Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Things to look for this season: C.J. Miles

Ceejay had a newsworthy summer -- like last season, but even more absurd this time around. As a quick recap, C.J. opted not to play in the Rocky Mountain Review Summer League for the Jazz for the 2nd straight year (something which made life hard for him under Jerry Sloan the next season); the Jazz made him a restricted Free Agent anyway by offering him the minimum that they had to; he didn't sign that contract and played the waiting game; eventually Oklahoma City offered him a multi-million dollar, multi-year contract ($15 mill / 4 years); the Jazz then waited a full week; before finally matching the offer sheet, which it was concluded was dirt cheap. I can only hope that his 2008-2009 season will be more eventful than his off-season -- which really was 'much ado about nothing'. (He was a young RFA who was offered a pretty cheap contract for 4 years and was matched)

Jordan Farmar doesn't play defense on Shabbos The next step, now that he has some level of financial security (unless his financial planner is MC Hammer), is to actually work on getting that next contract after this one that he just signed. He does have his work cut out for him this season has he has to develop from a 'that guy who plays when we have injured starters' to 'that guy who always contributes'.

Sure, the Jazz have a legion of swingmen who can give other teams several looks:

  • Ronnie Brewer (6'7) -- starts at the 2, and can play 3
  • Andrei Kirilenko (6'9) -- starts at the 3, and can play 2
  • Kyle Korver (6'7) -- can play the 2 or the 3
  • Matt Harpring (6'7) -- can play the 3 or the 2
  • Morris Almond (6'6) -- can play the 2 or the 3
  • Paul Millsap (6'8) -- can play the 3
  • Ronnie Price (6'2) -- can play the 2

    But . . . there is only 96 minutes at the swing spots to give out to those guys -- and one other guy -- C.J. Miles. For him (or anyone) that's a lot of competition.

  • One thing that C.J. has going for him is that in his 120 game career (+8 in the playoffs), is that he just turned 21, and is the youngest out of that entire crew. Additionally, aside from Harpring and Kirilenko, he's been with the team the longest (this will be his 4th training camp with the Jazz). Essentially, he has the most NBA experience with the Jazz out of that younger shooting guard crew, while being the youngest.

    Another 'thing' that C.J. can be happy about is that the Jazz seem to do well in games where he actually starts (9 - 4 last season, 5 - 1 in the last 41 games of the regular season). In those games he has scored 11, 6, 7, 6, 8, 2, 7, 9, 2, 13, 4, 7, 29 -- which averages out to 8.5 ppg in 20 mpg. That's a nice improvement over his season averages of 5 ppg off of 11.5 mpg. He spreads the floor pretty well, and shot the ball at a very acceptable rate for a shooting guard last season: 47.9 fg%, 39.0 3pt%, 78.8 ft%. When extrapolated to playing 36 mpg he (statistically) becomes a 15.5 ppg scorer who also gets you over 4 rpg, nearly 3 apg, and nearly 2 spg. (And yes, for those who wanted to know, that's basically what Hornacek was giving the Jazz in those glory years) Should C.J. be playing 36 mpg next season, or even start for the Utah Jazz? Mostly definitely no, but he does have the tools to be a solid contributor.

    What are three things we should look for this season?

    1. Just be on the floor more -- Play in 75 games, and averaging greater than 13 mpg for the season should be a good start for Miles. His career has gone from 23 games to 37 games to 60 last season. The Jazz coaching staff should try to get him playing in almost every game by at least, the 2nd quarter -- after all, the Jazz Brass didn't sign him to a $15 million dollar contract just so he could continue collecting splinters on the bench. Kyle Korver can become a free agent, and really, the Jazz should focus on a guy like Miles who can become an okay defensive player instead of giving playing time to the pacifier that is Kyle Korver (he shuts up an immediate need, but may slow down progress in other areas).
    2. Be a better shooter -- Again, the main competition for playing time right now appears to be Kyle Korver. I do love seeing Korver knock down threes, but I do believe that the future can be Miles. In order for Miles to be on the floor more one of the things he needs to do is become a better shooter -- particularly from three and from the free throw line (two Korver specialties). For the majority of the season CJ was shooting around 43 % from three, but it tapered off as the season finished. He needs to finish above 40% to be considered a really good three point shooter. Additionally, as a guard he needs to be hitting above 80% from the free throw line. I'm not expecting him to become one of those 88-92 ft% shooters, but he needs to be better than Deron Williams for sure. (If he's not, then there's no point in having him in the game at the end of the game when the other team is fouling) If he's going to get playing time at all, it should be at shooting guard, and if he's going to get playing time at shooting guard, he has to be at least comparable to his competition there. He needs to be a high 40%/40+%/80+% guy. Right now he's a high 40%/high 30%/high 70% guy. Korver's career averages (5 seasons) are 40+%/40+%/high 80%. [With the Jazz last season Kover was a 47.4 fg%/38.8 3pt%/91.7ft% guy] For Ceejay to take some of Kyle's minutes, he's going to have to shoot that efficiently, or near to it.
    3. Continue getting better on defense -- One thing that Ceejay can get better at is on defense. He's only going to get increasingly stronger, and right now is miles (if you excuse the pun) ahead of Korver in terms of foot speed, quickness, lateral quickness and athleticism. For example, Korver plays more minutes per game, but gets less steals than Miles. At some point, Jerry Sloan is going to buckle and end up playing whomever can play defense better . . . and Miles has the tools to get better (especially when you factor in that he's only 21 and he's going into his 4th season in the NBA), Korver is going to be 27 by the time the playoffs roll around this season, and he's not getting any younger, or quicker. Eventually C.J. Miles should get better at defense (keep improving at his current rate, he doesn't need to make a quantum leap), and he should eventually start to play more regularly, and more minutes per game.

    Basically, what we need to look for this season is the continued improvement of CJ, he's a young player still, but he's not a rookie, or someone who doesn't understand the game. He's going into his 4th season, and as such, his expectations should be higher than that of someone like Morris Almond. Look for improvement, and if he is able to display said improvement, he should get more playing time. Deron Williams is a huge CJ fan and suggests that we should expect as much. [They were both picked by the Jazz in the 2005 NBA Draft, and both were raised and went to high school in Dallas, Texas]