(And after roughly three weeks spent focused nearly exclusively on the coaching shuffle, we're back with the "2006 in Review" series. First up was Mike Bibby. This time, it's Brad Miller. And I swear it won't be half as long.)
Ask any Kings fan on the planet, and they'll tell you Brad Miller had a horrible 2006 season. You'd have to be crazy to think otherwise. Right?
It's hard to admit, as B-52 has been among my favorite Kings since arriving three years ago, but yeah, he had a disappointing season. He was very inconsistent (as the graph below - which shows Miller's game scores for each game of the season, with the red line indicating the five-game average - shows), he turned the ball over a lot more as the offense changed, his rebounding fell off the face of the planet, and his defense remained... questionable.
But Miller, even when down, is still pretty damn good. He finished the season with a PER of 17.45 - good to get him safely in the top quarter of the league and among the top 10 centers. His assist rate of 23.7 was the best of his career. He shot better than 38 percent from three - and took more than he ever has before.
So what's wrong with Miller? Well, he's a joke on the boards. Literally. Bonzi Wells didn't get an extraordinary amount of rebounds simply because he was real active and can jump - he did it also because this is a poor rebounding team. Outside of Bonzi and Kenny Thomas, there isn't one player who could be called a good rebounder at their position. Miller, obviously, is the biggest example.
It's not like B-52 has never been able to rebound - even in Sacramento, Miller had a rebound rate of 16.1 in 2004. He's obviously not Ben Wallace on the glass, but he's better than he showed this season.
You can't blame him for lacking on the offensive boards - his role in Rick Adelman's offense kept him so far from the basket that it'd be a pipe dream to count on too many Miller putbacks. And that plays out, as Miller racked up fewer offensive rebounds per minute than ever before in his career.
But that doesn't explain everything. Miller's defensive rebounds fell, too - not to career-low levels, but pretty close. Miller took in 6.7 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes in 2006, down from 7.3 in 2005 and 8.4 in 2004 (which was a career high). Add that in with the lack of offensive rebounds, and for the first time in his career, Brad averaged less than 10 boards per 40. (And remember, many nights he played 40 minutes.)
Maybe the explanation for Miller's rebounding woes is age. The guy turned 30 in April, and played 37 minutes a game on average. He stayed healthy (a minor miracle) and missed only three games. But that positive is also a curse - he isn't used to playing 70 games, let alone 79. Add in the postseason (where he was obviously fatigued AND outmatched) and only Magellan can find whatever energy is left in dude's body.
(This seems like a good time to bring up this coming offseason, where Miller will try-out and ostensibly play for the US national team. Here we have a fatigued, aging center who is making lots and lots of money. I'm rethinking my whole "happy for Brad" thing as far as the World Championships go. Yes, I'll be glad he gets some national (and international) recognition because he's totally going to whoop those Argentines. But the last thing he needs is another 300 minutes of work. Hopefully the practice time with Coach K helps, because I can't imagine a busy summer will. And yes, I'm a selfish jerk.)
It's not all doom and gloom, though. Miller remains the most valuable King as far as +/- numbers go (though Ron Artest was thisclose to beating him there). With Miller on the floor, the Kings offense had a very good offensive efficiency of 110.4. When he wasn't on the floor, the team's offensive efficiency was 100.2 - a rather large difference. The defense was slightly worse with Miller on the floor, but not enough to counter the big offensive boost B-52 provided.
With his very good shooting (still had a effective field goal percentage of 51.4%) and huge assist numbers, it's clear how important Brad is to the Kings offense. Kevin Martin and Shareef Abdur-Rahim may be more efficient, but Miller isn't far behind.
But do those benefits with the ball overcome obvious deficiencies on the glass (which will only be magnified if Bonzi leaves) and defense? That's the decision Geoff Petrie has to make.
Your turn: The good, the bad, the hillbilly - Brad Miller in 2006 - speak out.