With the Summer Jam Session now in the rearview mirror, Minnesota Timberwolves fans will look towards the start of the NBA Summer League to get their basketball fix. The Jam Session provided an early glimpse at some of the G-League players and fringe roster additions. Because the Wolves were quiet in free agency, this was a prime opportunity to peek at some of the new young players.
Three signings stood out from the Summer Jam play: Nathan Knight, McKinley Wright, and Isaiah Miller. Miller, in particular, made a plethora of effective and aggressive plays that wowed the 8,000-plus fans in attendance. One play stood head and shoulders above the rest:
Here’s another angle, for your viewing pleasure:
“Damn. On Jaden?”
Yes, that was Jaden McDaniels that Miller yammed on. While some may consider it rude of Miller to murder one of Minnesota’s starters on his home court, Miller displayed the hustle and heart of a man hell-bent on making the final roster. The Summer League will give Miller a chance to flash more plays like this to a wider audience.
So, what exactly does Miller bring to the Timberwolves? Gersson Rosas was quick to scoop up Miller after the draft, and the Jam Session showed why he would be an asset if they keep him around. Perhaps a previously unknown name on the national radar, Miller will be looking to showcase his skillset to a franchise in desperate need of quality bench guard play.
If the dunk didn’t get the point across, Isaiah Miller is going to bring heaps of energy to the court.
What he lacks in size (6’0”, 190 lbs.) he makes up for in activity. Miller is everywhere on the court, which is a boon for a Timberwolves team that is looking for anyone to commit defensively. A three-time NCAA Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Miller averaged 2.6 steals per game during his final year at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, which was actually down from his sophomore and junior years. Miller is also UNCG’s all-time leader in steals. For a Wolves squad that lost Ricky Rubio and all he brought to the table defensively, some limited minutes for Miller would help shore up defense at the 1 and 2 guard positions.
Miller’s athleticism also helps make up for his physical shortcomings. Miller’s ability to get up allows him to close out spaces on the perimeter more effectively. Take a look at this play where Miller gets a block on a 3-point attempt, and then saves the ball all while getting the jumper to go on the other end:
As the Timberwolves are routinely criticized for defensive apathy, Miller’s high motor would go a long way in earning consistent minutes behind D’Angelo Russell and presumptive backup point guard Jordan McLaughlin. At the end of the bench, you want players who are going to be able to come in and make an impact. Miller’s high work rate will ensure that he will become a cult favorite among Wolves fans if he earns a spot on the 15-man roster.
Miller also played all four years at UNCG. This means that he enters the NBA just north of 22 years old, which is seasoned in a league where most rookies are 18 or 19. This is showcased in his smart play, where Miller regularly plays to his strengths.
But 3-point shooting is one of his weak spots. Miller was converting only 20% of his attempts in his senior year at UNCG. He made up for this by both keeping his 3-point attempts low (1.7 per game) and working the midrange and paint, where he shot 46.3% in his senior year. Miller has enough lateral agility and quickness to get to his spots, and he has a deep enough dribble package to get to the hoop when he wants.
This skillset was on full display in these highlights versus Citadel:
Miller will play to his strengths, much like a popular former undersized Timberwolves backup point guard. Tyus Jones was a perfect guy to bring off the bench as the No. 2 PG thanks to his heady play and unwillingness to commit turnovers. Miller’s turnovers were high in his last year at UNCG (3 per game, 1.3 AST/TO ratio), so he will have to take better care of the basketball when he is running the offense.
However, Miller should be able to provide a scoring spark. He scored 19.2 ppg his senior year as the de-facto team leader. If Miller can develop his 3-point shot enough for defenses to respect it, he will have an easier time getting into the lane and into the paint. Miller showed willingness to let it fly during the Summer Jam Session, converting on a few open 3-point attempts:
Timberwolves Summer League coach Joseph Blair should make Miller’s shooting a priority to develop during Summer League. Miller already possesses the handles, hops, and motor to carve out a successful role in the NBA. A reliable 3-point shot would push Miller’s game over the edge and ensure that he is able to get playing opportunities for NBA teams and their G-league affiliates.
Miller is currently signed to what is known as an “Exhibit 10” contract. This is basically a G-league contract that incentivizes the signee to stick around with that G-league team after the Summer League instead of going overseas. It is a non-guaranteed deal unless it is converted to a two-way contract.
If Miller continues to develop and show out the way he did during the Jam Session, the Minnesota and Iowa Wolves would be silly to let him walk. Miller may be older than the typical rookie these days, but he will have every opportunity to carve out a role on a team that is desperate for players with his mentality and skillset. Expect Miller to make a noticeable impact in Summer League.