In what was obviously the biggest basketball story of Saturday night (ahem), the Spurs are reportedly on the verge of signing guard Andre Miller pending a physical. The veteran was bought out recently by the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Shams Charania of The Vertical had the initial scoop.
Then Woj filled in the blanks with the expected counter-move, with the Spurs reportedly waiving this third point guard to make room for that.
Andre Miller has committed to signing with the San Antonio Spurs. @ShamsCharania on @TheVertical. https://t.co/LgVwJP0gpD— The Vertical (@TheVertical) February 27, 2016
The Spurs will waive guard Ray McCallum to create roster spot for Andre Miller, league sources tell @TheVertical.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 28, 2016
Labeling Miller as a "veteran" doesn't quit do him justice. He's literally older than Tim Duncan. He's going to turn 40 on March 19. He was teammates at the University of Utah with Keith Van Horn and Michael Doleac. Miller's played in 1,272 NBA games for eight different teams and only 63 of them have been in the postseason, none past the second round. A starter for the majority of his career, Miller has career averages of 12.6 points and 6.6 assists, along with a solid 46.0 field goal percentage. His Achilles Heel has always been the three-point line, where he's a lackluster 21.7 percent career shooter, though he's been wise enough to attempt fewer than one per night on average.
Miller is a savvy passer and had a crafty post-up game once upon a time. He used to be a good-not-great defender, but those days are well past him, especially against people of note. He's always found a home in the league thanks to his professionalism and basketball I.Q. (his nickname is "The Professor"), and for a while he was regarded as the best player in the history of the NBA --career 17.5 PER-- to never make an All-Star team. At this point I think Mike Conley probably deserves that dubious honor.
We're all curious why the Spurs would be interested in his services. Miller's shot it well this season (62.1 percent), but in an extremely small sample size of 280 minutes. For a reference point, that's just 26 more minutes than Ray McCallum's played for San Antonio, and how many vivid memories do you have of him doing anything, good or bad?
It's true that Patty Mills has been on an uptick of late, and Gregg Popovich has been using the tandem of Tony Parker and Mills together more with Manu Ginobili out and Jonathon Simmons struggling. As J. Gomez speculated, there are some match-ups out there where playing the two point guards together might work, and if that scenario results in needing some spot minutes for a third point guard, it's certainly understandable that PATFO would feel more comfortable with a cool, experienced head than a relative novice in McCallum. They're already going to be giving rotation minutes to one or two youngsters in Simmons and Kyle Anderson, and one supposes that three's a crowd as far as Pop's willingness to give rope to greenhorns goes.
It's Miller's fit that's up for debate. He has no three-point shot and he's never been much of a catch-and-shoot player. You wonder how he can play with someone like Ginobili. Would he stay as the point guard and have Ginobili play off the ball? That seems sub-optimal. Or what about if Pop elects to give Parker a night off for whatever reason and has Miller start so that Mills' role is unchanged. Then you're putting a guy who's not a threat from outside in the starting lineup and messing up the spacing further for Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and the rest. In my mind the Spurs need more shooters, not less, so anyone who doesn't scare opponents from deep, especially a graybeard non-athlete like Miller, seems like a downgrade on principle. That being said, Miller knows how to play, he knows his strengths and weaknesses, and he'll figure out how to get guys shots in no time. It shouldn't take him much time to adjust at all, and like David West, I'm sure he'll find going to a serious, mature, focused team refreshing.
To me this move says less about Miller and more about McCallum. Sure, he's hardly played at all, and his opportunities have been sporadic, but he hasn't impressed at all in what few chances he's gotten. The former King hasn't shot it well from two or three, he didn't show much play-making chops, and his defense hasn't been as good as advertised. His advanced numbers were good in the three games he started in Parker's stead, but it sure seemed like PATFO found those performances lacking. They started Mills two of the past three games Parker missed, and that was something they clearly prefer not to do. The Wee Frenchman missed 28 games combined the past two seasons, and Mills started twice in 2013-14 and never last year.
I haven't heard anything behind the scenes at all negative or critical in any way about McCallum, not even a rumor or gossip. He hasn't complained about all the time he was asked to spend in Austin playing in the D-League that I know of and always seemed supportive of his teammates on the bench as far as I've noticed. I've never gotten the sense that he's groused or agitated for minutes or anything along those lines. It's just bizarre, for a player R.C. Buford was so high on when the Spurs signed him, to fall out of favor so quickly and to not really even get much of a concrete chance with the franchise. Who knows if he was having problems picking up the offense or struggling too much in practice for the team's liking. The Spurs are notorious for keeping things like that hush-hush, but maybe Buck Harvey or Woj will unearth something in the coming days or weeks.
For what it's worth, he didn't exactly set the D-League on fire in his time there and generally even fringe NBA guys dominate at that level, at least the ones serious about making it back to the big club.
Whatever the reason was for McCallum not working out in San Antonio, we'll get over it.. No one bats a thousand, not even Buford. Simmons and Boban Marjanovic have exceeded expectations so even setting aside the Aldridge signing, Buford's had a solid year finding talent for the periphery of the roster with those two plus Rasual Butler.
Just imagine how hilarious it'll be when Miller shuts down Steph Curry in the conference finals.