NBA mock drafts started to change sometime around February. Scoot Henderson had a string of poor performances in the G-League, while Alabama’s star freshman was scoring like an elite NBA prospect. Up until then, it seemed like there was a clear top-two in Henderson and Victor Wembanyama. Now, Miller has a real shot to hear his name called after Wemby on draft night.
The 6-foot-9 guard averaged 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and shot 38% from three in his one and only season with the Crimson Tide. His dynamite play led Alabama to an SEC Championship and earned him NCAA Freshman of the Year honors before a groin injury disrupted what could have been a deep NCAA tournament run, as they lost to San Diego State in the Sweet 16. Miller struggled to score in the physical postseason games, hampered by injury.
However, it was off of the court actions that made most of the headlines for Miller. A police testimony in February alleged that Miller brought the gun used in the tragic murder of 23-year-old Jamea Jonae Harris. Miller’s attorney alleges that he never handled or saw the weapon. The Tuscaloosa chief deputy district attorney told the press that there is nothing they can charge Miller with.
Those off the court issues will loom large over Miller’s draft process. Teams will need to be diligent in vetting the young man if they are going to select him with a top-5 pick. We aren’t privy to those conversations, so all we can judge the guard on is his capabilities on the court. Let’s dive into what makes Miller a potential top draft selection.
Miller was an elite shooter at the college level. He shot 39% on catch and shoot jumpers, while scoring 1.19 points per catch and shoot possession — really strong metrics for a volume shooter. Miller has a quick, smooth and high release point for a big guard, making him hard to contest. He shot 35% on guarded jumpers, which is good for contested looks. You can look at all of the shooting statistics, and they will paint the picture of someone who scorched the nets at the college level.
Miller did not flash much of a mid-range game, but he does have the ability to shoot the ball from three off the bounce. Alabama head coach, Nate Oats, has done just about all he can to stop his team from shooting mid-range jump shots, so Miller’s lack of mid-range attempts could be due to the system. He doesn’t dance around much on his three point attempts like Devin Vassell. Most of his attempts are coming on ball screens, catch and shoot, or flying off of pin downs. As it stands now, the guard creates most of his offense from range.
There is also legitimate two-way upside with Miller. He adds a 7-foot-1 wingspan to his 6’9” frame. That length makes him a threat off the ball as a shot blocker and getting into the passing lane for steals. He’s very effective at chasing down ball handlers in transition and blocking them from behind. His shot blocking instincts are good for a wing. You wouldn’t ask him to be your main rim protector, but to have someone who can come in and erase contested shots inside is a luxury not many teams have.
He has good but not great athleticism. Miller does not show the explosion you would hope for in a leading scorer, but he makes up for it with excellent touch and length. On defense, that lack of foot speed can cause him to get beat off of the bounce if he doesn’t close out properly. Some of the more speedy guards in the SEC were able to blow by him if he closed out too high. If he improves his explosiveness and plays with a lower center of gravity, those problems can be minimized.
This may seem ironic knowing how much he struggled in the NCAA Tournament, but Miller is a strong clutch player. Two major performances come to mind as proof. Alabama’s overtime win over South Caroline, in which he scored 41 points, and his 24-point outing against Arkansas a few days later. These are teams with potential NBA lottery selections in GG Jackson and Nick Smith Jr., but Miller went toe to toe with them down the stretch, hitting big shots to put his team up. He doesn’t back away from a challenge. Those are the intangibles you want to see from a top-5 pick.
While Miller is known as a bucket getter, there are still holes in his offensive game, namely his ability to finish around the basket. Just 31% of his shot attempts happened around the rim (he shot a decent 54% on those looks.) What Miller lacks is an arsenal of finishing moves. If he puts his head down and gets to the rim, he can finish with either hand. But his lack of explosion makes it difficult for him to power to the rim in a way that makes him a strong driver. He didn’t show much of a floater or pull up jumper in the paint either, further limiting his ability to score down low.
To exacerbate that issue, Miller is a twig, weighing in at just 200 pounds. Defenders can push him off of his spot if teams decide to play physical with him. The scout on him coming into the NBA will be to get into his space, forcing him into the paint where he’s not an efficient scorer. His frame actually shouldn’t be a huge concern on the defensive end, where Miller is better suited for the perimeter rather than playing as an interior defender. Again, some weight room work should help the explosion and strength issues.
Miller is going to be 21-years-old just a month after his NBA debut. That’s a lot older than his other freshmen counterparts. Henderson and Wembanyama are both 19-years-old, and the Thompson twins are 20. The age isn’t overly concerning, given guys don’t usually really come into their own athletically until their mid-20s, but it’s worth noting his elder status in this draft class.
The Spurs drafted Joshua Primo with a lottery pick in the 2021 draft. He is no longer with the franchise due to off the court issues. Is San Antonio’s front office going to invest in someone who has known personal questions marks? Even if Miller never faces criminal charges, there could be civil issues down the line. This is a crucial pick for the Spurs, especially if it lands in the top-4. Miller is a very good player. Is his talent worth the risk of potentially getting burned again? With a class this loaded, the answer might be no. Yet, that will be the key question Brian Wright, Gregg Popovich and company will need to answer when considering Miller.
Off-the-court issues aside, he’d be a pretty good fit with the current team. The Spurs are deep at the wing right now, but besides maybe Vassell, they don’t have a player that matches Miller’s go-to scorer skillset. Playing Jeremy Sochan, Vassell and Miller on the wings would give them a lot of length and defensive versatility while maintaining floor spacing. This would likely require moving Keldon Johnson to a sixth man role, which might be a tough sell for their leading scorer. However, a lineup of Tre Jones, Vassell, Miller, Sochan and Zach Collins provides a strong defensive core with a lot of offensive upside.
The fit makes a lot of sense for the Spurs from a basketball perspective. That should be clear to the front office. What may give both them and fans pause is the type of person Miller is when he doesn’t have a uniform on.