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Player Review: C.J. Miles, the Bench Dad

As the veteran of the Raptors’ bench, did we expect too much from the sharpshooter or just enough?

NBA: Playoffs-Washington Wizards at Toronto Raptors
C.J. From Downtown
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the 2017-18 season, fans, coaches, and organizational executives alike expected big production from the newly acquired sharpshooter, C.J. Miles. Miles had been sought after for his shooting ability behind the three point arc, a must-have skill in today’s NBA.

One of the biggest needs for the Toronto Raptors’ was three-point shooting and a positional need at small forward after DeMarre Carroll was shipped out of town to the Brooklyn Nets. The acquisition of Miles did provide some intriguing questions: would the Raptors finally have their ‘Three and D’ threat? Who would be the starting small forward — would the role fall to the intriguing potential of Norman Powell or the 31-year-old veteran shooter in Miles?

In Miles’ first season with the Raptors, he played 70 games in the regular season with averages of 19.1 minutes, 10 points, 0.8 assists, 2.2 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 0.3 blocks, 2.3 three’s with 6.5 three’s attempted (.361%), .379 FG % (8.6 FG attempts), .516 eFG %, .835 FT %, and 13 PER. The majority of this years’ numbers match with Miles’ 13 year career averages, though his efficieny is down compared to last years’ production with the Indiana Pacers.

Beyond numbers, Miles took on the role of “Bench Dad” for one of the most effective second units, and one of the youngest rosters in the league. His importance in terms of floor spacing and leadership became invaluable for the developing players in Toronto.

The Good

Let’s start at the end: Miles played in all 10 post-season games for the Raptors, even getting inserted into the starting lineup for one contest. While his production didn’t alter in comparison to his regular season stats, his efficiency greatly increased. In 22.7 mpg, Miles shot .451 FG%, .422 3FG%, an eFG % of .585 to go along with 9.6 ppg, 0.8 apg, 2.4 rpg, 0.7 steals, and 0.3 blocks. Miles’ floor spacing was one of he biggest attributes he was able to provide during the playoffs; whether the shot was falling in that game or not, he still posed a threat and at times garnered extra coverage when rolling off set screens.

For most of the regular season, Miles’ was instrumental as the leader of the now named “Bench Mob” and often referred to as “Bench Dad” for the age discrepancy in the line-up. That potent lineup featured Miles with Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Delon Wright, and was the fifth best lineup in the league with respect to net rating (for lineups over 200 minutes together). Miles also posted career highs in various advanced statistics individually: 109.4 OffRtg per 100 possessions, 102.2 DefRtg per 100 possessions, and a net plus of 7.2. What do all these statistical numbers mean? When Miles was on the court, he was productive, influential on both ends of the floor, and most often scored on the other team more than he was scored on.

The Bad

Before the season began it was between Powell or Miles to take over the starting spot of small forward. Instead, both of them were unproductive (or dealing with injuries) to start, and lost the starting spot to a surprisingly healthier than expected, OG Anunoby.

The expectation for Miles was to recover the lost production of Carroll, and while Miles did produce as advertised, the fans and organization likely expected a bit more at times. His reputation as a streaky shooter is a double-edged sword: when he gets into a rhythm, Miles can be extremely clutch for the Raptors:

But, as happens more often than any Raptor fan would like, it could also result in a forced Miles three on the short end of the shot clock, wasting an offensive possession.

One of the biggest flaws in Miles’ game is his inability to switch on defense without fouling when the opposing player drives to the lane. This was particularly exposed in the series against Cleveland, but it was there at times in the regular season as well. The clip below shows Miles fouling the shooter driving into the lane (LeBron James, an admittedly impossible cover), and gives the opposition an and-1 situation.

To solely blame Miles for defensive meltdowns in the playoffs this year is ignorant, as the Raptors as a whole were lacking in both the mental and physical toughness to compete. But Miles was very much one of the unavoidable problems on defense. To suggest Miles didn’t live up to expectations coming into this season as the team’s only new acquisition to help bolster the Raptors’ offensive repertoire may be a strong claim, but he definitely didn’t do much to silence the critics with regards to his defense.

The Grade: B

One could argue a B- or B+ depending on the variance of Miles’ production from time to time. But one thing is for certain, he did generally perform as expected during his first Raptors season.

Now entering the latter part of his career, it would be difficult seeing much improvement from Miles. He has already established his game as one of the best sharpshooters in the league, even after a slightly less efficient year. Miles ranked 27th in the NBA with 164 three-pointers made, and 22nd in threes attempted, with 454.

As long as Miles produces similar (or better!) numbers with improved efficiency (ideally hitting at a 40 percent clip), while showing discipline on the defensive end, the Bench Dad will continue on as a great spark and contributor off the bench for Toronto.