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February 1, 2011
The Clipboard
Mike Miller's Rebounding

by Sebastian Pruiti

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The Miami Heat brought in Mike Miller to be that fourth guy who could spread the floor and knock down jumpers when the defense pays too much attention to the James-Wade-Bosh trio. That plan was derailed when Miller went down with an injury. Since Miller's return, he has been really struggling with his shot (34.8 percent from three with a True Shooting Percentage of 46.8), and James Jones has stepped into Miller's planned role.

This doesn't mean that Miller has been ineffective since his return to Miami's roster, it just means that he needs to contribute in a different way until his shot returns. Right now, that way is crashing the offensive glass. The proof is in the numbers: Miller has seen his total rebound percentage (TR%) go up from 10.7 last year to 14.7 this year. Miller has always been a pretty good defensive rebounder, but his offensive rebound percentage (OR%) has always been pretty poor (last year's OR% of 3.5 was the highest of his career). That has changed this season, with Miller now grabbing 7.5 percent of the available offensive rebounds when he is on the court.

There are two reasons why Miller has been able to grab so many rebounds so far this season. The first is his shooting ability. Even with Miller shooting poorly this year, defenses have to respect his shot. When they do that and one of Miller's teammates gets a shot off, Miller's defender is usually out of position for a box-out, allowing Miller to crash the boards. We saw a perfect example of this on Miller's big late-game offensive rebound against the Thunder on Sunday:

sorb1

Even with Dwyane Wade ISO'ing up top, Jeff Green is afraid to leave Miller in the short corner as Wade pulls up for his jumper.

sorb2

With Green playing so far up on Miller, Miller is able to get a quick jump along the baseline because Green doesn't have enough space to turn and get a box-out.

sorb3

Green has to quickly try and cut off the baseline, and that allows Miller to counter by performing a swim move and head towards the middle of the court.

sorb4

The is what allows Miller to get in position to grab the key offensive rebound. Here is the video in real time:

Watching the play live, you can see that Green is surprised how quick Miller gets to the baseline. This forces a panicked dive to protect baseline, allowing for the offensive rebound.

Here, we get to see another example of Miller's shooting ability opening up another rebounding lane. On this play, Ramon Sessions tries to cut off any pass to Miller by being in help position:

cut of lane

He is able to cut off the pass, but when the shot goes up, Sessions is totally out of position, and that allows Miller to grab the offensive board.

The second, and much more important, factor to consider when looking at Miller's offensive rebounding is the players around him. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh draw a lot of attention from opposing defenses, and that attention is what creates lanes that allow Miller to get to the boards:

big31

Here, Wade comes off of a screen set by Bosh. Wade hits Bosh, who is popping, rather than rolling, off of the screen. This forces Miller's man to step up and close out on Bosh's shot (a shot that needs to be respected).

big32

So as Bosh pulls up, Mike Miller has nobody even close to him to get a box-out. Here is the play in real time:

Watching this clip live, you notice that Miller doesn't even crash the boards immediately. However, since there is nobody in the area, the ball is able to take a bounce before Miller gets his hands on it.

In this clip, Carlos Arroyo starts to penetrate, forcing Danilo Gallinari to step up. Since Miller was being defended by Gallinari, Shawne Williams is now responsible for getting a body on Miller (due to rotations). Instead, Williams refuses to look away from James even as he starts to backpedal to the defensive end.

I dislike making judgments off of small sample sizes (Miller has only played 15 games while averaging 18.2 minutes per game), but I am comfortable doing so here, because I expect Miller to keep his offensive rebound percentage this high (if not higher as he gets back into game shape).

The reason is that teams aren't going to change the way they defend the James/Wade/Bosh trio, meaning there are going to be a lot of times when Miller's man leaves him to rotate for a close-out, opening up rebounding lanes. In addition, it seems that Miller is embracing this new-found roll as he is always crashing the offensive glass at 100 miles per hour (I don't know if it is because he wants to make up for poor shooting or if he is seeing these wide open lanes and feels like it is his responsibility to crash hard). If Miller can start knocking his shot down and continue to grab offensive rebounds he might become more valuable than anyone would have expected.

The 2010-11 Pro Basketball Prospectus is now available in paperback form on Amazon.com. For sample chapters and more information, see our book page.

You can follow Sebastian on Twitter at twitter.com/@SebastianPruiti.

Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Sebastian by clicking here or click here to see Sebastian's other articles.

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