Now that the draft lottery is over and the Thunder are selecting at pick 12 (for the time being) it gives me a better idea of which players to look at as potential options in Oklahoma City's range. I could see OKC doing a variety of things with this pick, whether it's moving up in the draft or trading it for a player, but historical odds always lean on the side of no trade happening.
It's unfortunate for OKC to land right behind the Orlando Magic at 11, who I believe would be interested in someone like Gradey Dick, but OKC will still have some good options to choose from at this spot if they would like to stand pat. Leonard Miller has been a late riser over the past month or so, with almost everyone boarding the hype train at once. Miller was an interesting draft prospect a season ago after a great couple of days at the Nike Hoop Summit, but dropped out of the 2022 draft pool after a poor showing in the combine scrimmages. Instead, he went to play in the G-League for Ignite where he had a great season and exceeded a lot of expectations.
- Born: November 26, 2003
- Draft Age: 19.6
- High School: Fort Erie International Academy
- RSCI: 62
- Team: G-League Ignite
- Measurements (Without shoes): 6’9.25, 213 pounds, 7'2 wingspan
- Consensus Ranking: 19th
Leonard Miller's rise has been meteoric over this last calendar year. Miller was seen by some as a first-round caliber player before he pulled out of the draft last season after that bad combine performance in the scrimmages. Now, he's almost seen as a universal first-round pick and some people are even mocking him in the lottery to a team like the Thunder.
In addition, Leonard ranks highly in analytical draft models such as DMX from @thebigwafe, and while this isn't something I'm entirely grading any players on, I do factor in all possible data when trying to form my opinions.
Miller joined forces with fellow draft-eligible players Scoot Henderson, Sidy Cissoko, Efe Abogidi and Mojave King on the Ignite. The move to the G-League was a prudent one, with Miller putting up stellar numbers against good competition for a draft prospect. For the year, Miller averaged 18 points, 11 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.7 stocks on 64% TS in 24 regular season games. However, his numbers got even better after the G-Leauge All-Star break (albeit this is only 11 of the 24 games in the regular season) where he put up 20.7 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 2.2 stocks on 66% TS.
What is Leonard Miller's game like and how would it translate to a team like OKC? Let's take a closer look at the intriguing Canadian prospect.
Shooting Touch and Rim Finishing
Despite Leonard's mediocre percentages from behind the arc, he has some of the best natural touch in the class. Leonard Miller shot 73.5 percent on 280 attempts in the restricted area as a 19-year-old in the G-League across the regular season and the G-League Showcase, with 63% of those makes being assisted baskets.
Miller is almost like the big man version of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in terms of finishing, taking the most preposterous shots--whether with his offhand or jumping off the wrong foot--but making them at a good clip. For a 6'11-ish guy in shoes, he is adept at contorting his body and trying creative finishing angles at the basket with either hand, showing off his ambidextrous finishing ability. Combining Miller's 7'2 wingspan and his 9.50 inch hands (second biggest at the combine) makes for a weapon down low with a big catch radius and natural shooting touch.
Here are the top five players for finishing in the restricted area in the G-League last season per NBA.com, with Miller being the youngest of the group by far. I believe he's still learning how to be 6'11 after his sudden growth spurt in high school, making the potential for more rim running and play in the paint intriguing for whoever drafts him.
Miller loves operating as a face-up threat and going to his spin jumper, a shot that can be effective over smaller defenders if he makes it at a reasonable clip. According to NBA.com, Miller shot, in albeit an incredibly small sample, a combined 56% (10/18) on shots labeled as "turnaround fadeaway shot" or "turnaround jump shot", making this a real work in progress but something that could be valuable in his offensive toolbox in the future if he continues to work on it.
I think finishing at or near the basket will be Miller's bread and butter early in his career. Last draft cycle I compared Tari Eason's potential shot tendencies early in his career to a young Jerami Grant, something that ended up being quite accurate. As a rookie, Eason shot 43% of his shots from 0-3 feet, 26% from 3-10 feet, and 26% from three. These are numbers I can see Miller matching in an optimized role early in his career. His half-court offense in an NBA setting will be a work in progress, but I believe there is a pathway to some easy offense for Miller if he is willing to continue doing the dirty work he's done thus far in his career.
Motor, Defense, Rebounding
There is something to be said for Miller sort of 'stumbling' into statistics even on an off-night. Miller's fantastic motor and natural length/rebounding ability gives him avenues to impact the game in a positive manner when other aspects of his game aren't working out on that particular night.
On the defensive end, Miller primarily defended opposing big men but occasionally got switched onto wings and guards. I wasn't blown away by his switchability, as I thought he was a bit flat-footed when defending on the perimeter consistently, but he can do a good job depending on the matchup. Miller isn't the most flexible athlete in the world, but he has great natural length and size which can mitigate the fact he isn't a Nic Claxton level athlete on the perimeter. However, I think his defensive instincts improved throughout the G-League season, a positive sign considering he previously had various lapses on that end of the court. I also liked his ability to use his big body to wall off opposing offensive players from driving, as he is more of a shot contester than a shot blocker.
I don't think Miller has the ability to be your primary rim protector, which is why I like his fit next to a player like Chet Holmgren who can take on those duties and allow Miller to help from the weak side and contest shots with his length. His length should give him the ability to effectively dig from the strong side on drives as well.
I foresee more of an off-ball defender with the ability to close out on shooters and contest effectively. Using his body to protect the rim will be more advantageous for Miller than trying to hang with guards on the perimeter at a consistent level.
Only six high-major players in the NCAA last season matched Leonard Miller's rebounding numbers in the G-League (10.6% O-REB rate & 24.8% D-REB rate), with those players being: Zach Edey, Oscar Tshiebwe, Joel Soriano, Norchad Omier, Moussa Cisse and Josh Gray, per Bart Torvik. OKC had a problem on the defensive and offensive glass last year, and injecting Miller and Holmgren into the frontcourt next season would hopefully remedy that issue and possibly turn it into a strength of the team. I've already made myself clear in how I think offensive rebounding is an incredibly valuable skill in these days of modern, high-paced offense where teams are more prone to playing small and spreading the floor, and Miller would slide in nicely to fill that niche role.
The funny thing is that Miller isn't a great leaper overall, but he has an incredible second jump on putbacks and offensive rebounds. If he misses a shot inside you can bet on Miller getting up off the ground in an instant to try and tip the ball back in. His motor on rebounds and in general remind me of Jarred Vanderbilt, except he's two inches taller. Miller certainly isn't the instinctual defender Vanderbilt is, but their never-ending motors are similar with these types of hustle plays.
I do think the bar for being a good role player in today's NBA is higher than ever, putting Leonard Miller in a concerning spot if he can never at least be a confident and efficient C&S player from behind the arc. We've seen the Lakers leave someone like Aaron Gordon, who some people were calling to possibly make the All-Star game this year, wide open from three during the playoffs. Volume matters too, as when the time comes to really buckle down (the playoffs) opposing teams do not guard the wing who only shoots two threes a game.
Throughout the G-League Showcase and the regular season, Miller shot 28/92 or 30.4 percent from three and 61/77, or 79.2 percent from the FT line. In 9 charted games for Fort Erie in 2021-2022, Miller shot 40/59 from the FT line or 67.8 percent, so this recent uptick in FT shooting is a positive indicator of future shot development.
I have a hard time seeing Miller not being able to shoot at all in the NBA. 77 free throw attempts is a small sample, but his natural touch near the rim and his near 80 percent clip from the line lead me to believe that he will figure it out eventually. I understand the Thunder's need for perimeter shooting after seeing how the Timberwolves treated Lu Dort and Josh Giddey at the three point line during the Play-In. The fit might be clunky at first, but I trust Miller to get his shot down eventually if he does land in Oklahoma City.
The shot mechanics are not close to perfect either, with a low release point in front of his face that doesn't play well versus contests. His motion used to never repeat, either, always switching up on every jumper. You can see the incremental improvements over time, but hopefully a full summer and training with all-world shooting coach Chip Engelland can get these issues corrected for good.
Physicality, Transition, Ball Skills
Miller is a big guy, coming into the combine at 6'9.25 without shoes and 213 pounds. His 7'2 wingspan is good for his size and he should be a versatile big at the next level. I can imagine based on this list below of some close comparisons physically, Thunder fans would immediately point to foreboding Darius Bazley comp. That comparison falls short to me, as Miller is not only bigger and lengthier but, unlike Bazley, he has some basketball skills to go along with his movement ability. Bazley got his shot blocked almost as often as any big in recent history, and Miller possesses much better natural touch and the ability to embrace and play through contact.
Here is more data viz for Miller's testing from @kalidrafts on Twitter.
I don't think Miller is an exceptional mover relative to his size, but he has the ability to run and participate in grab-and-go in transition, and can attack closeouts going downhill. Miller eats up ground quickly with incredibly long strides and uses that to compensate for good but not great speed. His ball skills really shine in the open court, with the ability to take it coast-to-coast himself or dish it off to a teammate for a good look. The Thunder love to get out and run, ranking sixth in pace last season, making Miller's transition capabilities an enticing fit.
I noticed some improvements in Miller's handle this past year, particularly in tight spaces, but it could still use some work. An improved handle is probably the skill that unlocks his ceiling as a creator at the next level.
Last year when discussing Miller, a word brought up often was "lost". Miller just looked lost out on the floor, especially in more organized and professional settings like the NBA combine. He was a slow decision-maker with poor defensive positioning and spatial awareness, but we saw huge improvements from Miller in these aspects of his game, specifically his decision-making. Prior to the G-League All-Star break, Miller averaged 1.1 assists and 1.7 turnovers in 27 minutes a game, an objectively poor number. However, in the second half of the season, those numbers improved to 2.3 assists and only 1.3 turnovers in 35 minutes a night.
This is such a gorgeous pass from Miller while he is falling out of bounds. Obviously, he isn't doing this every game but I do think he has a little bit of playmaking ability in him. Even if the assists are still not an impressive number for a 20-usage player, I think cutting down on these careless turnovers is highly impressive and shows real growth as a player.
Most of his flashes come as a self creator, however, instead of attacking off the catch or a closeout. I think this comes with the territory of being the guy for so long before turning pro, and with continued reps in the short roll of attacking a tilted defense, we can see Miller develop as he did over the back half of the G-League season. Prior to joining Ignite, Miller operated as a jumbo creator who ran and orchestrated the offense for his team. Miller transitioned into more of a big man role for the Ignite, and there could potentially be some untapped potential with his playmaking as a tertiary option.
For me, it is as simple as this: I am willing to bet on players who show massive improvements in only a year's time and are also late bloomers. Leonard Miller had wonky shot mechanics, limited experience facing high-level competition, and a poor showing at the NBA draft combine last year. Just a year later he started putting up great, efficient numbers in the G-League against mostly grown men. I think the Thunder like these players on a visible upward trajectory. I remember when Josh Giddey and Mojave King were viewed as similar level prospects a year before the draft with Giddey obviously rising to the top, and now with recent players like late bloomers like Jalen Williams being targets of the team, it's hard to imagine them not having some interest in Miller.
He even showed athletic and physical improvements at the combine workouts with a 2-inch increase in standing vert and 0.75 inches of additional height. That isn't anything spectacular, but it shows he is still developing physically and can slide into the NBA as a four and potentially play small-ball five as he continues to bulk.
How does Leonard Miller fit on OKC?
Leonard Miller would be an excellent fit on the Thunder as a big man early on his career. Miller had an insane growth spurt his sophomore year of high school, growing from a 6'4 guard to a 6'10 big. Now up to 6'11, I believe he is starting to embrace the role of a big man with his combination of rim running in transition, being the roll man in the PnR, and operating as a face-up weapon as well as out of the dunker spot. I think having high-level decision-makers like Shai, Giddey, and JDub on the court who can get Miller the ball when he's rolling to the rim or has a mismatch in the post is something that should greatly benefit him. Additionally, I like the fit of Miller and Chet next to one another offensively, with Chet being able to spread the floor with the threat of the three and allowing Miller to operate as a roller or face-up player in the post.
I think there is some low-hanging fruit for competent big men in this OKC offense; if you run the floor well and get out in transition (which Miller absolutely does) and can finish in the paint, I believe you can put up relatively efficient stat lines consistently, even if you are a rookie.
Defensively, I see a perfect pairing with Miller and Holmgren in the frontcourt. Who knows if Miller will ever be good enough to consistently start next to Holmgren or even if he'll start at all his rookie year if he ends up being the pick at 12, but pairing him with a primary rim protector like Chet and allowing him to roam and provide help side rim protection makes sense as he continues to figure out the intricacies of NBA defenses.
To me, the 12th spot in this year's draft is a tough one. Players like Gradey Dick and Cason Wallace, both of whom I am a fan of, could go right in front of the Thunder. Nobody knows their plans as of yet, but if Leonard Miller is the pick at 12, the Thunder's revamped scouting staff with Vince Rozman and the addition of Chip Engelland would make that selection worth getting excited about for OKC fans.