Miller a solid addition in Portland

Miller a solid addition in Portland


Miller a solid addition in Portland

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The Portland Trail Blazers won’t be on anybody’s short list of main NBA title contenders, but in signing Andre Miller, they have become a better team.

Possibly a much better one.

The Trail Blazers have added a veteran player who is a much-needed component to a young team.

Can Miller take the Trail Blazers to the next level? That’s a difficult question because he has always been a starting guard on some good but not great teams, so it’s hard to tell.

As one scout said, “He won’t play any defense, but he knows how to run a team.”

And a young team like Portland can greatly use his savvy and unselfish nature.

The skeptics will question the fact that Miller is 33-years-old and isn’t considered among the better athletes playing the point guard position.

That could be true, but he has an old-school game, one that is less likely to deteriorate with age. He has never relied on speed to blow by defenders because he never had much to begin with, yet Miller simply knows how to run an offense and find the open man.

In the last two years he became more of a scorer in Philadelphia because he sensed the 76ers needed his offense. This past season he averaged 16.5 points after averaging a career-high 17.0 in 2007-2008. Not so coincidentally, the 76ers made the playoffs in each of the past two years.

Miller also proved to be one of the top point guards at posting up and it showed the versatility of his game. Miller is proficient shooting off the dribble, and is capable of driving to the basket and drawing fouls. He’s also has a career .802 free throw percentage shooter.

Miller is difficult to get to know personally because he keeps to himself, but that shouldn’t suggest that he doesn’t connect with his teammates.

There was no player who was more respected by his teammates on the 76ers than Miller. He played with a calm confidence, never cared about statistics and always showed up for work.

Miller has played in 530 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NBA and he has missed just three games in 10 NBA seasons.

Critics also point out that he isn’t much of a three-point shooter and the facts bear that out. Miller is a 21 percent career three-point shooter but he doesn’t take that many shots from beyond the arc.

Last season Miller attempted just 53 three pointers.

He comes to a Portland team that has plenty of young talent. The Trail Blazers need somebody to guide this young group and it says here that the players will truly appreciate what he brings to the team.

Brandon Roy will love playing off the ball, knowing that Miller will find him for quality open shots. If LaMarcus Aldridge posts up, Miller will get him the ball in the most opportune of spots.

Greg Oden, whose offensive game is a work in progress, will get easy baskets as a benefit of playing with Miller.

Miller averaged 6.5 assists last year and likely would have averaged more if the Sixers had a better post-up game.

In addition, Miller will bring a professional attitude to the team, a no-nonsense performer who comes early to practice, leaves late and has a basketball IQ that is off the charts.

Are there negatives?

Well, Miller wouldn’t have been available for this long if there weren’t. As the scout said, Miller will never be a member of the All-Defensive Team. He has trouble guarding quick point guards off the dribble, but then again, who doesn’t?

Portland will need to play good help defense, but Miller’s offensive contributions more than negate this situation.

For those who worry about Miller slowing down and the fact that he will turn 34 in March, it has to be pointed out that he had two of his best seasons over the last two years in Philadelphia. And he’s coming off a playoff series against Orlando where he averaged a career-best 21.2 points in the six-game loss.

It’s true that Miller has never played on a team that advanced past the first round of the playoffs. It can also be argued that he never played on a team that has the type of young talent that Portland possesses.

Nothing against Steve Blake, who did a serviceable job last season at point guard, but Miller is an upgrade.

Portland, which lost to Houston in the first round of the playoffs, is a better team with Miller. How much better remains to be seen, but he can be a difference maker for a Portland team that will greatly benefit from his leadership, his professional attitude and most importantly his play on the court.

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