Memphis Grizzlies 3-point specialist and past Thunder killer Mike Miller is a free agent and the Thunder are targeting him once again. According to Grizzlies beat writer Ronald Tillery:
L.A. Clippers, Denver, Houston, OKC and Memphis are teams courting Mike Miller, who says Memphis will have final shot at signing him— Ronald Tillery (@CAGrizBeat) July 2, 2014
ESPN's Marc Stein confirmed the report:
ESPN sources say Pau Gasol and Mike Miller are indeed among free agents that Oklahoma City has engaged with since market opened— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 2, 2014
The Gasol part is an extra bit of juicy information for Thunder fans, but as we covered a few days ago, and as Mike Prada of SB Nation just reiterated today, it would be highly unlikely OKC could make it work financially.
Miller seems far more attainable, though as Tillery reported, he is still Memphis' guy to lose.
Why this move makes sense for the Thunder
I'll spare everyone the heartache of highlights from Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals, but if you're a glutton for punishment, go ahead and Google it. More succinctly, the Thunder needs shooters more than anything, and that's exactly what Miller provides.
He's older, sure, but he shot 46 percent from long distance last year, which was the second-best percentage of his career. He also appeared in all 82 games for just the second time in his career, a testament both to his ability to accept a bench role, and stay conditioned enough to perform in that role.
Oklahoma City was a middle-of-the-pack 3-point shooting team last season, finishing 14th overall in 3-point percentage while attempting the 15th-most attempts per game. That was regular season, though, and when it came time for the postseason they attempted the 6th-most attempts per game of the 16 playoff teams, while converting at the 4th-worst percentage.
Watching the Thunder offense increasingly rely on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook being forced to get creative in finding ways to score made it abundantly clear that, for the offense to reach a higher level of consistency, they would need a reliable outside shooter. That's what Miller would provide, as he would essentially be the safety valve for Westbrook and Durant, who can attract so much attention and clog a defense inside, that it leaves the perimeter wide open for someone to capitalize.
Why this move does NOT sense for the Thunder
The biggest concern for the Thunder is most certainly Miller's durability. Again, he played in 82 games for just the second time in his career last year, and at 34 years old, you just wonder how much possible injury concerns come into play in this decision.
Then there is the issue of his defense, something he has always been criticized for. Miller's defense will most certainly be a liability for a Thunder team that is more than likely losing one of its premier wing defenders in Thabo Sefolosha. Memphis' defense was 8 points worse per 100 possessions when Miller was on the court, a pretty glaring difference. Keep in mind, though, that Memphis is an elite defense with guys like Tony Allen filling his role while Miller is on the bench.
Lastly is the issue of the contract, and it's been reported that Miller is seeking a multi-year deal. He made just $1.3 million last year in Memphis, so the number shouldn't be too high for a Thunder team that only has about $5 million to work with as it stands right now. The recent signings of guys like Jodie Meeks and Avery Bradley have likely driven up the price for free agents altogether, though, and so once again it will be a matter of how much Memphis offers, and how high OKC is willing to go to pry him away.
What is the likelihood of this happening?
The fact that Miller insists his heart is in Memphis makes this a tough one from the start for OKC. But you do have to wonder how much longer the Grizzlies will wait around on making him a formal offer that is to his liking. Given all of the recent turmoil in the Memphis front office, perhaps Miller is questioning whether or not he is in the plans after all. In the mean time, Miller seems to be taking meetings from potential suitors:
That was from last night, and the caption: "Quick stop in #LA with some good people @easymoneysniper @kdtrey5 #letitfly" seems to suggest nothing more than a lighthearted hangout with a friend. But it'd be naive to think the possibility of joining forces next year didn't come up. Again, it's no secret that Miller spurned the Thunder last year, and the interest remains.
It sounds like it will come down to Memphis' offer, but with Durant giving his sales pitch, OKC appears to be second in line if the Grizzlies offer doesn't come through. 6.5 out of 10.
It wouldn't be the splashiest move OKC could make, but it would certainly be a bit more exciting than Derek Fisher and Caron Butler. Miller's shooting is exactly what the Thunder needs, and just having that floor spacer available off the bench, along with Lamb, could give the Thunder that extra piece to score points on a more consistent basis. His defense could be problematic, but if managed correctly and surrounded with the right pieces, it shouldn't be a big enough reason to steer clear of an offer altogether. Miller can shoot as well as any free agent out there right now, and at the right price, it could be worth it for the Thunder to let it fly with an offer.