and make the open pass when necessary.
With Ginobili and the second rotation in, Miller can continue to function on the court but instead play as a four. I am confident he is long enough to guard rubbish jump shooting power forwards like David West and with the added benefit of his decent rebounding and ability to run the floor he can grab the occasional board as well as keep up with Pop’s new fetish for micro ball lineups. Obviously it is unrealistic to expect him to play the entire night but the versatility of his game allows for Pop to use him in multiple situations. Beyond his statistically measurable functions there are some compelling reasons to why the Spurs should go after him.
Miller has always been a team player, low on attitude and high on character, a crucial quality of any potential Spur. He practices hard, has an excellent basketball IQ and knows his role on the team. Furthermore, he has had experience playing with a franchise power forward named Pau Gasol, I think, in Memphis and therefore knows how tailor his game to benefit the big fella. Judging by his move to Tennessee and subsequent trade to Minnesota the man also doesn’t seem to have any problems with playing for a small market franchise. Although this is just speculation and opinion I also feel like Miller might have the best range in the NBA making him good for the occasional clutch shot that Ginobili doesn’t want to take.
It’s unlikely that Miller will come at a price comparable to Kleiza’s but if history has taught us anything it’s that ‘Sheed and Ariza won’t come cheap either. Out of the three Kleiza seems to be the most likely to come to San Antonio. The Spurs organization has a great reputation among foreign players, which should play a large part in convincing him to move south. Plus after playing a season with annoying morons such as J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Chris Anderson he’s probably looking forward to having some less idiotic teammates. Despite his ability to randomly score a ton of points Kleiza would be a poor choice for a starting small forward. The Western Conference Finals definitely showcased his suspect defense and average rebounding, two things that should make the Spurs office hesitant. Going for a player with weaknesses in these two categories is a very un-Spurs like and may pose ramification in the future. Miller on the other hand is a strong defender and rebounder, with his versatility in the mix I feel like paying a bit more for his services could lead to healthy rewards in the future. With that said RC, go buy yourself a bag of M&M’s.