Scouting Report: Mike Miller’s Game

How do NBA coaches game plan for Mike Miller? Why and how does he make your team better as soon as he steps on the floor?

Glad you asked: Minnesota's coaches and fans got to see exactly what Miller's capable of late last season on April 6 at Target Center, when he dropped 34 points behind 8-of-12 shooting from three and added 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals.

And then, there was a random Monday night (well ... yesterday, actually) at Target Center's Lifetime Fitness, when this reporter happened to be impatiently waiting for a guy to get off a machine. I glanced over to my right, only to notice 15 straight shots swish through the net a story below on the Wolves' practice court. Was it Lynx guard Candice Wiggins warming up for her game? Randy Wittman's dead-eye shooting son Ryan getting reps in?

Ten more splashes later, I finally put two and two together: It had to be Mike Miller. Duh.

Sure enough, there was the man who had hours earlier explained to local media how excited he was to be in Minnesota. And cross my heart, the South Dakota boy was raining threes from the Badlands. Or Mt. Rushmore. Whichever is farther. Either way, I'm officially more excited to see him work in combination with Al Jefferson than I am to see 90210's return (well ... almost).

But to get an expert's take, I asked Wolves assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff - who was rebounding for Miller during his shooting drills - to analyze Miller's game:

Miller Scouting Report

In case your speakers are broken, here's the full transcript:

Wolves Assistant Coach J.B. Bickerstaff on Mike Miller
MT: What is an assistant coach that is preparing a scouting report against Mike Miller's team thinking?
Bickerstaff: If you're preparing against Mike, you're nervous anytime he steps out on the floor. He's one of the pure shooters in the game and he's one of the guys who once he gets it going, it's hard to cut him off. I've seen him more than once or twice when I was in Charlotte or when I was here, where he's taken over basketball games with his ability to make shots from anywhere on the floor. It's funny because you tell your guys you want to guard him, you have your defensive principles, you don't want to chase guys way out past the three-point line, but he's one of those guys that if you chase him out way past the three-point line, he'll make that shot. Last year, you look back at his numbers (34 points against the Wolves last game) ... When we played against him in Charlotte, we had a 20-point lead going into the half one time and he had like 20-something in the fourth. It was a matter of catching the ball beyond the hash mark, letting it go, and it's just as pure as if he was shooting a 15-footer. You always have to be aware of where he is on the floor. I think with our inside presence that we have with (Al Jefferson) and now Kevin Love, guys that demand a double team, he's going to make it real hard for the people that make that decision - if they're going to trap on the post or (not). So it's going to open up the game for us a lot.

MT: He shot 43 percent last year and is a career 40 percent shooter. At 6-8, he can really get off his shot wherever and whenever he wants.
Bickerstaff: He opens the floor up. He opens the game up. I think a lot of guys who last year saw the paint crowded ... Now with a guy like this, all he has to do is be on the floor and now you've got to be aware of where he is. You can't suck in as much. He's going to open up the floor for everybody. His basketball IQ is something I think people don't pay a lot of attention to, but he really understands the game of basketball and he works his (butt) off. I think he's going to be a huge asset for us.

MT: We just heard Kevin McHale say that you can't label him as just a three-point shooter. Talk about some of the other things Miller can do:
Bickerstaff: No (you can't), and Mike is pretty athletic. He can put the ball on the floor (and) get to the basket. He attacks the rim, gets to the free throw line a lot. But I think overall - the game nowadays is more based on athleticism - the great players and the good players have basketball IQ. That's one of those things as a coach: you die for guys that have a high basketball intelligence. I think Mike's one of those guys where he understands the game and makes the right play. He might have a shot but the next pass might be the right pass. He'll make that pass. Those are the things, the little things, the details make really good teams. A lot of teams can be OK and be average, but the teams that pay attention to the details, those are the ones that are really good.

MT: For a small forward, who may sometimes be asked to play at shooting guard, how big is his ability to rebound?:
Bickerstaff: Any guy who can get you extra possessions, as a coach, you love. So a guy who goes and gets the boards you have to respect that. You look at his defensive rebounding, almost five boards a game - last year almost six boards a game. He goes and gets you extra possessions. Those are the important things in games.

MT: What about defensively, coach. What have you seen of him on tape?
Bickerstaff: He's a good team-defensive player. He understands schemes really well. He's in the right position all the time. The way the rules are set up now, it's really hard to guard a guy 1-on-1. The best defensive teams are the ones that play team defense. You have to be ready to rotate, you have to be ready to step in and take a charge - and he understands schemes and understands where to be and how to be in the right position all the time

MT: I've seen you spending a lot of time working out with Wolves down in the practice facility. Are you looking forward to working with Miller:
Bickerstaff: We came in last night. He came right in and got some shots up, and it's a pretty thing. It's a pretty stroke. You're surprised when he misses, but it's the same shot - it's consistent every time. Very rarely do you see a guy who can shoot the ball like that.

MT: In that case, take us through (his workout):
Bickerstaff: He does a bunch of things that I think are very good. With a guy like that, who's a professional, who can shoot in like that, I just sat back and watched ... He's got it down. That's the thing you like to see, a guy who's a professional, (who) comes in the building and knows how to get himself better and already has his routine down. I think that was one of the things that was most impressive.