Andre Miller has always been about defying expectations.
When you think you have him pegged down as a pure point guard, he goes and has a 52 point game. When you think you have him pegged down as a quiet, unassuming type who doesn't rock the boat, he goes out and gets cornrows and goes on a rant about Corn Flakes on macaroni and cheese. When you think you have him pegged down as a floor-bound game manager, he goes out and tries a putback dunk, just to see if you're paying attention:
But Andre Miller's weird attempt to reassert his athleticism isn't the only way he's been defying expectations this season.
At a time when most older players are relying more on their jump shot to counteract their diminishing athletic returns, Miller has almost completely eradicated perimeter shooting from his game this season.
According to NBA.com's shot tracker, only 12 of Miller's 70 field goal attempts this season have come outside the paint, and of those dozen, only seven have come from further than 15 feet away from the basket. While Andre Miller has never been one to take a high volume of shots from outside, this is still a remarkable drop. Compare his shooting splits from last year to this year:
|Percentage of FGA in paint||71.9%||82.9%|
|Percentage of FGA longer than 15 ft.||20.7%||10.0%|
If you're looking for a different visual, here's a comparison of Andre Miller's heat map from this season and last season, from NBAsavant:
Miller's average shot distance this year is 6.8 feet from the rim, down from 9.3 feet from the rim last year. Miller's average distance is shorter than such noted outside shooters as Kenneth Faried, Derrick Favors, Alex Len, Nerlens Noel, Amir Johnson and Marcin Gortat.
Eliminating almost all outside shooting from Miller's game has had some interesting effects on himself and the Wizards this season.
Andre Miller's shooting percentages are through the roof, but it's not just because he stopped taking outside shots
As you'd probably expect, Miller's field goal percentage looks great right now. He's shooting 61 percent from the field, which is almost unheard of for someone his height and his age. But don't be confused, this isn't just because Miller stopped taking risky outside shots. He's posting career-high in field goal percentage on shots from 0-3 feet and 3-10 feet from the basket, according to Basketball-Reference.
Miller is taking less outside shots, but he's not taking less shots overall
Even though the location of his shots has changed, it's not as though he's subtracted those shots from his game, he just replaced them with more effective shots at the rim. Last year, he averaged 11.8 field goal attempts per 100 possessions, (10.9 after he was traded to Washington). This year, he's averaging 12.1 per 100. Somehow, at the age of 38, Andre Miller has just found a way to get to the rim more effectively than he has in years past.
Miller is doing the work by himself to get the points
Nearly three-fourths of Miller's shots are unassisted, which isn't shocking, since he's the point guard. But how he's getting those unassisted shots is really impressive. Half of Miller's points this season have come on drives, defined by NBA.com's Player Tracking as "Any touch that starts at least 20 feet of the hoop and is dribbled within 10 feet of the hoop and excludes fast breaks." Among players that have made at least 50 drives only three players (Wesley Matthews, Beno Udrih and Dwyane Wade) are shooting a higher percentage than Miller. Per 48 minutes, he's averaging more points on drives than Wade, Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard, and this is despite very little threat of a jump shot this year.
The Wizards really aren't missing his outside shooting yet
When Miller is on the floor, the Wizards' offensive rating is 105.5, which would be tied for the 10th best offense in the NBA with the Spurs. Furthermore, two of the Wizards' four best offensive lineups (that have played more than 20 minutes together this season) include Miller, so you can't really make much of an argument that he's hurting the offense by not using his outside shooting to stretch the floor more. While the approach is a bit unorthodox, it's not hurting the Wizards' offense when he's on the floor.
Still, it's fair to question whether or not this can keep up over the long haul. At some point, Butler's shooting is probably going to start slowing down and someone else is going to have to generate some points to keep the Wizards' bench units running efficiently. Once we see more of how the Wizards perform when Butler and the rest of the bench cools down, we'll have a better understanding of whether or not Miller is just feeding the hot hand, or if he's truly committed to turning back the clock to a time before the three-point line was introduced.