The Leonard Miller Mystery Box
The latest Draft Twitter fascination is also a fascinating prospect to watch. He has the measurements of a center and plays like a guard; but is he ready to take the leap into the NBA?
If you look around the NBA today, there is no denying that basketball is a global game. The top four in MVP voting this year will most likely be some order of Nikola Jokić, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Luka Dončić, all born outside of the United States. I mentioned in my Dyson Daniels piece that Australia has become a growing hotbed for NBA prospects, but Canada is and has been even hotter. Andrew Wiggins, Jamal Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and RJ Barrett are just a handful of high-level NBA Players who hail from America’s neighbor to the north. The 2022 NBA Draft is shaping up to add a few more names to that list, as Canadian prospects Shaedon Sharpe and Bennedict Mathurin project to be Top 10 selections. However, a new face has entered his name into the conversation: Leonard Miller.
If you don’t follow the draft closely, you may not have heard of Leonard Miller, but the 6’11” Canadian Wing has started to make waves in NBA Draft circles after declaring for the 2022 Draft after an impressive showing in the Nike Hoop Summit. There’s no denying Miller’s tools, as he boasts a 7’2” wingspan and 9’ standing reach, per Jonathan Givony of ESPN. At just 18 years old, Miller still has a lot of room for growth, and that’s another reason why teams are intrigued with his upside. But what is his actual game like on the court? For that, I went back and studied tape dating back to 2019 all the way up to the 2022 Nike Hoop Summit back in April. In this piece, I attempt to familiarize you with Leonard Miller’s game and the different developments I have seen from him over the last few years.
FIBA U16 - 2019
Leonard Miller was on Canada’s 2019 FIBA U16 team that lost to the USA in the final. While Miller played sparingly in the tournament, only playing 7.1 MPG and only playing when the game was already decided, there were still some things to highlight. Miller was mostly utilized as a spot-up shooter, but the thing that stood out to me was his defense. In the one game where he played meaningful minutes (vs. Uruguay), he made a handful of solid rotations and closeouts that caught my eye. He also had a monster block against Puerto Rico as well.
It’s hard to put too much stock into defensive film so early on in any prospects career, but Miller seems to know where to be on the court and what his responsibilities are. While the effort comes and goes when reviewing his high school film, this FIBA tournament highlighted that when he is engaged, he knows how to defend. Add the fact that he was only 6’5” back in 2019 and is now 6’11” and I am even more optimistic about his potential positive defensive impact at the NBA level.
As I mentioned, there wasn’t much to take away from his offensive game in this tournament, but I wanted to at least show one clip of the jumper:
It’s pretty flat-footed, has a low release, and is a push shot. For the whole tournament, Miller shot 3-for-11 from three-point range, good for 27.3%. Almost all the attempts were standstill catch-and-shoot opportunities, so that is not exactly the ideal number you would want to see. While the jumper is still a major improvement area heading into the NBA, he’s made noticeable strides over the next few years that I will touch upon later.
Victory Rock Prep - 2020/2021
Let’s actually go right back to the jumper. In the four games that I watched of Miller at Victory Rock Prep, he had similar numbers to FIBA U16, as he knocked down 3-of-10 from three-point range. From my counting, 9-of-10 of his attempts were off the catch, leaving one lonely pull-up 3PA, but he nailed it!
It’s clear that the shot still has that low and push release, but this one pull-up seemed much more smooth and in better rhythm than any of his spot-up attempts.
While the scoring and shooting didn’t really take a significant leap from FIBA to Victory Rock, the playmaking did. Standing 6’7” at this point, Miller can now see over defenders better and utilize his feel for the game to find teammates for open shots. Even though he had a negative A/TO ratio in the games I watched, these two passes left me optimistic about his playmaking overall:
While the attack of the closeout is a little clunky, Miller does a nice job buying some time with the spin back before quickly finding his teammate cutting to the basket. I’ve seen prospects miss this type of pass all the time, which usually leads to some sort of turnover or forced shot.
This play is even more impressive. The jab step right off the catch sends the defender the wrong way and opens up a perfect passing lane for the skip pass. Just a really high-level read from Miller and something to build on going forward.
Fort Erie International Academy - 2021/2022
This was the season that Leonard Miller became “the guy” for his team. He grew another 2-inches up to 6’9” but didn’t lose any of the guard skills he had before when he was smaller; actually, they got better. I’m not sure if it was the confidence increasing or him just getting more of an opportunity with the ball in his hands, but either way, it was impressive to watch. In the prior years watching him, he would run out in transition quite a bit but never really had the ball in his hands driving the break. That changed when playing for Fort Erie International Academy.
The grab-and-go ability was on full display at Fort Erie, and Miller was comfortable taking the ball coast-to-coast and finishing. There were a handful of times where he would get a bit out of control and turn the ball over, but I love the aggressiveness in pushing the ball and trying to find easy buckets.
His scoring didn’t only take a leap in transition; he also flashed more versatility in the halfcourt as well. Miller was utilized as an on-ball creator much more during his time at Fort Erie, and a lot of his scoring opportunities came out of the PNR.
Miller loves to use a spin move to get past his defenders and send them in the opposite direction. He has gotten more comfortable getting to the basket and pulling up from the mid-range than in previous games I watched, which has allowed him to become a more well-rounded scorer instead of just an inconsistent shooter on offense. And while we’re on the shot, it’s still funky and looks different on almost every attempt; however, the confidence is THERE:
I haven’t mentioned the defense yet, and for good reason—I just don’t have a fully-formed opinion yet. He isn’t a great team defender, but he also hasn’t had much experience in high-level situations. Given his size and length, you’d want him to be better than the tape shows, but he’s just so raw right now it’s tough to have a concrete opinion on him. He’s not great now, but I can envision him getting to a point where he’ll bring enough offensively to make up for whatever defensive lapses he has. I will say the knack for the ball is apparent but sometimes comes from just drifting away from his man off-ball, but then he’ll have a wonderful rotating block like the below and will make me question everything I just said about him:
If you are interested in watching more of Leonard Miller at Fort Erie, I would check out the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association (OSBA) YouTube channel that has replays of games. Over nine games (regular season and playoffs), Miller averaged 31.0 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 2.0 APG, 3.8 TOPG, 1.9 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 50.0 FG%, 32.8 3P%, and 67.8 FT% from the free-throw line, per OSBA. He did everything for Fort Erie during these games and was given a huge creation burden, and he is clearly the best player on the court in every game. Fort Erie won the championship in their first season in the OSBA mainly because of Leonard Miller.
Nike Hoop Summit - 2022
This was Miller’s official coming-out party, and it started with the measurements I mentioned in my opening section. 6’11”, 7’2” wingspan, and 9’ standing reach is nothing to ignore for an 18-year-old, especially one that plays more like a guard than a big man. If that wasn’t enough to garner your attention, then his play in the actual Hoop Summit game vs. team USA was. He finished with a line of 11 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 2 BLK, 4-9 FG, and 2-4 3PT in 18 minutes.
It wasn’t just the numbers that were impressive; it was how he got them. It showcased the full package of development he’s made since he was just a 6’5” guard getting spot minutes for Canada at the FIBA U16 tournament in 2019. The player Miller is today is almost unrecognizable from the one he was back then. He showed a mix of on-and-off-ball play at Hoop Summit that should leave scouts wanting more. His two assists came off him attacking a closeout and finding one cutter under the basket and another (Jean Montero) in the corner with a behind-the-back pass. While his two 3PM were of the catch-and-shoot variety, I loved the ability to locate open space on the court and pull without hesitation. He also had a nice and-1 finish through contact in transition off of a steal which was nice to see. While he missed his only mid-range pull-up, he showed patience and comfort in the PNR to get to his spot and get a clean shot off. Overall, it was an impressive showing and one that should have impressed scouts in attendance.
I did not clip anything from this game because it’s only available on YouTube, but I encourage everyone to watch the full game. If you have a short attention span or lack free time, then at least go watch the 18-minute highlight put together by Swish or the 3:30-min version of just Leonard Miller clips that BasketballBuzz created.
This might not seem like a projection at all…but I have no idea where I’d rank Leonard Miller heading into the 2022 NBA Draft. It’s easy for us on the internet to just throw him in the Top 10 off of potential alone, but NBA front offices have jobs on the line based on these selections. Could I see a team taking him that high and trusting their development staff to capture the full potential given Miller’s tools and talent, of course. On the flip side, I can envision teams being scared to death to select him at all and instead provide him feedback in the pre-draft process and tell him to spend a year in college or with the G-League Ignite before he declares.
As of right now, I think the talent in this draft drops off pretty drastically after the lottery, so I would probably slot him somewhere in the 15-30 range. He’s the ultimate “mystery box” prospect, but I also don’t think there are any “boat” prospects in this class so why not take the mystery box of Leonard Miller and see how he develops?