Mike Miller chose the Memphis Grizzlies over the Thunder, and that’s nothing but a bummer for OKC. Miller wasn’t exactly what the Thunder needed, but the Thunder definitely needed what Miller could have provided: dead-eye shooting at a minimum price.
So the Thunder is 0-for-2 on wing shooters it sought via the free agency market — Dorell Wright took more money to sign with Portland, while Miller is headed to Memphis for one of four reasons: 1) more playing time; 2) more comfort with the city; 3) better chance to reach the NBA Finals; 4) some combination of the four.
Let’s look at all four theories:
1. Definitely more playing time available in Memphis. The Grizzlies are starving for a shooter. The Thunder figured to use Miller 10-15 minutes a game, with plenty of games of total rest. Miller, if he stays healthy, should get around 20 minutes a game for Memphis.
2. No argument there. Miller spent 51/2 seasons in Memphis and by all accounts enjoyed it. Some reports say Miller still has a home in Memphis.
3. I don’t really buy it. Memphis and OKC staged a five-game playoff series won by the Grizzlies in May. All five games went down to the final minute or final possession. The Grizzlies won four. And Russell Westbrook didn’t play a second in the series. As far as additions, the Grizzlies have added Miller and Kostas Koufos, who is a solid backup center. They retained their core of Tony Allen, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley. But Memphis lost its coach, Lionel Hollins, who wasn’t retained, apparently over philosophical differences. The Thunder retained its starting lineup but lost sixth man Kevin Martin. OKC is relying on young players — the proven Reggie Jackson and the unproven Jeremy Lamb — to take up the slack. But the Thunder’s real ace in the hole is Westbrook, Durant and Serge Ibaka. The former two will be 25 this coming season; the latter will be 24. The Thunder stars are getting better.
4. 1-and-2 seems possible. 1-and-3 or 2-and-3 seems plausible, if Miller is thinking the Grizzlies are at least in the discussion of winning the West, which I think is legit.
Whatever the reason, losing Miller was a disappointment. If Miller still has some tread, it will be a big disappointment, for while we don’t know if he can stay healthy, we absolutely know he can shoot.
Miller is exactly the kind of aged veteran free agent the Thunder should be able to recruit. Offer a player nearing the end a chance to win a title. The Thunder has won over Derek Fisher with that appeal. It did not win over Mike Miller.