Player Preview: C.J. Miles, Shooting Range

Sep 29, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard/forward C.J. Miles (0) during media day at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 29, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard/forward C.J. Miles (0) during media day at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

C.J. Miles is hope in sneakers. It isn’t Miles himself – a player with his career averages doesn’t become a 20-point per night scorer – but it’s what he represents for this Indiana Pacers’ offense.

Miles is the only player on the roster outside of David West with a proven skill that can directly lead to points. And his specialty – 3-point shooting – is something that the Pacers can, in an ideal world, turn into a team-wide strength.

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For the past two yaers, the Pacers haven’t been a good 3-point shooting team. This in part has to do with the personnel Frank Vogel has coached, but it certainly also has to do with his offensive schemes.The team has shot 35.7% (17th in the NBA), 34.7% (22nd),  and 36.8% from deep, respectively, in 2013-14 and 2012-12.

The prior year, however, the team was sixth best in the league with a respectable 36.8%. Danny Granger and Paul George both shot over 38% and Leandro Barbosa and Dahntay Jones of all people both hit better than 42%.

If Vogel can find a way to use Miles’ potent accuracy like he did for others in his first full year as a head coach, 3-point shooting could be something that forms the backbone of a respectable offense. There is reason to think that he can, as Vogel ran a lot of nice sets to free up Paul George for triples last year. You can see the growth in this area for the coach, as he had incorporated elevator-door and staggered screen s into his play calling.

Now Vogel gets to show if these ideas can be even more effective when run for an actual sniper.

Then, with Miles as the catalyst, the team can look towards 3s as a way to open up the interior for West and Roy Hibbert. George Hill and C.J. Watson can stretch the floor, too, relying on good ball movement, and drive-and-kicks to keep the defense moving. Chris Copeland and maybe even Damjan Rudez can be spacers, leaving the midrange uncluttered. West and Luis Scola can make hay from 17 feet. Rodney Stuckey can attack the veins in the D.

Miles has to deliver, early and often, for any of this to work. He must set the tone and this puts a lot of weight on his shoulders.

But it all starts with Miles, and Vogel recognizing that there isn’t much else to try.
“Smashmouth” is now a dream and dumb one. This team succeeded with that mentality, yes, but not truly because of any efficiency that came from post play. It was about having elite defenders and a glued together starting unit that adopted the lunch-pail mantra more than any Xs and Os that used smashmouth principles.

All that is gone, and some of it needs to be forgotten.

Instead, there needs to be a new offensive identity and 3-point shooting can be that. By all means, the team should use its post resources and benefit from the better entry passers who are now on the wing. But they also need to recognize that playing inside-out will only work if the actual focus is on the “out” part: Passing the ball to the wings where Miles and company can hit treys.

Stuckey (and Solomon Hill if he makes it) is the only rotation player who isn’t a good shooter. So the team should embrace it. Especially, it should embrace the one knockdown shooter that can set the tone for all that: Miles.

But Miles has to deliver, early and often, for any of this to work. He must set the tone and this puts a lot of weight on his shoulders. Every team in the NBA right now is lauding their pledge to use better ball movement as a way to improve their offense. Almost none will actually translate that to the regular season.

For the Pacers to be any good at all, however, they must. And it all starts with C.J. Miles, playing unselfish ball while at the same time launching — and making — every open look he gets.

He has to be the sharpshooter who leads the way.

– Jared Wade 

Relevant GIF

Archer - CJ Miles
Archer - CJ Miles /

If you plan to follow the 2014-15 Indiana Pacers, you’ll need a sense of humor. Laugh so you don’t cry. And what’s funnier than Archer? Nothing. Nothing is the answer.

Key 2013-14 Stats

  • 9.9 points per game
  • 19 minutes per game
  • 53.7% eFG
  • 39.3% 3-point shooting
  • 85.3% free-throw shooting

One Key Question

Is C.J. Miles more than just a shooter?

The Situation: Miles shot nearly 40% from behind the arc last year, and over 38% the year before. There’s little question when he shoots from behind the 3-point line. However, if history serves as any indicator, Miles will have to do more than hit 3s to win the favor of Frank Vogel.

Best-case Scenario: Miles picks up Vogel’s defensive system quickly, proves himself a capable, if not all-world, defender, and continues to do his thing on the offensive end, hitting 3s and stretching the defense.

Worst-case Scenario: Miles is unable to complete the rotations required by Vogel’s throttling defense, and he finds himself being a $4 million dollar bench decoration.

Prediction: Miles shows well enough to be a system defender, and (if he stays healthy), has a quality year starting at the 2 for the Pacers.

– William Furr

How He Scores

C.J. Miles
C.J. Miles /

The above spiderweb chart shows, via Synergy Sports, what types of possessions lead to his points in 2013-14. (created by Tim Donahue of 8 Point, 9 Seconds)

Spotting up and coming off screens. That’s what C.J. Miles does. People like to talk about his ability to put the ball on the floor and make things happen, but he’s a shooter. He’s gonna shoot. If the Pacers can get him good looks, he’ll knock em down. If not, don’t expect much dynamism or creativity, though he did score nearly 10% of his points leading the pick-and-roll, which is encouraging when it comes to a Miles/West two-man game.

CJ Miles Shot
CJ Miles Shot /

His 2013-14 shot chart, via Nylon Calculus

3s, triples, treys and long balls. That’s what you want C.J. Miles doing and that’s what he did last season. He didn’t take many shots from the midrange last year and his ability to finish around the rim was poor.

Further Reading