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Player Review: Malcolm Miller, two-way sub and snub

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Did Malcolm Miller got snubbed for the last roster spot? Is he a piece that the Raptors can develop into a rotational player? Let’s review.

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When Malcolm Miller was signed in the summer as a two-way contract player, everybody’s reaction was “who?” It’s an understandable reaction, because at the time the two-way contract was announced by the NBA, Miller was not on the radar for the Raptors fanbase. Even YouTube didn’t have much content about him at the time.

The Raptors fanbase was looking forward to seeing Miller play in the Summer League, but Miller’s summer ended prematurely due to an ankle injury. A minor procedure on the same ankle then cost him the entire training camp and a couple of weeks of the G League season.

It took Miller a while to find his role and his rhythm offensively with the Raptors 905, as he had to find his place between Lorenzo Brown, Bruno Caboclo, and Kennedy Meeks constantly getting the ball, while learning the new offense and figuring out where his shots would come from.

Miller started looking more and more comfortable in coach Jerry Stackhouse’s offense, and by December, he was an integral part of the team. His marksmanship from the perimeter helped right the ship for the Raptors 905, providing the needed spacing and scoring punch to pull the team from the basement all the way to the top of the standings.

While Miller did not see time with the Raptors again until after the All-Star break, he appeared in 12 of 13 games for Toronto because OG Anunoby went down with an injury. For the most part, he acquitted himself well there too, in a limited role.

The Good

Miller found his stride in the G League around December when he dropped 22-of-57 three-pointers (38.6 percent). It was a development that got Miller rewarded with garbage time minutes in a nationally-televised game against Cleveland, in which he dropped two more three-pointers. It was the kind of play that had commentator Reggie Miller calling him a cousin.

When OG Anunoby went down with an ankle injury, Miller was the chief beneficiary of OG’s minutes and even drew a few starts while OG was recovering from his injury. Miller held his own — arguably better than expected, especially on the defensive end. The Raptors fanbase got a glimpse of the 3-and-D player that the organization saw in Miller.

Miller surprised a lot of people including the Rockets by providing a spark off the bench in early March, but his signature game didn’t come until the Raptors played the Indiana Pacers almost a week later.

On one end, you had Victor Oladipo for the Pacers. Oladipo was a top 20 player this past season, and he should win the Most Improved Player this season. On the other end, you had Malcolm Miller, who made life difficult for Oladipo the entire game, and helped hold him to 4-of-11 shooting, effectively defending him for 34 possessions.

Miller’s shooting prowess and his defensive performance against Oladipo convinced a lot of Raptors fans that he deserved the 15th roster spot. And I thought he’d get it. (The spot went to Lorenzo Brown, the G League MVP.)

Miller ended his G League season with a strong post-season showing defensively. He proved he could stay in front of his man as a face-up defender, and even held his own in the post against bigger/stronger small forwards/power forwards. Miller effectively ended the Westchester Knicks’ post-season hopes by shutting down the “Uni-Kornet” (Luke Kornet).

The Bad

Miller’s shooting slump in the G League post-season might have been the thing that undid the 905, especially in the Finals against the Austin Spurs. Miller’s offense dipped in the post-season: from 12.6 to 8.4 points per game, and his three-point shooting went from 37.4 to 26.9 percent. If not for Miller’s only good offensive game against the Erie Bayhawks where he dropped 5-of-10 three-pointers, his numbers would have looked worse.

Offensively, if Miller doesn’t have it going, he’s often too passive — passing up open shots, not being aggressive enough looking for his shots, and often, camping in one spot around the perimeter (could this be by design?).

Miller is capable of more than just shooting three-point shots, as we’ve seen from time to time in the G League and even from his backdoor cuts or cuts to the basket when he was getting NBA minutes. Maybe he’s deferring because he’s playing with ball-dominant players (Lorenzo Brown with the 905, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan on the main club). At times, he looks like that loner guy from YMCA that joined a ball run where everybody knows everybody except for him, so he settles on just being a good teammate to everybody.

The Grade: C+

B- might be the correct grade here, considering Miller is coming in as a two-way player. He’s shown enough that he’s worthy of consideration for a roster spot next season — if not this season. However, Miller’s G League post-season run was merely OK at best. He made strides defensively, but offensively,he wasn’t the same since coming back from his Raptors stint.

Miller not getting the 15th roster spot at the end of the regular season was something of a surprise to me. Many were convinced that Miller had shown enough as an end of the bench wing player, and his game fits where the general direction of the league. For now, there’s always next season.

The Raptors are entering the off-season without any draft picks, and it will be interesting to see where the team heads with Miller’s development.