New Orleans Pelicans: Darius Miller is a sharpshooter

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 22: Darius Miller
NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 22: Darius Miller /

Darius Miller has been a surprise fixture off the New Orleans Pelicans’ bench this season. His growth as a role player will be key in helping his team maintain its momentum moving forward.

The New Orleans Pelicans didn’t know what they had with Darius Miller at the start of the preseason. Guys like E’Twaun Moore, Ian Clark, Jordan Crawford and Dante Cunningham were positioned to get more minutes and defined roles before the season started. It seemed like the Pelicans only had Darius Miller on their bench as insurance if one of their key role players went down. Can you honestly blame them for thinking that way from the get-go?

For the past three years he was in the NBA, Darius Miller was simply known as developing prospect. Bouncing around the Pelicans and the D-League before heading to Europe for that many years would have ended any player’s confidence in being able to succeed in the NBA. His stellar play and success in the EuroLeague with the German team Brose Bamberg landed him another opportunity to play for the New Orleans Pelicans this past summer.

More than 20 games in this season, Darius Miller has proven to the team that originally drafted him in the second round in the 2012 NBA Draft that they made the right choice bringing him back to the fold.


So far this season, Darius Miller is averaging 6.9 points and 1.7 rebounds per game. On the surface, those numbers can be looked at as a wash, especially for a guy who has been positioned as a benchwarmer in the past. It’s the three categories that he’s been excelling in so far that have been a surprise for the New Orleans Pelicans.

His 3-point shooting (47.9 percent) is ranked seventh in the NBA. Also hitting 50 percent from the field and 84.6 percent from the free throw line has transformed Darius Miller as the Pelicans’ top shooter.

A lot of that has to do on how Darius Miller has been deployed off the bench. He’s been averaging 17.2 minutes per game and has been primarily been situated as a top-of-the-key 3-point shooter. The majority of his shots comes from above the break 3-point line, where he has made 25-of-55 attempts (45.5 percent). He knows where his sweet spot is and a lot of teams have yet to devise a gameplan to throw him off that area.


When preparing to go against the New Orleans Pelicans, teams tend to focus on the obvious: Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday. Most of those three tend to do their damage in the paint and the Pelicans aren’t known to be a 3-point shooting team, being being ranked 26th in the league at 34.1 percent. Their 3-point shooting seem to hit its stride once the bench takes the court and players like Jameer Nelson and Darius Miller make the most of their opportunities.

Jameer Nelson has actually assisted more on Darius Miller’s shot attempts (13 assists) than DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis have combined together. A lot of it has to do with how Nelson runs the offense with the bench players on the floor. The ball swings all across the court and normally the bench averages more assists than the starting unit in some games.


The starters seem to look for their own shot rather than get other teammates involved in the offense, which has produced a mixed bag of wins and losses. Guys like Darius Miller — when they do get involved in the game — add a different angle to the team’s philosophy of giving their star players control of the offense.

Look at his performance against the Atlanta Hawks on Nov. 13. He scored 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field and went 5-for-8 from the 3-point line. Darius Miller was scorching hot in the second half of that game and made timely shots to help the Pelicans squeak out a win against the Hawks.

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The key to his performance was that Miller was put in the right spots on the floor to make his shots and wasn’t forcing anything. That game is a blueprint of how he should be used, especially since he has been a fixture in their bench rotation.