By Mike Silva
The summer marks an important period of time in the NBA that sets apart certain teams from others. With free agency and trades at a premium this year, teams have decided whether to rebuild or add to what they already have, which in turn separates pretenders and contenders. With an upcoming year full of promise but with a lot of uncertainty, the Houston Rockets are located somewhere between the two.
Coming off of a season in which the team missed the playoffs for just the second time in the last seven years, the Rockets knew it was time to add missing pieces to make a push for a playoff return. The piece added this off-season in the form of free agency was Brad Miller.
Houston’s focus this summer was on keeping their players who could potentially leave. Yao Ming decided to stay on with the Rockets, Luis Scola was resigned, and Houston matched the Cavaliers offer sheet to keep Kyle Lowry. The next move was bringing in a free agent.
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The ideal target was the Toronto Raptors’ Chris Bosh, who had considered Houston but was finally wooed by Miami’s formation of the new “Big Three.” With Bosh off the market, the obvious move was to pick up Miller before anyone else could, and that is just what Houston did.
On July 17, the Houston Rockets signed center Brad Miller to a three-year, $15 million contract. Miller was very excited to join the Rockets, mainly because it signified reuniting with Rick Adelman, who coached Miller in Sacramento from 2003-2006, and Kevin Martin.
In a report with the Chicago Tribune, Miller said joining Houston was “too good of a deal to pass” and that he was excited to join his favorite coach he’s ever played for.
So what do the Rockets get out of the 34-year-old Miller? First and foremost, the addition of Miller provides Houston a luxury that they have not had in the front court in quite some time: depth. In the 2009-2010 season, Miller averaged 8.8 points and 4.9 rebounds in just over 23 minutes per game. He played in all 82 of Chicago’s regular season games last year, demonstrating his durability.
Along with his durability, Miller is also a very versatile player. Throughout his career, Miller has shot 48.2% from the field for an average of 11.7 points per game. When Yao returns, Miller will see most of his minutes coming off the bench, however he can also play the four and can shoot the three ball, hitting 31.6% of his threes for his career. With Miller in the game, Houston can stretch the court and use him at the high-post or even behind the arc. Miller has size but also shoots the ball well.
Another key stat to look at is Miller’s high percentage shooting from the free throw line. In his career, Miller is an 80.3% shooter from the line. Last season, the Rockets as a team made just 77.2% of its foul shots with only three players, Aaron Brooks, Kyle Lowry, and Kevin Martin, shooting higher than 80% from the foul line.
Perhaps the biggest upside to bringing in Miller is his playoff experience. He has played in the post-season in eight of his 12 NBA seasons with four different teams and has averaged 9.5 points and 6.2 rebounds in close to 27 minutes per game.
So what Houston gets out of Miller is a seven-foot, 261 pound center that can provide quality minutes, whether starting or off the bench. The Rockets gets a seasoned veteran with playoff experience, durability, versatility, and the hunger to win. With a healthy Yao returning and Miller to back him up, the Rockets have arguably one of the best 1-2 punches at center in the league. Picking up Miller and retaining solid players labels Houston as a winner of free agency, poised to make a playoff return.