by Conrad Brunner
May 28, 2003
By the Numbers: Averaged 13.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists while shooting a team-high .493 from the field in 73 games. … Ranked seventh among Eastern Conference players and first among East centers with 27 double-doubles. … Led NBA centers with a free-throw percentage of .818, a career high. … Assist average was third in the team and ranked third among NBA centers, behind only Vlade Divac and Clifford Robinson. … Made his first All-Star appearance and was averaging 13.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and .506 shooting at the break, but season took a downturn shortly thereafter when Shaquille O’Neal landed on his foot in a game at Los Angeles on March 5, causing a foot and ankle injury that limited both his availability and effectiveness. … In 13 games after the injury, averaged just 8.0 points and 6.4 rebounds while shooting .375 from the floor. Also sat out eight games.
Playoffs: In six games, all starts, averaged 22.5 minutes, 8.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and .450 shooting from the floor. … Had 21 points and nine rebounds in Game 4 loss, but totaled just two points, three rebounds and 24 minutes in the two games thereafter.
Plus-Minus: Ranked third on the team during the regular season at plus 283 (plus 3.9 per game). Ranked second during the playoffs at zero (0.0 per game).
Contract Status: Free agent.
Quote: “I'm just going to see what the team does, make sure everything is staying together, what kind of changes are going to be made. And Jermaine (O’Neal’s status) is a big decision in mine, too, so I'm going to talk to him a lot.”
Analysis: A player integral to everything the team did in the first half of the season, when he cemented his stature as one of the best (and few) true centers in the NBA. Ran the floor constantly, got to the foul line regularly and meshed well with Jermaine O’Neal in a high-low combination that caused matchup problems for most teams. An excellent free-throw shooter, he got off to a phenomenal start, averaging 10 attempts in the first six games, but 4.4 thereafter. The second-half slump can’t be attributed to his injury, because the team began losing long before it occurred, his limited availability and productivity down the stretch certainly didn’t help. Though he was relatively healthy for the Boston series, he played sparingly against a Boston team that features a smaller, quicker front line.
Crystal Ball: Re-signing the popular 7-footer is an absolute priority for the Pacers, and only a handful of teams will have the ability to throw big money at him. Then there’s the fact Donnie Walsh has yet to allow a young core player escape through free agency. Mix in the fact he’s an Indiana native and full-time resident, and there are a number of weighty factors favoring the Pacers. Even so, nothing is guaranteed in free agency. Though he won’t be among the glamour class of stars on the market this summer, Miller is sure to draw plenty of interest.
Final Grade: B-plus.