The Prospect Overview: Mike Miles Jr. is a Force
TCU's Mike Miles Jr. is a wrecking ball with skill. Maxwell explores his skillset and development. PLUS: Big Board updates and loads of sleepers in Quick Hits!
My college sports fandom has always been nomadic.
The first schools I remember pulling for were Ohio State in football and Maryland in basketball. My Ohio State football fandom was born on August 24th, 2002. My dad threw on a random game between the Buckeyes and the Texas Tech Red Raiders. What I saw absolutely blew my mind. Freshman running back Maurice Clarett was on a tear. He was one of the youngest players on the field, but he was utterly dominant. No one could stop him as he plowed through and danced around the opposition, tallying 175 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. My Maryland basketball fandom was born largely out of contrarianism. Everyone in my family loved Duke, so I pulled for their biggest in-conference threat at the time. Sure, I fell in love with the games of Steve Blake, Juan Dixon, and Lonnie Baxtor, but I also wanted to antagonize my sisters, who were Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Jay Williams enthusiasts.
Truly, there was nothing tethering me to Ohio State or Maryland. I always liked teams that had a bulldog mascot, because bulldogs are pretty cool, so I’d pull for Georgia in SEC football. Maryland’s basketball team wasn’t on TV as much as they tailed off in prominence. I ended up going to a Division III college, and Concordia University Chicago’s team isn’t easy to keep up with. They’re never on television, unless it’s a news report about a scandal.
The one team I probably should have been into was TCU. Both my parents attended the university, along with several members of my extended family. But to be frank, TCU generally stunk. They were in a mid-major conference, so they were barely on TV growing up. When they were, they were losing.
For that reason, the recent surge among TCU’s men’s basketball and football programs has been refreshing. It’s nice to see my family members actually excited about athletics at their alma mater. The football team has been good for some time, but there had been a cap on them as a mid-major for a long time. Now, they are free of that. TCU basketball, on the other hand, was never even brought up. It was treated like the weird uncle at a family holiday party, something occasionally acknowledged, but only when necessary, and otherwise ignored.
That’s no longer the case! Coach Jamie Dixon has done a stellar job since taking the reins in Fort Worth. He’s gone 132-88 thus far, making the NCAA tournament twice. A tournament appearance alone is a remarkable achievement, as TCU hadn’t been to the big dance since the 1997-1998 season. Last year, the Horned Frogs made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since their 1986-1987 campaign, when Jamie Dixon himself was playing on the team.
A key part of TCU’s success the past few seasons has been Mike Mikes Jr., a 6’1” junior guard. Growing up, Miles was never a stranger to the spotlight. Even when he was just a kid from Lancaster, Texas, the media was onto him. Yahoo Sports described him as, "almost reminiscent of a pint-sized Allen Iverson." Showing that level of talent at such an early age could have been the result of a little thing called genetics, but Miles wouldn’t be where he is now if it weren’t for his intangibles. There are countless, “look at how good this little kid is at sports!” news stories. It’s not often that you actually end up hearing about those kids several years later. Most of them don’t maintain their dominance. Miles, however, has put in the work to get better. He plays like a leader, and there’s an unparalleled determination to his game. Let’s start with where that shows up the most—his relentless attacking.
Rim Pressure Abusrdity
Part of what makes Mike Miles Jr. so effective is that he generates a ton of pressure on the rim, and he’s effective there. His handle, footwork, speed, and power work together in beautiful harmony. Despite only being 6’1”, Miles weighs in at 195 pounds, already boasting the physique of an NBA vet. He can blow by defenders, break them down off the dribble, or plow through them. There’s no shortage of ways for Miles to get to his spots. He leaves defenders feeling helpless, like they just ate a strawberry right out of the box only to discover that the one underneath it was covered in mold.
Strap in folks, because you’re about to see some wild statistics. Miles takes 56.5% of his shots in the halfcourt at the rim. That’s an astounding number! He’s constantly implementing his will on the game. Pressuring the rim like that forces defenses to consistently collapse, rotate, and scramble. Now, here’s the kicker: Miles is scoring 1.53 points per possession on his shots at the rim, converting 75.3% of his looks there. That’s a better percentage than the reigning National Player of the Year, 6’9” center Oscar Tshiebwe, Gonzaga’s 6’10” post wizard Drew Timme, and Purdue’s unstoppable big man, the 7’4” Zach Edey. While Miles is only 6’1”, he’s finishing like someone who is a foot taller than him and is also a tremendous basketball player. His 63.1% on 8.3 two-point attempts per game reads more like the stat line of a play-finishing big rather than a playmaking guard.
Miles’s quicker-than-a-hiccup speed, strong body, and baby-soft touch allow him to live at the rim while finishing like a giant. Defenses end up being overly aggressive in trying to contain Miles, leading to him drawing fouls at an obscene clip. His .580 free throw rate and 12.4 free throw attempts per 100 possessions are both unfathomable numbers for a guard. Even better, Miles is a rock-solid 76.4% at the line over his college career. Defending his drives becomes a lose-lose proposition, and opponents have to be leery of giving him an And-1 opportunity.
Can he shoot?
Mike Miles’ three-point percentages leave a lot to be desired. A guard who is a career 32.1% shooter from long range? That’s underwhelming. Still, I think Miles is a better shooter than the numbers indicate. His role as TCU’s leading man often forces him to take tough shots, and he’s struggled off the dribble from deep. Where Miles excels, though, is where I think he’ll find himself shooting more often in the NBA—off the catch. On the year, Miles is a 37.2% shooter off the catch from three, Per Synergy.
For the past two seasons, Miles has been his team’s top scoring option, and even during his freshman campaign, he was their second option. As a result, defenses load up on him, limiting the number of clean looks he gets. Using Synergy’s data, he’s never had more unguarded than guarded looks off the catch over the course of a season. Part of it is that while Miles isn’t the greatest shooter, he’s a willing shooter. He isn’t afraid to pull the trigger. While he’s generally looking to attack, he’s not one to pass up an open three. Miles will pull off the bounce or launch it from NBA range with no hesitation. Given that quality, he has a real gravity to him. Defenses don’t sag or leave Miles open, because despite what the percentages say, they know he can shoot.
Still, Miles has to grow off the dribble. While he plays on one of the most cramped courts in the country (more on that later), he still has to be able to offer more when defenders go under screens. I believe he has the craft and tools to get downhill in those situations at the next level, but he needs an answer when teams dare him to shoot. He’s only 3-for-14 on threes out of the pick-and-roll. His mechanics off the bounce are less seamless, with his body leaning in various directions as opposed to a straight up, straight down motion.
I can’t sit here and tell you with 100% confidence that Mike Miles Jr. is going to be an average or above-average shooter at the NBA level. But I can tell you that I think he’s closer than the numbers say he is. His shot variety, range, and degree of difficulty allow me to give him the benefit of the doubt more than many of his peers. As a more complimentary player at the next level, he’ll get cleaner looks than he does now, which should help.
Where it gets tricky for Miles is with regard to his playmaking. Even if you buy the shot, you then have to swallow the assist-to-turnover pill. Throughout his career, Miles has averaged 3.4 APG to 2.8 TOV.
I don’t think Miles is a bad playmaker for others. He plays with his head up and doesn’t miss easy reads. Still, he rarely delivers jaw-dropping dimes or makes finds that make you go, “wait, hold on, I have to rewind that.” It’s a simplified game, but it can be an effective one, especially given how often he creates advantages as a driver.
His turnovers can be a mixed bag, and it’s hard to know how to feel about them. He can be too lax with his pass placement at times. Miles can play too sped up and erratic when he meets a double team, and he needs to do a better job of maintaining his composure in those instances. Still, it is something he will see less when he isn’t a definitive number one option. He struggles as a “floor mapper.” Miles will generate penetration, but when he can’t get a look at the rim, he doesn’t appear to know where all of his teammates are on the floor. Defenses tend to collapse on him harder than other guards because they know what a threat he is going downhill. This gives him tighter, cramped driving lanes, and makes it harder to keep control of the ball. It’s a fine excuse, but it’s also a reality of being that type of attacker.
Ultimately, Miles needs to do better from a ball control standpoint. The good news is that he’s not a wild, out-of-control guard. There aren’t instances of him throwing “what the hell was that?!” passes or trying to force flashy, nonsensical reads. He simply generates attention, and he has to do better at dealing with it.
Contrasted with his usage rate (27.6%), his turnover rate of 15.5% is much more palatable. Miles’s usage rate-to-turnover percentage ratio compares favorably to prospects like Cason Wallace and Anthony Black, who are rarely decried as turnover machines. Furthermore, his assist numbers are dragged down by the poor shooting of his teammates. TCU is shooting 30% from three on the year, and they’re 329th in Division I in attempts. He doesn’t have teammates to reliably spray the ball out to, and defenses can swarm him with even more abandon because of that. I’d like to see more poise and more advanced reads from him, but digging deeper, the situation is not as disastrous as it appears on the surface.
Mike Miles Jr. is a hard-nosed defender. I touched on his strong frame earlier, but that wouldn’t mean anything if Miles wasn’t willing to put it to use. While he’s smaller, he won’t be the same hunting target other small guards are because of how hard he is to push around. He knows how to use his body to prevent players from getting where they want. Miles stays wide and moves his feet well while also using his chest to prevent players from driving into the paint. He gets off the floor really well, enabling him to contest well and even swat the occasional shot at the rim. His hands are fast, and he can poke the ball loose at the point of attack if the ball handler dares to dribble in front of themselves.
Off-ball, I like Miles quite a bit. He talks and plays with balance. If he’s switching or having to charge at a player, he keeps his feet under him and is prepared to shift directions. He has a solid read on passing lanes, covers ground well, and knows where to go when rotating. Best of all, he’s attentive. So often, high-usage players tend to snooze off the ball. Miles doesn’t leave anything on the table, though. He can reliably be counted upon to get into position, and he’s not going to get burned because he decided to take a play off.
Mike Miles Jr. is a tricky evaluation, but he’s the type of player I’m willing to bet on. There’s been growth in his game each season. During his sophomore year, he took the responsibility of being a leader, and he improved TCU’s overall record. This year, TCU is even better. Miles has gone from 42.7% on twos to 63.1%. A big part of that is his electric finishing, but part of it is what he isn’t doing anymore. Miles has cut his volume of runners in half, per Synergy. It wasn’t an efficient shot for him (26.6%), so he got rid of it. Now, he’s getting all the way to the rim, where he’s always been effective. He’s drawing more fouls because of that, too. As corny as it is, Miles is a winner. His efforts have helped TCU improve every year that he’s been on campus. On top of that, despite being a junior, Miles is young. He’s still only 20 years old, and he won’t turn 21 until August.
Some of the numbers are concerning. I wish the assist totals were higher and I wish Miles connected on a higher percentage of his threes. But Miles gets me in the gut. When I watch the games, I think his threes are going to go in. I trust him with the ball in his hands. And the more advanced numbers back this up to an extent. Plus, he’s a 20-year-old who is leading a great team in college basketball’s toughest conference. That cannot be discarded.
Mike Miles Jr. has a chance to stick in the NBA with a scaled-back role. His work rate on both ends of the floor is commendable. He should come into the league with the ability to cover opposing point guards. As an off-ball option, he could be lucrative if he continues to shoot off the catch. Forcing defenders to close out hard will allow him to attack, and he’s an elite rim finisher. There’s a clear path for a long-term bench role in the NBA. Plus, we’ve seen the evidence that Miles can see what isn’t working for him, adjust, and get better. He “gets it,” he’s not going to keep doing things that aren’t effective, and he’s going to put in the work. That matters.
The draft is still about five months away. But if it were held tomorrow, I feel that Mike Miles would absolutely warrant a second-round selection. If he can get the three to go at a higher clip, he could work his way into the first. He stops opponents from going where they want, and he gets where he wants to go. Nothing and no one intimidates him. His play is always confident, but rarely foolish. Miles’ rim pressure is a signature skill, he plays with a high motor, and he’s shown consistent improvement. Simply put, Mike Miles Jr. is a force.
The Expanding Big Board
1. Victor Wembanyama (1)
2. Scoot Henderson (2)
3. Ausar Thompson (3)
4. Brandon Miller (4)
5. Cam Whitmore (5)
6. Amen Thompson (6)
7. Nick Smith Jr. (7)
8. Jett Howard (8)
9. Keyonte George (9)
10. Jarace Walker (10)
11. Anthony Black (12)
Anthony Black has gotten his groove back as of late, despite the circumstances working against him. Arkansas is a spacing disaster without Nick Smith Jr. and Trevon Brazile. Thankfully, Black has been back to knocking down jumpers, and his defensive efforts have ramped up despite the increased offensive workload. He’s reminding me why I was so bullish on him in the first place.
12. GG Jackson (11)
13. Brice Sensabaugh (12)
14. Cason Wallace (unranked)
Cason Wallace has been on the cusp of being added to The Expanding Big Board for some time now.
It all starts with the defense for Cason Wallace. While guard defense can tend to be overlooked as a valuable skill, I’ve never really bought that line of thinking. Having a player at the top of the key who can wall off penetration, preventing offensive flow and making the defense’s job easier, is indeed a good thing. Wallace has a good stance, moves his feet well, and boasts quick hands. The under-looked aspect of his game is his strength, though. Wallace’s skillset, paired with his power, makes him difficult to move and drive through.
He’s not one of those dudes who plays hard guarding the ball and falls asleep off of it, either. Wallace covers ground like a larger player, excelling in rotations and scrambles. He’s a massive threat in passing lanes. Most impressively, Wallace has an outstanding awareness of the opposing personnel on the floor. He closes out the right way almost every single time. If he flies by, it’s because the person with the ball is a shooter who doesn’t offer much off the dribble. If he closes out short, it’s because the opponent isn’t a reputable shooter. Wallace knows where his man and the ball are, sure, but he also knows where everyone else on the court is, and what each of those players is capable of doing.
Offensively, Wallace profiles to be a nice complimentary player at the next level. He’s a rock-solid shooter, knocking down 40.4% of his 4.5 three-point attempts per game. While he isn’t an exceptional movement threat or anything like that, he’s good off the catch (40.2% per Synergy), and he can pull off the dribble (41.7% per Synergy). Still, he doesn’t pull off the dribble often, taking only 12 shots off the bounce from three. Where it gets even trickier with Wallace is that he doesn’t pressure the rim or have a fantastic handle. He plays a simplified game with few counters, never dribbling for that long. While it’s a good thing that he doesn’t dribble the air out of the ball and keeps the rock moving, it does limit his creation upside. He’s not going to consistently create advantages and would be best paired next to a more dynamic creator.
Wallace doesn’t look to be a franchise-altering prospect. Still, 14 feels too low. As I get closer to the draft and make my final “bets” on who will and won’t pan out, I anticipate that he might move up a bit from here. He’s a rare prospect who feels truly “safe.” His defense is specialist-level good, and he can shoot it. Those types find a way to contribute meaningfully for a long time, and it’s hard to imagine looking back on a draft and finding 13 players better than someone like that. Anywhere after the sixth pick is in play for him. I feel a little dirty having him this low, but it’s where I’m at for now.
-It was a big week for No Stone Unturned prospect Trenton Massner. On Thursday, Western Illinois’s 6’2” graduate guard hit a game-winner over South Dakota. Three days before that, Massner dropped 46 points on North Dakota while only taking 21 shots. It brought me great joy to see such a fun, under-the-radar player attract some mainstream attention. I’m still hoping he gets a Portsmouth Invitational look. While Massner is already 23 years old, he’s still interesting to me. His 18.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 5.2 APG display his well-roundedness, he’s hitting 37.2% from three on 7.8 attempts per game, and he’s always held up against better competition. Last year, Massner scored 20 against Iowa, 16 against DePaul, and 21 in an upset win against Nebraska. Massner is a legitimately good athlete with quickness and leaping ability, allowing him to pressure the rim and finish against almost anybody. Defensively, he can be shaky on the ball, and he has a propensity to get back-cut, but I wonder how much of that has to do with his offensive workload. He also deserves immense credit for WIU’s success this season. After a 16-16 campaign last year, they turned over most of the roster. Now, he’s paired with a slew of transfer-ups and players who didn’t contribute much at their prior school. BartTorvik projected them to be the 346th-best team in Division I. Despite that, Western Illinois currently sits at 13-8. That’s THE MASSNER EFFECT, folks. Portsmouth, do the right thing.
-On the topic of older prospects, I have a real fondness for Toledo’s JT Shumate. While the 6’7” graduate forward will turn 24 slightly after the draft, I like him more than I liked Justin Bean last year, and Bean still managed to snag an Exhibit 10 at the age of 25. Offensively, Shumate is hyper-efficient. He’s scoring 18.2 PPG on 56.1/43.0/90.8 splits. That’s right, he’s a high scoring 50/40/90 guy. He knows what he’s doing on defense, too! Shumate is averaging 1.3 BPG and 0.6 SPG. He’s always talking on that end, he knows the opposing personnel, and he’s aware of how to position himself off the ball at all times. His sharp passing, scoring prowess, and defensive understanding could allow him to have a cup of coffee at the next level.
-Taylor Hendricks is getting better by the day. The 6’9” freshman from Central Florida’s attacking game is showing considerably more polish. He always did a nice job of playing low with the ball, but now he’s displaying more in the way of dribble moves and counters. The game is clearly slowing down for him as a passer, too. Through his first ten games, Hendricks was averaging a meager 0.7 APG. In the ten games since, he’s averaging 2.5 APG. With his size, shooting ability (38.8% from three on the year, 4.3 attempts per game), and defense (0.8 SPG, 1.9 BPG), Hendricks is on pace to make a lottery push, if not more.
-I dug into the tape on Louisiana Tech’s Isaiah Crawford. His advanced statistics profile is outrageous. He’s one of the dudes you can’t avoid when you toy around with BartTorvik queries. The 6’6” senior is averaging 12.2 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 2.1 SPG, and 0.7 BPG with shooting splits of 50.6/39.0/74.6. Crawford is an intelligent player. He has excellent passing vision paired with some creativity, allowing him to make more advanced reads and deliver the ball in clever ways that are difficult for defenders to anticipate. He’s tuned in defensively. Crawford excels at getting into the ball, whether it’s poking it loose from a dribbler or stripping a player while they go up in traffic. Athletically, he doesn’t leap off the page, but he’s definitely better than most mid-major wings and certainly wouldn’t embarrass himself on a pro floor. My concerns around Crawford stem primarily from his shooting. While he’s a career 36.8% shooter from deep, he’s only taking 2.1 per game this season. In a recent game against UAB, he passed up some open looks and left two jumpers way short, including one airball. He seems much more comfortable in the mid-range. For Crawford to stick, he has to be confident and let it fly from long range. Sometimes he’ll hang his head after a miss, and it bums me out. I want him fully bought in to what he brings to the table because he’s super talented and well-rounded. It may also be hard for him to gain traction out of the gate, too, given that Louisiana Tech is only 11-10, and his scoring numbers don’t jump off the page. Still, Crawford has a good physical profile to go with a selfless, savvy approach. He has a real chance.
-Marshall big man Micah Handlogten is a long-term prospect to watch. The 7’1” freshman is averaging 8.6 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 1.3 APG, 2.6 BPG, and 1.3 SPG. He’s making 70.9% of his twos, and he’ll take a three when the defense gives it to him, though he’s only 1-for-8 on the year. His touch around the basket is good, and he has a real finesse to his game. Generally, when I find a smaller conference center posting guady counting numbers, the film can be a little disappointing. They’re often stiff and lacking fluidity. That isn’t the case with Handlogten, who moves seamlessly and gets up and down the floor well. He’s most interesting defensively. He gets off the floor and has a solid understanding of how the opposing offense will flow. Even putting aside his 10.2 BLK%, his mere presence in the paint is a massive deterrent. Guards are weary of testing him at the cup, often pulling the ball back out instead of trying to lob one over him. Handlogten excels at poking away post entry passes, too. Right now, his biggest issue is his frame. At 212 pounds, he’s a young big who is still growing into his frame. Opponents can push him around, and he’d be too easily moved at the next level right now. I think he’ll ultimately get there, though.
-Staying in the Sun Belt, Coastal Carolina’s Josh Uduje piqued my interest, too. A 6’5” sophomore from London, England, Uduje has an interesting blend of skills and tools. While he’s only shooting 32.5% from three, he takes 5.6 per game, the stroke looks clean, and he’s an 87.8% free throw shooter. He’s a good athlete who knows how to play defense, tallying a 2.5 STL% and 1.8 BLK%. Given that he’s already scoring 12.9 PPG, if the shot turns around, I think front offices could take notice of him in the coming years as a 3-and-D wing prospect.