WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards' quest for a decent backup point guard may finally be over. After striking out with Eric Maynor, Garrett Temple, Shaun Livingston, Jannero Pargo and A.J. Price over the last two seasons, the team seems to have finally found the kind of reserve they need for in Andre Miller.
Washington started the second quarter of Tuesday's 115-106 win over the Orlando Magic up by four points. John Wall, after playing through the entire first quarter, started the second on the bench, allowing Miller to check in for the first time that night. The Wizards promptly went on a 12-3 run fueled by the combined efforts of Miller, Al Harrington and Bradley Beal. All of them got their buckets within the flow of the offense and most were assisted by Miller.
This provided a stark contrast from the painfully poor performances typical of the second unit this season. The Trevor Booker jump shots, the Kevin Seraphin isolations and the Beal long twos that were symptoms of an offense starved for playmaking were almost non-existent that night. Miller finished the game with five points and three assists and Washington outscored Orlando by 12 points with him on the floor, the highest mark on the team.
More on Andre Miller
More on Andre Miller
Through his first three games in the Wizards' red white and blue, Miller is averaging four points and three assists in a little under 15 minutes per game. At first glance, this is a pedestrian stat line in a comically-small sample size. However, a player like Miller, due to his intangibles and fit with the team, is worth far more to the Wizards than what shows up in the box score.
Washington currently has the league's 21st-best offense, averaging 102.1 points per 100 possessions this season. With John Wall on the court, that number jumps to 104.8, which would be good for a ninth-place tie with Minneosta. With Wall on the bench, though, the team's offense has fallen apart. Currently they're scoring only 93.3 points per 100 possessions when he sits, per NBA.com. For the sake of comparison, the 76ers have the league's worst offense and they still score at a better clip than the Wizards sans Wall.
That's where Miller comes in. Before Miller, the backup point guard spot was a disaster offensively. Washington scores 96.7 points per 100 possessions with Temple in the game and a mind-numbingly bad 84.2 points per 100 possessions with Eric Maynor in. The sample size is tiny (44 minutes), but the Wizards are at 102 points per 100 possessions with Miller in, per NBA.com. Even if he comes back to earth a bit, Miller recent history and reputation suggest that he is already a massive upgrade over Temple and Maynor.
Miller does three things very well. He's an excellent passer in transition, he can run an offense in the half court and he can call his own number and score on the block. Washington's second unit has desperately needed easy transition buckets, a half-court threat and someone who can get the team into its sets and allow shooters like Martell Webster to play to their strengths. Miller clearly fits this role to a T.
"If you're sitting close to the floor while he's out on the floor, you can hear him talking all the time," Randy Wittman said. "That's big for our second unit. He stabilizes those guys," Wittman said.
At 37 years of age and without elite size or shooting ability to fall back on, Miller should in theory be on his last legs as a player. Some way, somehow, he's defied the odds and continues to be effective. Last season saw him post an above-average Player Efficiency Rating while helping to lead an elite Denver Nuggets offense. Even if he slows down a bit, he should still be one of the better back up point guards in the league going into the postseason and may even be worth keeping around next year.
At least for now, The Professor appears to be just what the doctor ordered.