Grizzlies fans’ dismay at the news that Mike Miller would be headed to another city was short-lived, as it took less than an hour for it to leak out that Memphis was finalizing a contract with Vince Carter.
From a basketball standpoint, this means that the Grizzlies are replacing Miller’s averages of 7.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.6 apg, .481 FG%, .459 3PT%, .821 FT% in 20.8 mpg with Vince Carter’s 11.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.6 apg, .407 FG%, .394 3PT%, .821 FT% in 24.4 mpg.
On the surface, it appears that Carter scores, rebounds, and assists at a higher rate than Miller, although at a less efficient rate than the former Florida Gator. The advanced stats show that Miller has a higher Wins Produced figure due to this difference in shooting percentages. Even though I’m a big fan of analytics, this is one area where I’m not sold on using them as an end-all, be-all.
While Miller and Carter have the exact same free throw percentage, Mike only makes it to the line 0.7 times per game, while Carter averaged 2.4 free throw attempts last season. Put another way, Miller attempted 56 free throws last year, while Carter took 196 over the same span. That’s a huge difference in a game where one trip to the line can alter putting one in the win or loss column.
Similarly, while Carter hits threes at a worse percentage than Miller, he also takes more, which means he hit more last season than Miller (146 to 107). In fact, the former Tar Heel has led the league the past two seasons in made three-pointers for a bench player. For a team that has lacked an outside threat, this is incredibly important.
Last season, the Grizzlies were dead last in the league in three-point attempts and makes. When that is the case, it does not matter if they were middle of the pack in percentage. You have to take threes to make threes. Period. Otherwise, you are just giving away points to the opposition which, on a long enough timeline, results in losing more often than winning.
Mike Miller was a solid contributor who provided a lot of positives for the team last season. However, transitioning from him to the the NBA’s 7th most prolific 3-point shooter is not a step back, but a step forward. This is progress.