Through the first two years of his college career, Darius Miller
has yet to achieve the promise that made him a top-50 recruit coming out of high school. Largely a victim of circumstance, Miller played a bit part for Kentucky as a freshman before spending last season as he could spend the rest of his seasons in Lexington, surrounded by a parade of one-and-done stars. A gifted physical specimen, Miller has some of the tools NBA scouts look for in wing prospects, and this could be his best opportunity to showcase his individual talents if Enes Kanter
is out of action for any considerable amount of time.
At first glance, Miller passes the look test, and has since his days as a standout at Mason County HS. Standing 6'7, he has the size to play the three position on the NBA level, but it is his strength that makes him standout amongst his peers. Weighing in around 230 pounds, Miller has a mature frame for a college player. He shows a good first step, gets off the floor well, and has a long wingspan, proving to be a fairly complete package athletically.
Miller's offensive arsenal has been severely limited in his first two seasons in Lexington, initially because of his level of development and subsequently because of his role and the players around him. Nearly 50% of his possessions come in spot-up situations according to Synergy Sports Technology, with another significant portion coming in catch and shoot situations in transition.
Miller likes to set his feet on the left side of the floor and wait for his teammates to set him up for a jump shot. Three point attempts accounted for 60% of his total attempts last season,ranking him amongst the top 10 players in our database in three-point attempts per-field goal attempt
Even when defenders effectively close him out, Miller's primary job in Kentucky's offense last season was to knock down the shots created by John Wall
and DeMarcus Cousins
and exploit chances to attack the rim when defenders close him out too aggressively, and with Brandon Knight
and Marquis Teague
headed to Lexington in the coming years; it seems unlikely that Miller will see that change.
A passable perimeter shooter, making 34% of his 3-point attempts, Miller gets excellent elevation on his jumper, which allows him to get off shots from beyond the arc with ease as defenders close him out. Tending to lean forward slightly on many of his attempts and lacking fluidity in his release, he could still stand to smooth out his jumper and take less contested shots.
Though some 80% of his shots were jump shots, Miller showed some promise attacking the rim off the dribble on the handful of occasions that he chose to last season. A bit limited as a ball-handler, Miller's physical strength and solid first step allow him to get into the lane when he wants to, where he is adept at finishing with a floater. Moving forward, he'll need to improve his left hand to become a more complete threat when he puts the ball on the floor by adding some moves to change speed and directions to become shiftier in traffic. Those additions to his game may not have a huge bearing on his success in the NCAA, but they'll be key to his development into an NBA prospect.
Miller's ability to become more aggressive in putting the ball on the floor, less reliant on his jumper, effective at creating his own shot, and a better slasher may become more important to Kentucky's success that it has been in past seasons and is obviously essential to his pro prospects. If Enes Kanter
is ruled ineligible or misses any significant amount of time, Miller is a strong candidate to be asked to step up. Whether he is able to do so remains a major question-mark.
He's played well against lesser competition in the preseason, but that doesn't promise him anything this coming year. He could just as easily continue to see limited touches as a complementary player should Kanter become eligible and Terrence Jones
tap his excellent potential early on.
Defensively, Miller doesn't show fundamentals or great discipline when faked and is beaten off the dribble too frequently, but has all the tools to be a very solid defensive player. His length allows him to contest shots, and he's quick enough to deny penetration when he's focused and playing hard, but needs to learn when to give a cushion and using his strength advantage more effectively. A capable rebounder, Miller sells out too frequently when closing out on the perimeter, but on the whole, his weaknesses defensively are correctable.
This could be a breakout season for Darius Miller
, or a near mirror image of last season. Kentucky's 2011 class is going to garner a lot of touches when Miller becomes a senior, meaning this season may be his last golden opportunity to gain national attention. While he needs to improve his shooting consistency, ball-handling ability, and effort level on both ends, his physical tools could allow him to be a productive player with more touches. An unknown commodity at this point as a high-usage player, Miller could be a player to keep an eye on this coming season.