Breaking Down Brandon Miller's On-Ball Creation | The Friday Screener
Brandon Miller is an elite shooter, but his on-ball creation potential suggests he can be so much more.
Brandon Miller entered this season with some lofty expectations after an impressive McDonald’s All-American game and heaps of praise from his teammates in training camp. The 6’9”, 200-pound Alabama freshman is looking like one of the most tantalizing prospects in the 2023 NBA Draft. His combination of defense, passing, size, and shooting is exactly what every NBA team searches for in the draft. Miller has all the tools to be an excellent NBA wing, but his ultimate role will be determined by how his on-ball creation develops.
So far this season, Miller has proved to be one of the best shooters in the country, as he’s shooting 44.8% from three on 7.4 attempts per game. Most of Miller’s outside shooting success has come from shooting off the catch, but he’s also shown that he can maximize his nearly limitless shooting range off the bounce. The concern with Miller’s shooting and creation comes inside the arc. Miller is currently shooting 38.8% on all two-point shots, 31.4% on mid-range jumpers, and 44% on close two-point shots. Some of the biggest problems that are facing Miller’s on-ball creation right now are his tendency to play at one speed, his inconsistent handle, and his lack of strength.
Here, Miller gets the handoff and attacks the rim against Leaky Black, an NBA-caliber defender. Since the screen never made contact with Black, Black remains glued to Miller’s hip. Miller continues his attack, likely assuming that he’ll be fine given his size and that Black is on his hip. Unfortunately, Miller doesn’t have great burst with his first step and doesn’t frequently explode off the ground. These limitations are fine—plenty of NBA players succeed without them—but change-of-pace dribbling is a mandatory skill to implement. Miller attacks the rim at one speed and struggles to elevate to the rim. This sluggish attack makes it easy for Black to time his block.
Again, we see Miller struggle to separate from Black. As he crosses halfcourt, Miller attacks the screen very early. This early decision allows Black to locate the screen and promptly go under it. Miller again attacks at one speed, which allows Black to synch his jump with Miller’s and block the shot.
Lacking change-of-pace dribbling isn’t an insurmountable weakness by any means. It comes with more experience and learning the differences in speed of play at different levels. Something that may take a little longer to overcome, though, is Miller’s lack of explosiveness and strength. Lacking one of the two is palatable, but lacking both can be nearly insurmountable. Luckily for Miller, nearly every NBA player ever has gotten stronger once they get to the league.
Here, we see how Miller’s lack of explosiveness and strength hinders his rim pressure. Miller uses a nice crossover to initiate a driving lane, but his lack of a first step hinders him from losing his defender. Miller tries to veer into his defender’s path but struggles to create any separation. This also limits Miller’s ability to elevate through the rotating defender, resulting in Miller remaining ground bound and throwing up a wild shot.
This time, Miller gets the switch on Anton Watson, who, despite having pretty good feet, should be a mismatch for Miller to exploit. Miller utilizes a quality hang dribble and capitalizes on Watson’s peculiar position that is forcing Miller to the middle to initiate his drive. Instead of exploding to the rim and attacking the help defender who is well within the restricted area, Miller employs a jump stop to angle back towards Watson to draw a foul. Watson repositions his body, while Miller struggles to elevate and throws up a wayward shot that doesn’t come close to going in.
Unfortunately, this breakdown has been largely negative. It isn’t in an attempt to slander a prospect that I’m incredibly high on, but instead to show that the holes in his game are correctable in time. Even despite his current limitations, Miller is producing at an extraordinary level because he’s a damn good basketball player. Even though there are areas he must improve, there is a tremendous amount to get excited about with Miller’s on-ball creation.
Here, Miller goes against Julian Strawther, a likely NBA wing, and lulls him to sleep with a few crossovers before driving to his right. As Miller attacks, he is yet again incapable of separating and is also met by a well-timed rotation. Instead of trying to barrel through the defense, Miller slams on the brakes and pivots back away from the defense. This creates enough space for Miller to elevate and knock down the shot.
Even though Miller doesn’t create acres of space, his being 6’9” creates a larger shooting window that isn’t available to most players. This time, Miller comes off the screen and uses a hesitation dribble. This move gets Watson to step slightly towards him, resulting in Watson having to cross his feet to contain the drive. Miller again spins back and utilizes his size and release point to shoot over the outstretched arm of the defender.
With Miller’s shooting prowess and size, he projects to be not only difficult to guard in the mid-range but also from three. Recently, Miller has gotten more comfortable running the pick-and-roll, and the results are starting to show for themselves. We already saw how he uses screens to generate slivers of space to attack downhill, but he is also starting to use them to create quality three-point looks.
Here, Miller dribbles toward the screen before spinning back to the baseline. Miller sells the spin with a hard plant of his right foot, which sends Malachi Smith scrambling to cut off the drive. Instead, Miller dribbles back off the screen and uses his quick release to drain the three.
What is extremely exciting about Miller’s on-ball creation, though, is his passing. Miller’s eagerness and ability to set up his teammates will be what sets him apart from most score-first wings. Miller has good vision and accuracy, but his desire to create for others isn’t common for his role. Not only are these traits that are conducive to winning basketball, but they will also help Miller overcome the previously outlined limitations, as it is yet another thing that defenses will have to worry about.
Here, Miller comes off the screens and is met by Drew Timme at the elbow. Miller could pull it out and look for ways to exploit the mismatch, but Miller knows that the rim is unoccupied. Miller keeps his head up the whole time, uses his size to pass over Timme, and leads Charles Bediako to the rim with a perfect pass.
This time, Miller shows off his improving handle. Memphis does a good job of blitzing and trapping Miller in the pick-and-roll at first. However, Miller does a great job of keeping his dribble alive, slithering out of the double, and avoiding the late dig from the third defender. Now, Miller can attack in a four vs. two situation. As he drives, both defenders do what they can and collapse to the lane. Instead of forcing something after a dexterous escape, Miller makes the simple read and kicks out for the open three.
Brandon Miller has become one of the most polarizing prospects in the 2023 NBA Draft. Detractors point to his lack of explosiveness and struggles inside the arc, while supporters lean on the shooting success and potential with the defense and passing. Even though Miller has some clear areas to improve on, they aren’t anything that we haven’t seen players overcome before. Through the early part of this season, we’ve already seen Miller improve running the pick-and-roll and diversify his mid-range scoring. If we’re seeing in-season improvements from a freshman, then what would suggest there wouldn’t be more significant leaps to come in his future? At 6’9” with his shooting ability and continuing development of his on-ball creation, it’s difficult to envision Miller as anything but a Top 10 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.