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On Tuesday morning, before a boisterous crowd, the Memphis Grizzlies announced the signing of Mike Miller. You can read the team’s official press release here.

For a franchise that has absorbed some rough press this off-season, the return of Mike Miller is a coup on and off the court. Miller obviously fills a major need in Memphis – three point shooting – but also is a beloved by Memphis fans. In some ways, the press conference felt like the group hug that #GrizzNation needed after the decision not to retain Lionel Hollins rubbed some the wrong way.

We here at 3SOB thought the best way to offer the full spectrum of analysis is to break out “old reliable”, the 5-on-5 panel. As it turns out, six of us had thoughts to share, so we present instead our 5-on-5 (and 1). It would have (should have) been a FULL SCALE 3SOB PANEL-OCOLYPSE, but alas Katee Forbis could not take a break from watching a movie so you’ll have to wait for that magical experience.

Without further ado, here is our take on Miller’s return to Memphis:

Mike Miller

1. What are your initial impressions of the Grizzlies bringing Mike Miller back to Memphis?
  • Chip Crain - I think this is another sign that the team’s front office is very aware of the weaknesses that kept them from advancing to the NBA Finals last season and that they aren’t content on just making the playoffs. This group has one eye clearly on the payroll but another one squarely on the team and it’s needs. Miller is a great hire both as a fan favorite and as a player who can fill a big need on the roster.
  • Lee Eric Smith - Excellent pickup. I have concerns about Mike’s durability, but if he can bomb away — and he can — it’s GREAT for the team. I also view this as a better version of the Gilbert Arenas deal: Namely, you get a great bargain/value because of the amnesty. From what I understand, Mike still gets his full Miami contract, the Grizzlies only signed him for $1.4 million, and some rule means only $800,000 of that counts toward the cap. So you get sharpshooter who was a key contributor to two NBA championship runs for less than a million? Where do I sign?
  • Jonathan May – As suggested in the introduction I wrote above, I think the return of Mike Miller is a win on every level. We added a reliable veteran shooter who will be paid by the Miami Heat to play in Memphis. He is also one of the most beloved former Grizzlies – only Shane Battier is more revered. It is rare to score such a decisive victory on and off the court and even more rare to do so at such an affordable price.
  • Joshua Coleman - Excitement. Not only is he the exact type of legitimate shooter that they have needed the past few seasons, but he is someone that fans are familiar with and who has a good rapport with the city. It’s a win-win all the way around if he manages to stay healthy enough to contribute two out of every three games in the regular season and is able to contribute in the playoffs for Memphis the way he has for Miami the last two years.
  • Steve Danziger - It’s a home run — rounds all the bases. Fits arguably the team’s biggest area of need, while simultaneously building up a degree of goodwill with the fan base. There were still some lingering concerns that management may have wanted to rid themselves of as many things Heisley as possible and clean the slate for themselves, but with Dave Joerger and now Miller in place, these doubts may subside. Their only agenda is winning.
  • Matthew Noe - Major win for the team on many levels-PR-wise, it’s a mega-win. Basketball-wise, it fills the biggest gap the team had. Does nothing to ruin or really even affect future $ flexibility. Amazing move.
2. What do you expect from Miller in 2013-2014? 
  • Chip Crain - Call me the optimist but I believe Miller will average around 20 MPG as both a SF and as a stretch PF at times. Miller’s back won’t allow him to bang a lot down low nor cover quick footed SFs but he can spread the offense and handle smaller PFs around the league. He also has a high basketball IQ and a nice passing game which will benefit our bigs down low more than people realize.
  • Lee Eric Smith - Honestly? It might be fewer minutes than he expects. The Grizzlies are suddenly deep at the SG & SF positions. If he can play passable defense and consistent 3 point shooting, I think he’ll bring a lot. But the biggest impact may be that we now have three NBA champions in the locker room (Mike, Tayshaun & Tony Allen). That, combined with the hunger of the core, should mean great things.
  • Jonathan May - Obviously Miller has had some serious injury concerns over the last few years and as a result has developed a reputation of being fragile. To hear Miller say it, he felt great last season and is ready to go. Back injuries are tough and never really heal. I think that 15-18 minutes/game and 50-55 games would be a reasonable expectation and you hope that Mike can produce 6-8 points/game in that span and reliably hit from behind the arc.
  • Joshua Coleman - I don’t expect him to log 20 minutes per game — or even 20 minutes in any game, really. I think he will be used situationally against teams that are able to double the post players effectively (as the Spurs have done) and — if he’s “on” — then he might get up to 15 minutes per game regularly that way. One of the biggest contributions he will provide is size and ball-handling. Coach Joerger has mentioned using him as a Stretch-4, which presents all kinds of interesting possibilities in matching up with other teams that are inclined to use small-ball lineups.
  • Steve Danziger - The Mike Miller that I remember from his tenure with the Grizzlies is far different than the one that we have seen in recent years, and they touched upon that in the press conference. He spent a lot of time with the ball in his hands as a Grizzly, and I expect to see that again to relieve Mike Conley a bit, so I would expect that his 3 point shooting rates decline from what he was able to do in Miami to an extent. He also won’t be playing with the best passer in the world anymore (debate for another day, but I think Lebron qualifies). All this being said, I think that defenses with no choice but to respect his jumper will have to loosen up on the paint. If so, mission accomplished.
  • Matthew Noe - As good a team attitude as you’ll find in the NBA-he is not only willing to accept his role, he’s been performing it on a championship level team for the past two seasons (except for those few but important starts) so he also knows EXACTLY how to do it. Numbers are tough to predict, but I’d say they’ll increase as the season goes on to prime the engine for April, May, and….June?
3. As of today, who are the first two players off the bench for Coach Joerger in 2013-2014?
  • Chip Crain - Bayless and Davis will likely be the first two off the bench but Quincy Pondexter, Mike Miller and Kosta Koufas won’t be far behind. Ideally the second unit (especially if Mo Williams comes on board) could allow the starters to all average between 28 and 32 MPG instead of 32-36 MPG as they have in the past. With Pondexter and Miller the team can compensate better when Gasol is off the court to keep the offense moving the ball too.
  • Lee Eric Smith - I’m going to go with Kosta Koufos and Ed Davis. But shortly after that, look for QPon, JB and Mike Miller to enter the game. Note: Everything I just wrote goes out the window if the Grizzlies sign Mo Williams. See what I mean about that crowded backcourt?
  • Jonathan May - I may just be having a failure of imagination, but I still think Bayless is the first man off the bench this year. Tony Allen’s offensive limitations are still likely to lead to short shifts and Bayless is the logical replacement. After that, it is a coin-toss and likely depends on the matchup. I know that is a copout, but it is either Ed Davis or Quincy Pondexter, depending on the needs of the particular game. If you forced me to pick one over the other, I’d say Ed Davis – if only because the team seems dedicated to developing him and that message will be clearly conveyed to Coach Joerger.
  • Joshua Coleman - Right now, I think the first two guys off the bench will be Quincy Pondexter and Ed Davis. While I expect Jerryd Bayless, Mike Miller, and Kosta Koufos to get plenty of playing time throughout the season, Tony Allen’s issue of occasionally getting early fouls and Zach Randolph’s lower number of minutes (in comparison to Marc Gasol’s) will make them the likely choices for early substitutions on a nightly basis.
  • Steve Danziger - Tough to answer at this juncture, as the answer will be contingent on a number of factors including, but not limited to: matchups, who else we sign, Joerger’s rotation patterns, and who ends up starting at the 3. If Tayshaun Prince assumes his starting role from last season, I would guess that Quincy Pondexter and Jerryd Bayless (or Mo Williams, if signed) make the first entry into the game to wake up the offense.
  • Matthew Noe - Davis for foul trouble, Bayless for normal sub patterns either for Conley or TA, dependent of course on future moves if any. This sounds great for Ed Davis, but the light is going to shine more brightly on him, and the expectations will be high for him with playing time pretty much guaranteed.

Memphis Grizzlies bench

4. Assuming everyone is healthy, who has a bigger impact for the Grizzlies in 2013-2014: Mike Miller, Jerryd Bayless, Quincy Pondexter?
  • Chip Crain - Tough question and it has as much to do with what you feel is impactful. Quincy’s defense and perimeter shooting will enable Allen to rest more during games so he is fresher at the end when the team will need him to shut down shooters. Bayless is the best sparkplug off the bench to change momentum. Miller clearly will spread the floor better than anyone on the roster and his passing will still keep Randolph and Gasol getting great looks as well. If I have to go with one name it would be Bayless but Miller is the darkhorse if he can average 25+ minutes like he did at the end of last season.
  • Lee Eric Smith - Mike Miller. Honestly, I think he’s not significantly better a shooter than JB and Q — Mike shot 42 percent from 3 last season; JB shot 35% and QPon shot 39.5%. But here’s the thing: Mike has the REPUTATION of being deadly from three. Unlike most of the current roster (even Mike Conley, who’s pretty good from 3), Mike Miller’s shot will be respected as soon as he gets on the floor. Plus he’s a good rebounder. I expect shots to open up for everyone else simply because Mike is on the floor.
  • Jonathan May - If we assume “everyone is healthy” means everyone plays 82 games, I would have to give the nod to Mike Miller. If he is able to play that many games he will likely steal minutes from the other two and his outside shooting and correlative ability to spread the floor makes his presence difficult to replicate. That said, if Quincy takes the step forward I’m expecting, he may provide the same space while also playing high-level perimeter defense.
  • Joshua Coleman - This is a tricky question since I don’t believe the team is done making moves yet, but given what we have roster-wise right now, I’d say Pondexter will have the biggest impact simply because he is the best two-way player out of that group. His ability to be a 3-and-D guy should garner him plenty of opportunities to make key plays on both ends of the floor.
  • Steve Danziger - I’m going to have to put my money on Pondexter. With the Grizzlies’ wing situation in the flux that it is, he stands the chance to really make his mark on the NBA this season. I take him more so based on the question marks surrounding the others, however. If the Mo Williams rumblings have merit, I think Bayless may be heading out of town (something I’m not quite okay with). As for Miller, I think that even if healthy, the team is going to be very cautious with his minutes, which will make it hard for him to top Pondexter, who will play as many minutes as he proves he’s worth this year.
  • Matthew Noe - Pondexter. His ability and desire to log 30 mpg when needed and play his tail off on both sides of the ball is something with which Joerger is already familiar, and DJ is going to lean on QP to provide scoring and zero defensive letdown on the second unit. I think we saw what Bayless can do. That’s not a pejorative statement…it’s just the old “it is what it is”. Miller’s minutes will likely be too limited to make a major 16-ppg-ish impact, but he will be important.
5. How do you grade the front office’s off-season performance so far?  
  • Chip Crain - B+ and it could become an A or A+ just a few more moves. First, sign Mo Williams who would bring a veteran presence to the bench PG position. Second, extending Quincy Pondexter and/or Ed Davis before they reach free agency. Both QPon and Davis could become very expensive down the line but possibly can be wrapped up before the season starts at a far more reasonable rate.
  • Lee Eric Smith - Well, after Lionel-gate, the roster moves have been pretty impressive. The team has quietly addressed the backup PG (still crossing fingers for Mo Williams), cleared the logjam at Power Forward, upgraded the backup center and added even more shooting. The team will again fly under the radar because Houston, the Clippers and even Golden State made bigger splashes. But after the water settles back down, the Grizz will still be right there looking to lock up a top four seed in April.
  • Jonathan May - I have been a consistent defender of the front office throughout the summer. Unlike some, I am not just okay with the decision to replace Hollins with Joerger, I was an emphatic supporter of the idea. I think that the team often won inspiteof Lionel as often as it did because of him. Turning DA into Koufos was an incredible victory for the team and provides immediate balance in the front court. They have managed to accumulate a few cheap options to backup Conley (and hedge on Wroten) without parting with any significant assets. They also re-signed Tony Allen and brought back Mike Miller. There is still a little work to be done to call it a masterpiece, but it has been a very good summer for the Grizzlies. Entering the off-season the team needed perimeter shooting, a reliable backup C and to shore up the backup PG position. They clearly knocked the first two out of the park and have already addressed the third, even if not with a slam dunk signing. That said, Mo Williams has been in town the last two days and if he decides to play in Memphis then the Grizzlies will arguably have had the best off-season in the NBA. At this point: A-.
  • Joshua Coleman - I think that, given the unexpected things that have happened (such as Bayless opting in), any reasonable person has to still give this offseason a B+/A- at the lowest. Looking at getting a potential top-20 pick at #41 in Jamaal Franklin, a starter quality center in Kosta Koufos to back up Marc Gasol, and a deadly perimeter threat with championship experience for a minimum salary in Mike Miller — that’s the blueprint for success, no matter how you slice it. I give it a solid A with the potential to be a bona fide A+ by the start of training camp.
  • Steve Danziger - This front office means business. They have shown us that they are patient enough to sit back and let the free agent market take form. They did not freak out and overpay when shooter after shooter came off the board, but at the same time, they proved that they are aggressive enough to pounce and seal the deal when they see what they want standing in front of them. Very impressive first off-season, and they’re not letting any stone go unturned. A-.
  • Matthew Noe - It’s hard not to give them an A thus far…they could hurt themselves with the backup PG signing if any, but likely not. Could they have gotten a better backup center than Koufos? Could they have found a better shooting/rebounding/secondary ball-handling wing fit than Miller? Could they have performed either of those moves in a smarter money-wise fashion? I think not. The Calathes and (maybe) Akognon moves are nice trimmings, but the Miller and Koufos moves are the meat and potatoes.

There you have it. We would love to hear your take on these questions. You may have noticed that our names are all hyperlinks to our Twitter accounts. Send us an @ reply with your thoughts. For those of you that aren’t on Twitter, drop a comment and share your thoughts!

Grind on, Memphis.

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2 Responses to 5-on-5 (and 1): The Return of Mike Miller

  1. doofNo Gravatar says:

    This is one of the best pieces I have read on 3sob, guys. Good work.

    The one thing I would point out is: I think it may be a mistake to assume that Tayshaun rather than Pondexter is in the starting lineup.

    Again, very nice job.

  2. jpbyrd1No Gravatar says:

    I pretty much agree with everything you guys said, except for question #3. I don’t think Tony and Tayshaun will both be in the starting lineup. If we insert QPon in the starting lineup, I expect that Davis is first off the bench in order to limit Zbo’s minutes.

    Then we should bring in either JB/Miller in for Tony and Tayshaun in for Qpon so we keep two shooters on the floor.

    Then Koufos for Mark and (hopefully Mo Williams) whoever our backup PG in for Mike or just rotate JB over and bring in Miller if JB came out first of those two.

    All of this is matchup dependent, but in general that’s how I think it should go. Good rundown guys.

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