I know Mike Miller doesn’t rank up there with LeBron James in star appeal or talent but in Memphis there is as much interest in whether or not Mike Miller will sign with the Grizzlies as there ever was about where LeBron James was going to sign.
After all there was no chance that LeBron was going to wear Beale Street Blue.
But more important than that, Mike Miller signing with the Grizzlies would mean at least one person in the league truly believes the Grizzlies have a legitimate shot at reaching the NBA Finals. In choosing the Grizzlies Miller is saying that, among the Grizzlies, Thunder, Rockets and Nuggets, Memphis is the team he could help go farthest in the playoffs.
It wasn’t that long ago Memphis was being discussed as a minor league team whose only reason for existing was to help serious contenders reach the Promised Land. The Grizzlies were the team that developed the talent and then sold them to serious contenders, not the guys who took that talent all the way themselves.
Think about it this way. The Thunder sport two All-Stars in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. The Rockets have two as well in Dwight Howard and James Harden. The Nuggets who have the best home court advantage in the league and one of the deepest teams in the league despite losing Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer and they also have an open spot for Miller to play bigger minutes.
How do the Grizzlies compete with such resumes?
First off the Grizzlies are a team with two all-stars as well in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. They may not be big names like the other guys but around the league the Grizzlies two bigs are respected far more than they are in the media. The Grizzlies also have a starting five with experience. The weak link, Tayshaun Prince, has an NBA title ring, Mike Conley is considered one of the best all-around pure PGs in the league and Tony Allen is a two time All-NBA defensive team player. The bench is solid as well with Quincy Pondexter, Jerryd Bayless, Ed Davis and Kosta Koufas. The Grizzlies have just traded for rights of another pass first PG who was the EuroCup MVP too.
In other words, this team can go a long way without having to rely too heavily on Miller every night. For an aging player with back issues that is a good thing. Miller has a talent this team needs to make the next step also so while his minutes may not be large his impact could be.
Miller could have been the difference last season against the Spurs. The Spurs basically double teamed whoever was in the paint for the Grizzlies and left perimeter defenders like Prince and Allen wide open on the perimeter because they weren’t worried about them hurting them from there. Having Pondexter and Miller would cause a slight drop in defense but would also force the Spurs to defend them on the perimeter opening up the lane for the Grizzlies bigs to operate.
More importantly, Miller choosing the Grizzlies would be a sign that players should be looking at the Grizzlies as a possible free agent destination. The Grizzlies biggest FA signings have been Jerryd Bayless, Tony Allen, James Posey and Brian Cardinal. All four signings, yes even Cardinal, had moments of brilliance for the Grizzlies but it wasn’t like anyone would confuse that group with Dwight Howard, LeBron James or Chris Bosh.
The Spurs have been able to succeed in a less than favorable location and market size for years because players know that the organization is set up to succeed. This is how Memphis is building their reputation around the league but it isn’t easy without winning the lottery or being purchased by a Russian mega-millionaire willing to buy a title. People see the recipe for success in San Antonio and ask why not us. People forget that the Spurs were rescued from lottery purgatory twice by winning the top pick (David Robinson and Tim Duncan). Duncan especially has been a god-send by accepting less than market value on contracts to enhance the team’s opportunity for success.
Memphis’ best players have held the franchise hostage financially in the past making it more difficult to afford the type of role players capable of bringing a title to the city. Pau Gasol, Rudy Gay and even Zach Randolph have forced max deals on the Grizzlies at the expense of financial freedom to bring in the type of veteran role players capable of taking the team all the way to the title.
So Mike Miller choosing Memphis could change the perspective around the league about the Grizzlies. Miller coming here could encourage others to look seriously at the Grizzlies as a place to play and win. That is important because will never be able to take the Nets model of buy what you want and don’t worry about the penalty.
So stay tuned today to hear if the Grizzlies will receive the vote of confidence or be left at the altar again. The repercussions of this decision could go a farther than just Mike Miller.