In the early hours of Wednesday, July 3, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that free agent forward and resident three-point specialist Darius Miller has re-signed with the Pelicans on a two-year deal. Bobby Marks, also of ESPN, noted that the multi-year deal had to extend past a single season in order for New Orleans to utilize the early bird provision and exceed the cap to keep the veteran sharpshooter aboard.
Most of Miller’s contributions have come from beyond the three-point line since his return to the NBA and New Orleans for the 2017-18 season. Two seasons and a combined 3,701 minutes later, he’s taken 722 threes (4.8 per game) and knocked them down at a solid 38.8 percent clip, a volume and success rate bested only by some of the premier shooters in the game.
players with as many 3PM (280) while matching Darius Miller's 3P% (38.8) over the past two seasons (via @bball_ref):— Dan Favale (@danfavale) July 3, 2019
Klay Thompson https://t.co/QJxWPkkDZH
If you could have one skill to write home about in the modern NBA, three-point shooting is probably the one you’d want. Miller is a one-dimensional player in that he contributes little else on offense and very little on defense, but that dimension would have surely created a market for him at a veteran minimum price. That Miller will be making anything above the minimum, especially back in New Orleans, may come as a surprise to some given the roster turnover under David Griffin’s regime, but there does appear to be some sense behind the decision to keep him.
That the Pelicans have more moves to make is not a prediction, it’s a necessity. With the help of Jeff Siegel’s already-updated cap sheet, it can be seen that they now have 17 players under contract for the coming season, which is allowed for the summer but will have to be trimmed down before the start of the regular season. New Orleans could decide to part ways with Dairis Bertans and Kenrich Williams (the two most likely candidates), but could very well pair one with Christian Wood too.
However, the roster would still be crowded with actual NBA players seeking minutes, and the non-guaranteed second year of Miller’s deal positions him as a potential trade piece somewhere down the road.
Pairing Miller with E’Twaun Moore would amount to about $15.5 million in expiring money, which could help the Pelicans net a more valuable contributor from a team looking to clean up future cap sheets.
In the event that he does remain on the team for this season, Miller will likely get some run now and again and do what he does. Despite the impending arrival of JJ Redick, most of the outside shooting on the Pelicans remains hypothetical. At 6’8”, Miller can slot comfortably into a lineup of, say, Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, Zion Williamson and Jahlil Okafor, and provide a few minutes worth of space. If Alvin Gentry did not appreciate Miller’s game at least a bit, this move likely does not go down, so that his time with the team is not yet done means he has at least a couple votes of confidence.
Miller’s ceiling as a player is quite low, but his contributions to the court and potential value in the trade market still outweigh what the Pelicans likely could have siphoned from a player on the veteran minimum. Griffin and company are obviously intent on squeezing every bit of value they can from the assets they have, and using the early bird rights to do so here seems to be just another example of their attempt to do so.