Currently on the San Antonio Spurs’ roster, there’s an aging player who’s most likely on his farewell tour of the NBA after an understated career in which he has put up numbers that rank high all-time amongst his position while also displaying a quiet, yet unparalleled guidance to his peers. The player being referred to, of course, is Andre Miller.
Miller turned 40 years old this season, and although he plays sparingly for this deep Spurs’ team, the fact that he’s still in the NBA after how many minutes he’s logged over his career is remarkable.
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Much has been made of Tim Duncan’s impending retirement and the league’s loss after he hangs up his sneakers, but few are reflecting on the less impressive, yet still significant career of Miller.
Miller probably never sold many jerseys or increased ticket demands of the teams he played for (and he played for a lot of them), but he might be the most underrated point guard who’s ever played in the NBA.
The term “underrated” is hard to quantify because each person has a different interpretation of not only a player’s value, but a unique assumption of how other fans view the player.
The characteristics of Miller’s career that encourage the “underrated” label to be attached to him are both statistical as well as aesthetic. He was somehow never an all star despite once leading the league in assists for a season.
Miller has scored over 16,000 points, handed out over 8,000 assists, and swiped over 1,500 steals. The only players in NBA history to equal those totals are Gary Payton, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, and John Stockton, and each of those guys are Hall of Famers (or future Hall of Famers in Kidd’s case).
Considering that most fans would be surprised by Miller’s inclusion in that elite group of point guards supports the case that he’s been criminally underrated.
The closest comparison to Miller’s career might be that of Mark Jackson, who retired from the NBA in 2004 with more assists than anybody who had ever played in the league not named John Stockton.
Jackson is the only person with more career assists than Miller who isn’t in the Hall of Fame or soon to be enshrined once they gain eligibility. Miller himself ranks 9th all-time in career assists.
Miller separates himself from Jackson with his scoring totals. He was never an astoundingly talented scorer, but he was intelligent enough to put points on the board while never developing a consistent outside shot.
His midrange game was impressive, yet he was never able to expand his range to the 3-point line, or else his point totals would have been even more noteworthy.
For a point guard, it’s extremely rare to have such a successful career without the ability to knock down 3-pointers at least somewhat consistently.
In today’s league, it’s hard to envision a point guard averaging 17 points per game with an inability to at least modestly stretch a defense. Perhaps Miller benefitted from putting up numbers in an era that hadn’t yet fallen victim to the 3-point revolution of recent years.
Miller was one of the most dependable players in the league for nearly a decade. Excluding the lockout shortened campaign of 2011-2012, Miller played in at least 80 games each season from 1999-2000 until 2012-2013. Even in the lockout shortened season he played in the maximum amount of games at 66.
At one point of his career, he played in 632 consecutive games. That’s nearly 8 seasons worth of games without ever taking a rest.
Despite being a starting point guard for over a decade, the major knock on Miller from a macro perspective is that as a starter, he never won a playoff series. It wasn’t until he was a backup for the Washington Wizards in 2014 that he first felt the joy of advancing to the 2nd round of the playoffs.
Legends gain their cachet through winning, and Miller doesn’t have the pedigree of playoff success to boost his status as one of the all-time greats.
Although he was never one of the faces of the league or talented enough to carry a weak supporting cast to postseason glory, Miller was one of the most impressive point guards for a very prolonged period in the post-Michael Jordan NBA landscape.
Due to his lack of flash and bizarrely restricted range, he was never embraced for how talented he was as a passer, floor orchestrator, and cerebral tactician.
Miller should be celebrated for subtly putting up statistics that will intrigue historians of the future who will have heard very little about his exploits. Fans around the league should salute Miller for the solid play he’s given to the game.