Mike Miller cannot wait to get back in a teal-accented jersey (Joe Murphy/ Getty).
In three seasons with the Miami Heat, wing Mike Miller provided meaningful postseason contributions to the two-time champions, solidifying his reputation as a valuable veteran. When the Heat used the NBA’s amnesty provision on Miller last week to lessen their luxury tax burden, Miller became one of the most sought-after players on the market for teams with plans to contend for a title.
Early reports suggested that Miller would sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but those plans appear to have fallen apart. As first reported by Marc Stein of ESPN.com and later confirmed by Sam Amick of USA Today, Miller has told the Memphis Grizzlies that he will join them for the 2013-14 season and possibly beyond. Terms are not yet known, although the Grizzlies still have their full mid-level exception of $5.15 million and are less than $3 million under the luxury tax threshold. Miller also played for Memphis over six seasons from 2003 to 2008.
Miller should add some much-needed versatility to the Grizzlies’ wing rotation. While they have several excellent wing defenders who fit with their identity as a smashmouth, grit-and-grind outfit, the Grizzlies occasionally suffer from a lack of perimeter scoring and adequate spacing — particularly against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, when defenders made a habit of sloughing off Tony Allen and collapsing into the paint — and needed to add shooters this offseason. Miller made a habit of hitting big shots for the Heat in the postseason and could continue that practice with Memphis. In 2012-13, Miller hit 41.7 percent from beyond the arc in 51 regular season games and 44.4 percent in the postseason.
The worry with Miller is if he’ll be able to stay on the court. At 33 years old, he has suffered from many injuries over his 13 seasons and hasn’t played 60 or more games since 2008-09. The Grizzlies wanted Miller for what he can do in the playoffs, but it’s entirely possible that injuries will keep him from participating.
But that’s a risk worth taking. In a crowded field at the top of the West, secondary additions like this one could end up making big differences next spring. Miller is a proven contributor with a sorely needed skill, and his addition brings the added bonus of ensuring that other teams in the West won’t be able to enjoy his services. Miller wasn’t one of the biggest free agents on the market this summer, but he could have an outsized impact on the playoffs.