The 2012 NBA Draft is so full of depth that the Bulls could have a shot at one of the players with the biggest gap between their status quo and ceiling -- if not one of the highest ceilings at his position -- in 19-year-old small forward Quincy Miller. I place Miller at being chosen by the Celtics as the 22nd pick in my first Mock Draft, simply because that team's two picks and status quo talent will still allow them to gamble on potential, with a coaching staff and roster to lower his bum potential.
For lack of better words, Miller killed everyone at the AAU level. He spent his freshman season at Baylor last year rehabbing his knee and showcasing his length, handles, and halfcourt scoring ability, but also going 30-8 alongside fellow draft expectees Perry Jones III and Quincy Acy. His play was wildly inconsistent, but there's little question that he can be a good shooter and high post ninja in the NBA after being a dangerous shot creator in the NCAA at a young age on a talented team:
He is "one of the most polarizing players in the 2012 NBA Draft," according to SB Nation Dallas. Chad Ford has his stock "slipping dramatically" from being the 26th pick before the Combine to the second round and he's not alone in thinking Miller will be available for the Bulls. Sam Amick's Mock Draft agrees, adding the comment:
He has enough talent to make you wonder if he could eventually [be a starting small forward]. Miller, whose torn ACL during his senior season in high school set him back after he was Slam magazine's top prospect of the 2011 class in 2010, said he expects to go anywhere from the late lottery to "the 20s." But he could also fall into the second round.
I was convinced that Miller would a steal in the 20-to-25 range with the Bulls having no chance at him, but may be very, very wrong. A circulating narrative that he "should have stayed in school" in a draft of so many bigger or more NBA-ready players has to be killing his stock.
Though he's described as being able to play either forward position, his low post and rebounding deficiencies expose his lack of strength to establish positioning, as also shown my Mike Schmitz's scouting report with words from Baylor coach Scott Drew (h/t: DraftExpress.com):
Miller can score
Looking only at his freshman year at Baylor, it can make one wonder how he isn't 'just a guy'.
But he measured in at 6' 10" with a 7' 1" wingspan and a 36" vertical leap for a maximum vertical reach of almost 11' 9". He doesn't have good speed, but his agility measurement of 11.05 with his handles are behind that body control and shot creation to make people call him a "natural scorer", as Walker Beeken wrote at DX in February:
Inside the paint, Miller has excellent potential, as he is able to get his shot off almost whenever he wants against collegiate-sized (or even most NBA-sized) small forwards. Despite not always having the strength to establish great position, he can simply rise up off either shoulder and throw the ball in the basket in a variety of ways, be it with jump-hooks, floaters and turnaround jumpers, using the glass, and even when off-balance. As he continues to get stronger and learns to become more physical with opponents, this is a part of his game that could really blossom.
Miller's most impressive attribute might be his ability to create shots off the dribble. He doesn't have the most explosive first step, but he has outstanding scoring instincts, doing a nice job utilizing shot fakes and showing terrific ball-handling skills for a player at 6-9. He's able to put the ball on the floor with either hand and utilize crossovers, hesitations, spin moves, jukes, and step-back dribbles to create separation to get his shot off, with superb body control and very polished footwork.
Watching him grab a rebound and take the ball coast to coast, weaving his way fluidly in and out of traffic, really hammers home how unique his skill-level is at his size.
Not sure how much adding beef will take away from his strengths, but his size will create too many mismatches that he will lose value and waste himself without learning a post game.
Baylor played zone pretty much all the time, so the isolation stats are from an almost irrelevant sample size. His IQ obviously needs help, but he wouldn't be the primary helper in a Bulls defense at the three. The bigs prevent penetration and with the Bulls' quartet of bigs, he'll simply need to use his length to force wider angles on penetration to give more time for helpers to establish position and recover back to shooters after making the 3rd effort to rotate in helping the primary helper.
What hasn't been questioned about Miller is his high motor. Length and energy are awesome skills for the Bulls defense if the IQ is utilized to become a foul machine.
"Poor Man's Kevin Durant"
It's understandable to grant the "poor man's" prefix to good players -- and I'm equally guilty of the cliché, saying that Austin Rivers' ceiling is to be a Poor Man's O.J. Mayo. But to call him a "Poor Man's Kevin Durant" is too vague for the ceiling many are placing on him and it drove me crazy at the Draft Combine last week in Chicago. Using that prefix before a great player's name begs the question: what the hell does that mean?
It doesn't mean that instead of being the highest scorer in the league, Miller can be a perennial 20 PPG guy on a contender. It means that Miller is a forward who handles the ball very well, can make the moves to create good shots, using his length to be difficult to defend those shots and keep his body between his defender and the ball, nail jumpers, and hit his free throws, but is cursed with being so tall that people will constantly wonder why he doesn't defend in the post very well, can't be a primary shot blocker, and won't ever be an elite rebounder.
That's it. That really is it.
But if he is going to be that guy, Miller's 3-point shot can't be so wildly inconsistent.
And just about every question relating to his potential volume has to be answered: I don't know.
It's unsure if Miller can ever put together three- or-four-season stretches of 2,500 minutes because of his knee; that he'll ever be dependable for long strings of games with the long shifts typically played by primary or secondary scoring options on the wings. But it isn't unsure of whether or not he can 'get you buckets' in an efficient manner surrounded by talent lead by great coaching.
I rolled my eyes entertaining the possibility that Miller is available for the Bulls as recently as last week. But his 'rawness' and the patience required to get what you paid for -- relative to a draft class that is much deeper than usual after the lottery picks -- is apparently making his stock fall.
If he were three inches shorter, his versatility would be a plus as an all-around winger, but his inability to gain faith as an NBA four is becoming an irrational knock against the strengths he actually does possess.
If this happens to the extent of the Bulls advantage, he should be taken with the 29th pick. Playing behind Jimmy Butler until Luol Deng returns -- and as the backup three with Butler as the backup two when Deng returns -- on a team where Miller will never have to play like the biggest man on the floor will aid to best maximize his high potential. When Deng's contract is up, the Bulls will then have a more developed Miller as the extra option with Butler having more experience and Nikola Mirotic in Europe.
There's a much higher project element to drafting Miller than Orlando Johnson (scouted here) or Will Barton (scouted here) because there's less 'what you see is what you get' with him. It really will be a testament to Miller's will power, work ethic, and also the abilities of Tom Thibodeau. But he's everything the Bulls say they want -- shooting, ball handing, shot creation skills, length, and defense -- except his height induces wild fantasies of being something that he isn't.
But I still carry heavy doubts that he will pass the Cavaliers at #24.