Timberwolves

Shake Milton's Strengths Dovetail With Minnesota's Modern Offense

Photo Credit: Chris Coduto-USA TODAY Sports

In an interview with Yahoo! Sports in 2022, former Minnesota Timberwolves guard Austin Rivers recalled playing against Shake Milton. “I just remember, this ******* guy Shake Milton is killing us, and you feel like, who the **** is this guy? Really?” Rivers was asking the same question back then as Timberwolves fans are asking now. Who is Shake Milton? More importantly, what can he do for the Wolves this season?

Shake Milton is a 5-year pro who has spent his entire career playing for the Philadelphia 76ers before signing a two-year deal with Minnesota this offseason. Some fans hope he can stabilize and bring some consistency to the bench unit. However, other fans worry about his limitations. Therefore, it’s time to dive in and try to find out who Milton is as a player and what he can do for the Wolves.

The first thing that pops off the screen is Milton’s ability to finish floaters off of the pick-and-roll and the dribble. That’s arguably his biggest strength when it comes to scoring. Throughout his career, Milton has developed the ability to use a floater off pick-and-rolls to add a scoring option, much like Mike Conley.

Milton’s ability to lure in a defender close to his hip and shoot a soft floater that kind of looks like an unintentional alley-oop pass should translate to the Timberwolves offense. It’s reminiscent of how Conley plays off of Rudy Gobert. This is backed up by looking at his shooting percentage from “floater range,” between 5-9 feet of the basket.

Shake Milton shoots this shot at a 43.4% clip. For context, Karl Anthony-Towns shoots this range of shot at 43.8% and Conley at 39.3%. Granted, the Wolves trust Towns and Conley with some bad shots at the end of the shot clock. Still, it’s impressive for a guard to be in the 40% range in that shot type.

Below is an example of Shake Milton’s smooth floater game:

In addition to his “float” game, he also has an impressive mid-range scoring game. Much in the way that former Wolves guard D’Angelo Russell would take advantage of teams that drop off of him, or guards who could not stay in front of him. The big difference between the two players is Milton appears to be much faster with his dribble. He’s also more willing to take the shot immediately instead of probing for passes or a better look.

Milton shot 42.6% from the mid-range last season, putting him in the top third of the league among qualified players. That’s comparable to players like Michael Porter Jr.(42.4) and old friend Taurean Prince (42.4).

The clip below showcases Milton’s ability to find his spot in the mid-range and score without a pick-and-roll:

Milton has also demonstrated an ability to take and make open three-pointers, converting a blistering 41.9% on above-the-break threes and 39.3% of threes taken from the left corner. Both are higher than the league average (36.1%). Oddly, his three-point percentage plummets outside of these two zones. However, in terms of attempts per game, 90% of his three-point attempts come from these two areas.

Milton also rarely takes three-point shots off the dribble or not in the flow of the offense. That’s supported by 91.1% of his three-point makes in 2023 coming off of assists. His mechanics also never appear to change, and he seems confident shooting the ball.

Below is an above-the-break game-winning three from the bubble:

Milton also takes care of the ball, averaging 3.2 assists in 2023 and only allowing 1.2 turnovers per game. While Milton is listed as a shooting guard, that ratio of 2.55 assists to turnovers is right in line with most starting point guards in the league. That’s comparable to Jrue Holiday (2.51) and Malcolm Brogdon (2.53).

The Wolves typically have point guards who take care of the basketball and don’t make unforced errors. Milton’s turnover ratio (the percentage of players’ possessions that end in a turnover) is an impressive 10.6%. That puts him slightly ahead of Kyle Anderson at 10.9% and slightly behind old friend D’Angelo Russell (9.4%). Milton’s ability to control the ball and not turn it over while passing and playing within a system will definitely be an asset. So will his ability to prevent turnovers .

Below is a short compilation highlighting his ability to pass and score in the mid-range:

Alas, Milton has some shortcomings, especially defensively. Milton’s defensive rating is an impressive 110.2 (points allowed per 100 possessions), placing him in the top quarter of the league. That meets the eye test, playing in front of Joel Embiid.

That number balloons to 116.3 when he doesn’t play with Embiid, which is closer to the bottom third of the league last year. Oddly, much of his struggles don’t appear to be from a lack of effort. Throughout much of 2023, Milton appeared engaged and to be trying hard to stop opposing players.

Milton is 6’5”, making him slightly too tall to keep up with quicker, smaller guards and too small to match muscle with versatile wings in the modern NBA. To be fair, Milton has a 7-foot wingspan that should allow him to be disruptive if he continues to use his length.

ESPN’s adjusted plus/minus, which tries to isolate a player’s impact and performance, further highlights defensive struggles. Milton has an -3.99 adjusted plus/minus in net rating of 100 defensive possessions. That places him as the 15th-worst defensive shooting guard among qualified players.

However, the positive is that Milton edges out Bryn Forbes (-4.07), Austin Rivers (-4.20), and Jaylen Nowell (-6.16). Still, while Milton’s defense will be an improvement over Minnesota’s shooting guard cast last season, he still has a long way to go to be competent defensively.

Overall, Milton’s strengths should allow him to make a large impact next season. His shooting from all three levels and ability to take care of the ball should make him a valuable rotation player immediately. However, if Milton cannot improve on defense, he may end up on a long list of Wolves guards who were brilliant at scoring but couldn’t hang defensively. With training camp and preseason approaching, we should be able to find out more about who Milton is and what he can bring to Minnesota’s bench.

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Photo Credit: Chris Coduto-USA TODAY Sports

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