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Player Review: Malcolm Miller’s recovery and long road back

Malcolm Miller’s injury forced his career to take a detour through Mississauga and the G League before he was able to regain his spot on the Raptors. It’s been something to watch.

Toronto Raptors v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2017-18 season looked promising for Malcolm Miller. He put in the work in the NBA G League with the Raptors 905, but he was able to make enough of an impression in the limited games he played with the Toronto Raptors.

Thrust briefly into a starting role due to an injury to OG Anunoby, Miller excelled by showing his defense and associated versatility, and his perimeter shooting, which are all considered part of a premium skill set that’s hard to come by — especially for someone with his size and length.

Enter last season, and things were looking good for Miller heading into the Vegas Summer League. The Toronto fanbase was looking forward to seeing what else he can do, expecting him to head into the training camp battling for rotation minutes. Unfortunately, Miller dislocated his shoulder in the last game of the Summer League round robin, and the Raptors had to make the tough decision to cut him.

Miller stayed on with the Raptors 905 as he recovered, and started his G League campaign midway through the season. While his return was a bit iffy offensively, his defense was ahead of schedule.

It didn’t take long until Miller’s offense — particularly his perimeter shooting — to pick up steam. As a complementary piece, he provided a good second/third/fourth scoring option (depending on the number of assignees), but as a floor spacer, his gravity as a shooter opened up the floor for his teammates.

It’s also worth noting that compared to his previous G League campaign, Miller had to play out of position a lot, as the Raptors lacked in big man depth. Miller played quite a few minutes at the power forward spot, battling bigger and stronger players.

Miller’s NBA minutes, unfortunately, were largely comprised of garbage time minutes, as the Raptors now have some excellent wing depth. Miller did not land a roster spot until right before the trade deadline. In those minutes, Miller focused on his perimeter shooting, as 21 of his 26 field goal attempts were from the distance. The best part? He made 10-of-21 shots (47.6 percent) from behind the arc.

I suppose the highlight of Miller’s 2019 season came in the last few minutes of Game 6 against the Sixers. With coach Nick Nurse disappointed with his rotation players’ effort, he inserted the end of the roster players and set them to work hard in both ends of the court.

Miller showcased his defensive versatility, being able to switch from 1-5, defend well, and be the ragtag team’s small-ball centre. (Nurse played Fred VanVleet-Norman Powell-Jodie Meeks-Patrick McCaw-Malcolm Miller, if you’ll recall; it was a rough game.) It wasn’t much, but Miller also showed his range, that he could hit shots if his teammates found him open.

As a group, this bunch of Raptors demonstrated the fire that Nurse was looking for, almost bringing down Philly’s 20-point lead to single digits. Most of all, just like the rest of that group, Miller showed he could play to Nurse’s standard.

Now, Miller is back to where he was at the start of the season — feeling good again on how the year ended, optimistic heading into Summer League and training camp, potentially fighting for rotation minutes so that he can show what he’s capable of.

With the uncertainty surrounding Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green’s free agency, Miller could be one of the players to benefit if one or both of them decide to move on to another team. If that happens, it’s up to Malcolm to show that, yes, it’s Miller Time.