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Thunder or Grizzlies: Where would Mike Miller fit better?

by Anthony Slater Modified: July 23, 2013 at 5:10 pm •  Published: July 23, 2013

Since the Miami Heat amnestied him last week, Mike Miller has garnered plenty of attention from teams across the league.

And according to multiple reports, the most serious of those suitors seem to be the Thunder and Grizzlies, two Western Conference rivals looking for immediate offensive help off the bench.

Miller, reportedly, was in OKC on Monday checking out the facility and meeting with Thunder brass. On Tuesday, he was expected to do the same in Memphis, with a decision to come at some point soon after.


Either way, both OKC and Memphis seem to be appealing destinations for Miller, who made it clear during his exit interview in Miami that his first priority is to play for a winner.

But there’s certainly differences to each scenario in this Thunder-Grizzlies argument, including fit, comfort and role. Let’s look at a pair of bonuses that each offer over the other:

Memphis Grizzlies

1. Familiarity

Seems like forever ago, but Miller actually spent the biggest portion of his career in Memphis. He was shipped over there from Orlando in a 2003 deadline deal and didn’t leave Bluff City until draft day 2008, as part of the deal that sent Kevin Love to Minnesota in return for O.J. Mayo and other pieces. That’s five-plus seasons from Miller in Memphis, all of them productive. He won the Sixth Man award in 2005-06, averaging 13.7 points and 5.7 rebounds, before boosting those numbers to 18.5 and 5.4 in a starter’s role the next year. And during that time, he and his family grew fond of the city, meaning Memphis can provide a sense of comfort and familiarity OKC isn’t capable of at this point.

2. Larger role

Both need him and both are likely guaranteeing playing time. But of the two, Memphis has a greater hole to fill. They desperately need another shooter/scorer, or basically anything to provide an offensive spark for a team that often struggles to score 90+ points. In OKC, his experience and long-range proficiency would be of value, but if Jeremy Lamb develops (and shoots it) like they hope, it’s not hard to fathom Miller being pushed out of Scott Brooks’ immediate rotation for a more defensive-oriented wing (DeAndre Liggins/Andre Roberson).

Oklahoma City Thunder

1. Playing with dominant perimeter superstars

Long-range snipers like nothing more than an unopposed look from three. And during his time in Miami, Miller got a ton of them, largely (if not all) thanks to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, two playmaking perimeter scorers who demanded crazy defensive attention. In Memphis, many of those open looks would disappear, with a sometimes stagnant offense relying more on its perimeter players to create shots, rather than stand ready on the wing, locked and loaded, waiting for a superstar scorer to find them off a double-team. But in OKC, it would be like Miami of the Midwest, with KD playing the role of LeBron and Russell Westbrook acting as Dwyane Wade.

2. Better shot at a title

At full-strength, in NBA circles, the Thunder still have to be considered a bigger threat than Memphis in the Western Conference. Barring injury, both seem like essential locks to make the playoffs. But OKC, with Westbrook, Durant and a top-5 NBA defense (statistically), are obvious title threats, while the Grizzlies, going through a coaching change and fighting obvious offensive issues, would have a tougher time staking that claim. Miller would be successful in either place, but you know the veteran, having tasted the NBA Finals in three straight seasons, doesn’t just want to win, he wants to win big. And OKC seems like the more likely place for him to find himself on the sport’s biggest stage for a fourth straight year.

by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as NewsOK.com's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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