"Left handers can be tricky deceptive."
I was reviewing a post that I wrote before this season comparing CJ MIles and Ronnie Brewer and I found it really enlightening to see what we all wrote about CJ Miles nearly a year ago. To sum up, I thought then that Brewer was a much better wing player than CJ and I was relieved that the Thunder had made an offer to him (the post was written before the Jazz surprisingly matched the offer). I was pretty lonely in my opinion that losing Miles would be an okay thing, but this season also answered some of the questions that we had about CJ one year ago.
Last offseason Deron Williams said of CJ: "I don't think he's ever been really given an opportunity to come in and prove himself."
I think this is the most interesting development of this season. CJ finally got more than a chance, starting almost every game for which he was healthy. The way I see it, is that CJ has been underwhelming in his production as a pro and before this season he has had two valid excuses: he is young and he hasn't really had the playing time in which we can accurately judge him. I think CJ is still young and I don't expect the world from him, but that second excuse was shot to Hell, Michigan. So let's see what CJ did with his increased time:
To sum up, Miles got twice as many minutes as he ever has at 22 minutes a game. And he didn't double his numbers in ANY positive category. So to save you guys the numbers discussion, he decreased his efficiency in EVERY category while getting twice as much time. That isn't a good recipe for NBA success. I wouldn't go as far to say that the fact CJ started this season was the reason for our troubles or even that it led to slow starts. But CJ decreased in efficiency, shooting percentage and free throws per game. He did shoot a fantastic free throw percentage though.
I believe that when you evaluate a player, there are two ways you have to watch that player. You need to look at his statistics AND you have to put those statistics into the context of the game. When you focus on both aspects, you are less able to be fooled by a player's "game" or by flat out statistics. And while I have pointed out that CJ's statistics didn't make the jump I would have liked to see, I actually have a bigger problem with the context of CJ's game. In short, I just don't think games ever really have CJ's "fingerprints"on them. He certainly doesn't do the "little things." I can't remember the site that David Locke used to evaluate Jazz players a couple of weeks ago, but CJ ranked in the bottom 10th percentile of the entire league in defensive efficiency. Basically he doesn't get steals, blocks or defensive deflections of any kind. Let me elaborate on my context with CJ's defense. Lets say that two people have had 3 fouls in a game. They both have the same statistic. But player A used a foul to waste some clock when his team had a foul to give. And he fouled a guy who had an open dunk, forcing that player to make free throws rather than get an easy two. Now take Player B. He fouled a guy shooting a three pointer or bailed out a guy who had nowhere to go with the ball and 2 seconds left on the shot clock. And he fouled a guy on a breakaway, who got two free throws and the ball. The context of those fouls lets you see the truth of the statistic. That example was a little exaggerated, but you can guess which player I liken CJ to. I can't tell you how many times I brought up in a game thread this season that "CJ needs to learn the elementary rule, that you never foul a jump shooter." He did it almost once a game it seemed.
As far as just being a defender, he has a loooong way to go. I didn't want to compare CJ to Ronnie Brewer in this post, but for all the points and such that Kobe got on Ronnie Brewer, Kobe never or, not more than a couple times all series, got by Ronnie without a screen. Ronnie stayed in front of Kobe. But in game 5 when CJ was put on Kobe, on the second possession that the two were matched up, Kobe blew right by CJ for an "AND-1." No screen was necessary. Getting schooled by Kobe doesn't mean you are a bad defender. But the effort wasn't there on CJ's part.
I am not going to pile it on CJ. Like I said before the season, he seems like a great kid and, to be honest, I think his effort was up this season. I cannot fault him for lack of effort. But the bottom line is that sometimes CJ shows flashes of having a great all around game. Some games he makes a couple steals or has a big block, hits a couple threes, drives the lane and throws down a sweet dunk and you think to yourself, "this kid could be one of the greats." But I think the truth and CJ's biggest problem is that he isn't really good at any one thing. He has never picked one skill to hang his hat on and just ridden it. I think that is how you make a name for yourself. When you are good at one thing, you get time and confidence. And when you get those things, you can sort of broaden your skill set. And now here comes a Wizard of Ozian change to my article. It's positive from here. I believe CJ can be good for the Jazz. An anecdote:
Since Basketball John brought up his high school sporting skills, I guess I can too. I played varsity tennis in high school (stop laughing) and I was pretty decent. I practiced harder than almost anyone on the team after my sophmore season and I made the varsity team the following year. I played alright my junior year, but didn't play as well as I would have liked during the state tournament. And my weakness was serving. I hit way too many double faults and opponents ate up my weak second serve. So I went to work in the offseason. I hit 1000 serves a day/5 days a week. Sometimes I would serve 4 hours a day every day and get out once in the morning and once in the evening. And I got really good at serving. In short, being able to put my serve anywhere I wanted and at anytime I wanted, gave me the opportunity to limit my weaknesses. Besides putting terrific pressure on my opponents, I was also able to force my opponents to hit the ball in certain places and I was able to minimize my weaknesses.
I think that this is the approach CJ Miles should take. And I vote that he works on his 3 point shooting. First of all, I think naturally his best skill is shooting. And although Sloan would hate to hear me say it, we need 3 point shooting and I would rather have CJ be terrific at 3 point shooting and just getting by on rebounding, defending and hustle, than to play the same way he did this season, which I think was mediocre at everything. Look at Sasha Vujacic, or Vlad Radmonivic, James Jones, Damon Jones, Boobie Gibson, or a player that I think CJ actually compares well too in JR Smith. They aren't good all around basketball players. But they shoot the 3 and they are or have been very valuable to their teams.
So there you go. Were you guys surprised that I have hope for CJ Miles? I don't expect him to start more than 10 games next season. I think he may have had his chance. But I also think he is more mature now and he may be able to accept the fact that he just isn't a starter yet. But if he just hit three pointers, he could see some big minutes and some important minutes much like Korver did this season.