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Brandon Miller Has a Sapphire Eye
Heading into the college basketball season, Brandon Miller is easily one of the most versatile offensive players in the country. Tap in and see why NBA execs should be paying attention to his game.
If you like watching TV, it is an incredible time to be alive. HBO just wrapped up season one of their highly popular series “The House of the Dragon” a couple of Sundays ago. They also recently dropped the first trailer for Season Four of “Succession,” my favorite show, and “White Lotus” has returned for another season after blowing people away in Season One. As much as I love watching basketball, I have to mix in some television and movies with all the basketball because it helps me better understand players and their personalities. Basketball is a sport played by human beings with real emotions, personalities, and characters. As I watched the slow and fast development of the characters on “The House of the Dragon” (thanks a lot, time jumps), one of the most exciting characters on the show had to be the second son of Viserys Targaryen, Aemond. To put it simply, Aemond is the classic anti-hero of the show. He has the sharpest chin I’ve ever seen, is allergic to smiling, has one eye, and claimed the largest dragon in the world just a couple of hours after his uncle’s wife (the former rider of the dragon) passed away. My man walked straight from his aunt’s funeral to go grab her dragon for himself.
For someone who is not one of the two leads of the show, Aemond got some of the best and coolest scenes throughout the season and the story behind who he has become by the end of Season One was truly well written.
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I started with all this Targaryen talk because I think Brandon Miller, the freshman wing from Alabama, will be playing the role of Aemond Targaryen in the magical world of college basketball this season.
I know very little about Brandon Miller as a person; I’ve never met the guy, and I’ve never spoken to him. I have, however, seen tape of his game and how he carries himself on and around the court. Heading into the 2022-20223 college basketball season, there is growing excitement amongst Alabama fans about the type of talent they have in Brandon Miller. If you’ve read any quotes from Coach Nate Oats, you’ll see just how excited they are about Miller being a massive contributor to the team as a freshman.
As much as Alabama fans will love Miller and his play, his demeanor on the floor will scare people—or cause opposing fan bases to hate him. Miller is an extremely talented wing with skills and abilities on both ends of the floor, which we will get into later. But he also carries himself with a confident aura that reminds me so much of Aemond Targaryen. Let’s jump into why I’m so excited for Brandon Miller and why I think he may be the most popular anti-hero of the 2022-2023 college basketball season.
Heading into the season, Miller is not very high on most pre-season draft boards across the world wide web. There is probably a bevy of reasons as to why this is the case. Brandon Miller is a little older than others in his class as he is currently 19 years old and will be 20 for his freshman season. Age has always been a strange thing for me when evaluating prospects. It’s not that I don’t understand why scouts and evaluators would lean more toward a younger prospect, but I do think prospects a little older get burned a little too much for their age. As we all know, growth and development are hardly linear. Some prospects can show great advancements in their game in their teens and never develop again, while some guys look like they’re stagnating early on in their careers and then take an unexpected huge leap in their mid to late twenties. I will not penalize Miller because he was born a little earlier than some of the other prospects in his class. The unfortunate thing is, I imagine he will hear about it a ton in his freshman year, and plenty of other outlets may hold it against him.
Miller’s age, persona on the court, and pre-season standing on many boards is an amalgamation of factors that make him the Aemond Targaryen of college basketball.
After a three-year hiatus away from Game of Thrones, HBO introduced a prequel series from the same world but over a hundred years before the events that took place in Game of Thrones. There was a high level of excitement from fans of the original show heading into its first season, and also some reservations about how this prequel series would pan out with a completely new cast of actors, many of whom are not well-known. After wrapping its first season, it’s safe to say the introductory season was a smash hit, as over 9.3 million viewers tuned in for the finale. Of the many standout performances of the season, the one that I want to focus on for this piece is the harrowing and provocative anti-hero Aemond Targaryen.
Before I go any further, this is a good point to throw out a friendly spoiler warning, as I will be touching on some events during the first season. If you haven’t completed Season One yet, shame on you, but also keep scrolling to avoid the spoilers.
Aemond Targaryen is first introduced to us as the younger brother of Aegon Targaryen and, in many ways, embodies the sorry little brother that grew up in the shadow of his older brother. When we first meet him in the series, he is significantly smaller than his older brother, has yet to claim a dragon for himself, and is constantly made fun of by his brother and younger nephews. Due to time jumps in the series, we don’t see the full spectrum of teasing and hardship Aemond endures as a boy, but the show did a great job of highlighting his angst and growing resentment towards his brother and nephews.
The show highlighted key events, like when his brother and nephews gave him a pig to mock him because he had yet to claim or ride a dragon. In that scene, you can feel the pure stress of the only son not having a dragon in the family. It was also incredible to see the corresponding conversation with his mother about the prank, and to hear the pain in his voice. In that scene, the way that Queen Alicent brushes away his pain and simplifies his pain and circumstance as a simple obsession over a beast is important for us as the audience to see as well. Aemond was mocked by his own family and brushed aside by his mother, yet his pain and anguish were very real to him.
The culmination of Aemond’s character development in season one can be found in the battle with his nephew over Storm’s End in the season finale. After his younger nephew Lucerys arrives at Storm’s End to solidify the allegiance between his family and the snarling Borros Baratheon, Aemond begins to attack his younger nephew with insults in front of everyone in the room. It’s important to note that young Lucerys took Aemond’s eyes six years before this event. One of the most bone-chilling scenes of the season is when Aemond demands that Lucerys cut out his eye to pay for what he did to him years ago. In the scene, Aemond lifts his eye patch to reveal a beautiful and terrifying sapphire eye that is now in place of his lost eye.
This was such an incredible moment because there was a tangible representation of Aemond’s anguish and resentment. Although it was horrifying to see, the color of the eye is beautiful and speaks to the double-edged sword of Aemond’s pain. Although Aemond lost an eye and endured excruciating physical and emotional pain as a child, that pain molded him into the strong and terrifying man he had become. He was now an excellent swordsman and the rider of the largest and most powerful dragon in the world; he had a clear advantage in the battle that was to come against his nephew. The spectacle of seeing that beautiful blue eye was a visual representation of Aemond’s journey and what fueled him as a person.
All of this is important because as beautiful and painful as it was to see Aemond’s sapphire eye, it’s important to note that Brandon Miller is walking into his freshman season at Alabama as a guy who may have a chip on his shoulder as well. I believe there are some real skills in Brandon Miller’s game that he will use beautifully to cause his opponents some real pain and eventually receive the adulation and praise he deserves.
With it being the pre-season, I wanted to refrain from doing a full breakdown of Miller’s game in this article. Before I get into his offense, which will be my piece's focus, I want to discuss his defense. Miller is currently listed at 6’9” but looks taller on film. By the time he enters the draft, there is a possibility that he ends up being taller. He may even end up being 6’10”-7’. With that in mind, Miller played a very interesting role in high school. Many times, Miller was the tallest player on the court, and he wasn’t necessarily asked to play the role of center but was functionally a center many times.
While going through his senior year tape, I saw that he was asked to protect the rim a ton and did a pretty good job. I believe he showed great timing on his blocks, tried to be as vertical as possible, and used his length to his advantage; the issue with evaluating high school defense is that they don’t play much of it. Like most high school players, Miller also had moments of floating around and not being fully engaged, he had moments of getting lost off-ball, but he also showed good flashes. I also thought he did a good job on the ball at times with real intensity. He also showed good mobility in his hips and active feet, fighting to stay in front of his man. Ultimately, I want to see him defend against a higher level of competition before I make more concrete conclusions about his defense. With that said, let’s get into Brandon Miller.
Versatile Offensive Game:
In Season One, Episode Nine of The House of the Dragon, there is a scene where Aemond is walking around the city with Sir Criston Cole, looking for his miserable, alcoholic brother Aegon. While searching for him, Aemond tells Cole that he believes that he should be the one to be named King of the Realm and not his brother. As you can see in the clip above, Aegon states all the different reasons why he believes he should be the one to sit on the Iron Throne.
Currently, most scouts, teams, and evaluators probably have Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, Dariq Whitehead, and others ahead of Brandon Miller. It’s understandable why this may be the case; the higher-profile names will get more attention before the season begins. With that being said, I believe Miller has all the tools and ability to be in the conversation at the top with those other guys.
I’ve compiled some clips of Miller playing for the Bradley Beal EYBL U-17 team in the video above. I wanted to focus on his play in that competition because I thought he didn’t play against a very high level of competition in high school.
First off, Miller’s main weapon of choice is his mid-range game. Miller is a real technician from that range and was an absolute joy to watch. The best part of his ability from the mid-range was his ability to use his size and shoot over either shoulder. This is an incredibly important skill for him because it’s a shot he can get off easily due to his size and length. Scoring at the college level should be harder than he experienced in high school. Scoring on the NBA level will be even harder than in college. The fact that he has a reliable weapon that he can lean on will be huge for his development. That type of reliability leads to confidence and more daring choices, leading to more mistakes and more growth. Growth is always the goal.
Miller can do much more than turn over either shoulder. Miller is also a capable ball handler that can go to an arsenal of combo moves to get past his man. Do I think he’s a dynamic ball-handler with a Rod Strickland-type of bag? I’m not saying that. Although he may not have the best handle in the world, his handle is plenty good for his size, and he will be able to get by defenders. Due to his lack of an electric first step or bouncy athleticism, Miller does rely more on his savvy and handles to get by his defenders. It’s also important to note that Miller does a great job of using his length to shield defenders away and get his shot up even against larger and more athletic defenders.
Miller can also shoot it from outside, although it does need work. My cohost, Corey Tulaba, recently noted on our episode on Miller for the Draftdaq NBA Podcast that Miller’s shot becomes a little flat when he shoots from outside. Like Tyrese Maxey when he was coming out of college, his shot is a bit of a push shot from three-point range and could use more arc. That’s something that Maxey has been able to fix on the NBA level, and I think Miller will do the same. From what I saw in high school, I think Miller will be able to shoot off movement and stand still on catch-and-shoot opportunities. I don’t think he was as confident shooting off the dribble in high school, but I think he’ll showcase more of that in college for Alabama, where I think he’ll be given a ton of opportunities to try things and score a ton.
The last leg of his offensive versatility is his playmaking. No one will mistake Miller for Lamar Odom or Chris Webber with his passing ability. (Please enjoy the highlight reel of Chris Webber dropping DIMES.)
I believe Miller will be a high-level passer who will surprise some people. I highlighted more of his EYBL tape over his high school tape because I don’t think he flashed as much of the passing for Cane Ridge as he did for Brad Beal EYBL. I thought Miller showcased a nice mix of passes that I was not expecting. His passing in transition popped to me. He did a great job of pushing the ball up the court, whether off a miss or make, and made a lot of quick reads and passes that put a huge smile on my face. The level of passes may not have been super high, but the processing speed and ability to make quick decisions were impressive to me. I thought he threw some nice skip passes to the weakside corner a couple of times and even made some nice interior passes to a big or cutter. Miller probably won’t be asked to be a primary creator for a team, but he has enough juice as a creator that you could one day even see him initiating pick and rolls and creating for others out of the mid or high post.
Because of his playmaking ability, my NBA player comparison would be a mix of three guys. The trio would be Khris Middleton, Glenn Robinson, and Franz Wagner. I chose these three guys because of the role I think he will play in the NBA. All three guys were or are really good secondary options; Middleton was the second-best player of the NBA title-winning 2021 Milwaukee Bucks. He was consistently asked to hit big shots, create in the mid-range, and play off of Giannis. Middleton’s ability to run the pick and roll was a huge weapon for the Bucks on their way to winning a title.
Glenn Robinson was not the most explosive athlete, but he knew how to get to his spots and get buckets. He also was an underrated passer that could occasionally throw in an 8-10 assist game. Watch the highlights I posted above of Glenn Robinson giving the Lakers buckets. Robinson’s footwork was so nasty, and he was so good with that one or two dribble pull-up from the midrange. Miller’s game could look a lot like this one day.
Franz is another guy that came to mind because of his size and how the Magic utilize him. Franz is a jumbo creator that handles the ball a ton and has no problem making decisions for the team on the offensive end of the floor and is also a good defender who uses his physicality and mobility to keep his man in front of him. Overall, all three players embody my high hopes for Miller on the court. The final piece to the puzzle that reminds me of Aemond is his mentality and persona on the floor.
Miller’s Sapphire eye is easily his confidence and tempered disdain for his opponents. Like Aemond Targaryen, who, on the show, loves to hate everyone around him, Brandon Miller walks onto every court he plays on looking for blood. If you watch any of his games in high school, watch the way he warms up and carries himself on the court before tip-off; you’d think he was out to murder someone. From almost every warmup of his I got to see on film or in YouTube videos, he does not smile, he does not laugh; all he does is his job. As I watched his tape, he reminded me so much of the guys I’ve played against in my life that always walked on the court pissed off to be playing against people they thought were below them. You know the type. They usually walk onto the court last; they’re still wearing slides in layup lines and scoff at every make or miss by the opposing team warming up. They go up for wild layups with insane amounts of spin on them while barely jumping. They also never go in.
Brandon Miller is that guy, and I don’t mean that as a critique. I LOVE that part of him. I love that he believes he’s the best player on the floor at all times; I love that he’s not looking to shake hands or laugh with his opponents. I like that he barely smiles at his own teammates. That’s the type of intensity that coaches love to see, and front offices should also take notice of that when the draft cycle comes around. That attitude, combined with his skill set, has to get you excited.
Brandon Miller may not have an actual sapphire eye, but he plays like someone who has one. I’m sure Miller knows where he’s being ranked on pre-season boards; he probably reads every critique of his game, and he’s probably reading this piece as I’m writing it. He may even be the type of guy to keep a list of people he’s coming to get.
Brandon Miller’s game will amaze you, and his versatility will entice you, but his intensity is what will stay with you.
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