This is what Mike Miller did last season for the Grizzlies: 82 games played, 20.8 minutes per game, and 45.9 percent three-point shooting. So we were all pretty excited when Miller decided to take less money than some other teams were offering to join the Cavaliers over the summer. He seemed like a natural fit who could provide shooting and some defense off of the bench.
As it turned out, Miller didn't provide much of anything this season. He played in 52 games and shot just 32.7 percent from three. His presence still mattered -- he certainly always seems engaged on the bench. But his on-court performance could only be characterized as somewhat disappointing.
However, nothing that happened during the regular season will matter if Miller can provide a boost in these playoffs. With Kevin Love potentially out, there will likely be an opportunity for him to contribute.
The biggest thing the Cavs will miss in Love's absence will be the spacing he provides. Even when he hasn't played great, Love still has tremendous value simply by being on the court and drawing one of the other team's bigs out to the perimeter. That would have been really helpful against a team like the Bulls, who could be the Cavs' next opponent.
If David Blatt were to slide Miller into the starting lineup in Love's absence, he'd be able to provide that spacing. In such a scenario, with Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith (or Iman Shumpert), LeBron James, and Miller all on the floor at the same time, either Pau Gasol or Joakim Noah would be forced out to the perimeter to guard one of them. Advantage: Cavs.
Of course, defensively, that lineup may not work so well. If LeBron were to take up the task of guarding one of Chicago's bigs, that would still leave Derrick Rose isolated against Irving. The Heat were able to shut down the Bulls in 2011 with LeBron guarding Rose in crunch time, and I'm sure LeBron would like to be able to try and do that again if the teams end up meeting in the next round. Defense is probably part of the reason Blatt will be hesitant to give Miller most of Love's minutes, at least initially.
Even if Miller doesn't end up playing with the starters, he's at least probably going to get his first minutes of the postseason soon. With Love potentially injured and Smith potentially suspended, the Cavs will need shooting. Miller has made a career out of shooting, and he's done it in the playoffs before. In Game Five of the 2012 NBA Finals, he hit seven threes to help Miami close out the Thunder. In the 2013 Finals, he shot 60.1 percent from deep, including 8-of-8 in Games Two and Three combined. And last season, in the Grizzlies' first round series loss against Oklahoma City, he attempted 29 threes and hit them at a 48.3 percent clip.
Miller's 32.7 percent three-point shooting this season was the lowest of his career. His struggles may have been the result of age, injuries, or his inability to get into a rhythm due to his inconsistent playing time. Or maybe all of the above.
Now, he has plenty of time to prepare and be ready for the next series. If he's ever going to make an impact for the Cavs, it's going to be now.
Back in December, Jonathan Abrams profiled Miller for Grantland:
Likewise, Miller won't be surprised if the Cavaliers call on him to play the familiar role of late-season savior with a playoff game on the line and the need for someone to hit big shots. "I'm not concerned about makes or misses [in December]," he said. "I'm concerned about makes or misses when they count — and I like my chances."
It's not December anymore. Every make or miss counts. Does the 35-year-old have what it takes to be the late-season savior he thought he could be? Or will it be another member of the team who steps up if Love is absent?
Or, will Love's injury cause this team falter, as all of LeBron's previous teams in Cleveland ultimately did?
The stakes are high. Nobody is going to feel bad for the Cavs if they lose in the next round, or later on, just because Love was out. Even without him, they will still have the two best players on the floor against any team remaining in the East.
It's just a question of how much help those two players will get.