It has been difficult for anyone to establish themselves as a clear number three pick in a draft that is headlined by two clear front runners from non-collegiate backgrounds. There is a group of young players projected to end their short college careers as lottery picks, but no one has really set themselves apart from the pack yet.
The University of Alabama forward Brandon Miller, however, is solidifying his position as the best freshman in his class. Miller does not only lead the Crimson Tide team in scoring but also the entire Southeastern Conference, making him a favorite to win Freshman of the Year and a solid candidate for the National Player of the Year award. It also makes Miller an interesting NBA Draft prospect.
Brandon Miller’s strengths
At 6-foot-9, Miller’s size and length are two of his biggest assets. With his long arms, he can contest plenty of shots all over the floor and protect the rim. He is also a great defensive rebounder, averaging 6.4 rebounds on that end of the floor. Furthermore, Miller has the tools to be a solid on-ball defender on the perimeter with his lateral quickness and long wingspan, which are difficult to navigate for ballhandlers.
While Miller has the potential to become a good defender at the next level, his offensive upside is much higher. At this point in his development, Miller is a more effective shooter than finisher in the paint, but he has the potential to be a real three-level scorer. Miller’s three-point shot is especially impressive for a player of his size. He currently shoots threes at 45.7 percent, combining volume and efficiency very well.
Due to his size, it is already difficult for defenders to contest his shot, and to top that off, Miller also has a lightning-fast release, especially on catch-and-shoot threes. He does not have to rely on teammates to create his outside shot, though, as he has a fluid off-the-dribble jumper in his arsenal as well. At the moment, Miller takes almost three pull-up threes per game. There are only a few NBA players of his size who match that number, including Jayson Tatum, Paul George, and LeBron James.
That is elite company for a freshman, but it still remains to be seen how well Miller will be able to translate this skill to the next level and against stronger defenders. Plenty of rookies before him who excelled as outside shooters at the collegiate level struggled to create space for their shots when they first entered the NBA.
Miller is more than just a scorer, though. For his size, he is a great passer who can fool defenders with fakes and deliver difficult, well-timed dimes to his teammates. At 6-foot-9, Miller naturally has a high dribble, but he has learned to protect it and is quick enough to use his handles to slip past the first line of defense and get into the paint. All that makes Miller a capable playmaker and facilitator at the forward position who can take some weight off the point guards.
Brandon Miller still has room for improvement.
While Miller is a talented scorer on several levels, he often struggles with contact in the paint and finishing at the rim against stronger defenders. As of now, he averages less than 50 percent on field goals. Some of this can be attributed to tunnel vision. Miller tends to get on his way to the basket, which leads to him opting for difficult shots.
Most of it, however, seems to be due to a lack of strength. If he could add some muscle, navigating the terrain would become much easier. It would also help Miller navigate screens and his physicality as a defender, or box out bigger players, better.
As a playmaker, Miller is already pretty advanced for a freshman, but the next step for him would be to improve his vision and awareness for passes on drives to the basket. Instead of attempting a difficult shot, he could dish out an additional pass and set up a teammate for an easier shot.
While Miller is a little older than the typical one-and-done prospect, he is still young enough to have plenty of room for growth and development. On the collegiate level, Miller has already shown that he can impact winning, and if he adds some hustle and strength to his game, he could bring the same thing to the next level.
Miller’s ceiling is certainly high enough to make him a lottery pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. If he continues to have a stellar freshman season and improves his efficiency in the paint, he might even be able to solidify himself as a top-five pick. He is not Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson, but Miller is a solid pick for a young team looking to draft and develop new talent.