I had some fun writing about CJ Miles yesterday, but the truth is every Cavs fan is giddy with how CJ has played so far this season. In a sample size of 82 mins he has put up a MVP contention worthy per36 min line of 26/5/2/3/1 on crazily efficient 0.639 TS. Obviously I'm not here to tout CJ as a season long MVP candidate but I am here to ask what parts of his play are sustainable and what is his ceiling?
It is strange to ask about an 8 year vet's ceiling, most players at 26 are who they are and certainly most players with 8 years in the league are who they are. CJ Miles is one of those players, he didn't suddenly discover a god like handle that allows him to split double teams and will and make contorting layups against 7 ft monsters bent hammering the shot into the 15th row. So lets look at what has gone so right so far this season.
1. Inhuman like shooting on 2 pointers. 65%+ on 2 pt shots? Clearly unsustainable as centers who rely on put backs, layups and dunks rarely get their shooting percentages this high. For a primarily jump shooting player this is an impossible number. CJ Miles does have a nice stroke and once shot over 50% on 2s over almost 400 attempts (08/09) and has shot over 45% from 2 four times over the course of a season. He could reasonably finish the season in the high 40s or even low 50s if breaks go his way.
2. Regular shooting on 3 pointers. Miles through four games is shooting almost the exact same percentage from 3 as he did over the course of 65 games last season. While last season was his second best in terms of % and best when you combine % with attempts it is clearly not out of the realm of NBA player and not to far above a typical season for him (34-35% range). You could easily attribute some of this to age, work and better shot selection (haha just kidding about CJ using shot selection).
3. Volume. Its hard to notice if you don't watch him specifically because he has averaged fewer than 20 mins a game for his career but CJ miles shoots the hell out of the ball. Last season he took 8.7 3s per 36 mins. Over the course of 82 games if CJ was getting those mins his pace would have broken the single season record by almost 40, and he is shooting at an even higher clip than that this year. His current rate of shooting assuming a 38% 3 pt rate and 45% from 2 at 36 mins a game would have put him in 6th place overall last season in field goals made. This is not necessarily a symptom of unsustainable production though as microwave men often shoot high numbers of shots in somewhat limited mins. Examples of Jason Terry taking 16.9 shots per 36 as a 31 year old, Jamal Crawford taking 16+ per 36 3 seasons as a bench player (and 1 as a starter) and JR Smith shooting 17+ times per 36 twice in his career in Denver and 16+ last season with the Knicks. That puts Miles' rate of 19.3 so far this season high, but not it has to drop 30% or more high.
4. Activity on the defensive end. Through 8 seasons CJ consistently averaged close to 2 steals + blocks per 36 mins, so far he is averaging double that through four games. Steals are his biggest jump, going from 1.3 per 36 mins 3.1. This is about as unsustainable as his two point percentage. At 3 steals a game getting starting mins he would have around 70 more steals than the league leader last season.
Conclusion: Realistic high end case scenario- Miles gets more mins due to high quality play (say 25 per game) continues to shoot 38% from 3, finishes the year a hair over 50% from 2 and continues shooting at a high rate but not as high (17 shots per 36 mins with an almost even 2 to 3 pter ratio), steals and blocks drops to a career high 2.5 per 36 combined. Shoots 80% from the line @2.5 FTs per 36 mins (career averages roughly). With his active d we keep him at 1 reb per 36 more than his career average (where he has been for 4 games).
Rough final stat line: 25 mins per game, 13.3 pts, 3.6 reb, 2.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.4 blocks.