Getting to Know C.J. Miles
The departure of our geriatric, jump-shooting duo of Anthony Parker and Antawn Jamison leaves a ton of perimeter offense up for grabs on this yearís Cleveland Cavaliers. Chris Grant spent the offseason retooling this aspect of the team by drafting a couple guys who will spread the flooróZeller seems to have an 18-footer in his arsenal and Dion Waiters, while not praised for his shooting like a Brad Beal or Jeremy Lamb, is obviously comfortable chucking shots from the perimeter. Itís certainly refreshing to have a team stocked with 20-year old first-rounders, but I think Grant was smart to sign a tenured professional basketball player/ jump shooter named C.J. Miles, particularly at the price he got him for. I also have a growing suspicion that Miles will be the second-leading scorer on the team this year.
Despite his tender age of 25 years, C.J.ís got 7 years of NBA basketball on his resume. The journeyman swingman has played 7495 minutes of regular season basketball (and 500 playoff mins). That translates to 14,498 offensive possessions and about the same number of defense possessions, totaling nearly thirty thousand trips up and down the court. He must like playiní basketball. In fact, C.J.ís been grinding for all his experience points on 7 years of pretty decent Utah Jazz teams. Dan Gilbert has purchased his talents for the cool price of 2.2 million a year over three years, which is dirt cheap for a young vet with so much burn in the Association.
Thatís a lot of good news if Miles isnít absolutely terrible, but for all of us who werenít up at 1 am watching Jazz-Suns games for the past 7 years, getting to know his game in any depth is going to take some time. For this reason Iíve assembled somewhat of a statistical primer about the guy who watches community. Weíll take a look at CJís shot selection, see where he shoots well, peruse some of his other stats, and perhaps make a bold comparison of his skills to another player weíve seen.
I actually spent 7 years in Provo doing my doctoral thesis on C.J. Miles, attending every Jazz game with graph paper and a pencil, charting each of his 3000 field goal attempts and building complex regression models based on his performance. Everything in the previous statement is a lie, but I am happy present these charts of C.J.ís shot selection and field goal percentages from different parts of the court. This blog will feature many of these charts in future posts, so if you like them, this is a good place for you to be on the internet. The two above are identical other than the blue numbers, which on the left describe the percentage of his shots that come from each zone, and on the right show his shooting percentage from those zones. You can check out a graphic with the zones mapped out and color coded here (the chartís color scheme is so ugly that Iíve created a different page for it to live on. Look at it quickly, wipe the blood off your eyeballs, and never look at it again).
Sports stats are less meaningful if you donít have something to compare them with, so Iíve included C.J.ís shot selection numbers next to the corresponding averages for NBA guards of the last 10 years. I also consolidated the 14 zone into 6, because the left/center/right breakdowns are rather trivial. The table below says that C.J. is very much the prototypical guard with his shot selection. The only significant departure being that he substitutes some of his 2 point jumpers with 3 point attempts, which makes good basketball sense to me, since his accuracy from beyond the arc doesnít suffer a whole lot compared to his percentages on long 2ís.
C.J.ís shooting percentages, however, leave a lot to desire and pretty much explain why he came so cheap on the market. He is a versatile jump shooter who can knock down shots from anywhere on the floor but heís somewhat below average at doing it. Heís mystifyingly bad at shooting corner threesó30%-- one of the most productive spots on the floor for most role-playing guards. His low mark strikes me as odd because he shoots a reasonable 34% on other threes, not a dead-eye number but not hurtful to the team either. C.J. makes up for it at the rim, though, where he finishes at 64%. Between Miles, Irving, and Waiters, Iím beginning to see a team concept of guards who can attack the basket.
Field Goal %:
Shannon Brownís numbers are oddly plugged into these tables because his shot selection and other stats are strikingly similar to those of C.J. Miles. In short, I used a very simple algorithm to compare every player of the last 10 years toÖ every player of the last 10 years, for a grand total of 540,000 pairs. Shaq was compared to Damon Jones, Brian Scalabrini to Latrell Sprewell, etc. Iíll explain the process in further detail in future posts, but the point here is that C.J. Miles and Shannon Brown are similar. Have a look at his shots and youíll notice that like Miles, Brown has a versatile shooting range and finishes well at the basket. A quick eye test verifies that both Brown and Miles make a living performing vicious transition dunks.
The table above includes the rest of the metrics used in the player comparisons. Height and position are not part of the equation, but the other numbers make it pretty clear why the two guys make a striking comparison. A few more of C.J.ís shots are assisted on, which might be explained by the number of seasons he played with Deron Williams. Heís also a slightly better rebounder than Brown and gets to the free throw line a bit more. Modest usage rates show that theyíre not volume shooters and low AST% guarantees youíll never think of C.J. as a distributor.
The efficiency stats below are not used in the comparison formula but they tell the same story. Thanks to superior offensive rebounding and finishing at the rim, Miles is the more efficient offensive player, but both guys are decidedly below average in that department. Itís the main reason why their services are cheap compared to a guy like Jason Richardson, whose style is similar but scores more efficiently. Brown costs a million more per year than Miles, so Kudos to Chris Grant for getting more bang for his buck than the Ď12-Ď13 Suns are getting from Shannon.
A few final thoughts on C.J. is that he definitely fills a need as a veteran scoring presence on the wing. Heíll spread the floor and take any jump shot the team asks him for, but thatís the root of my concern. C.J. is utterly primed to become a safety valve on offense for a very young and inexperienced Cavs team, to the point that heíll be second on the team in scoring this season. As optimistic as I fancy myself about Dion Waitersí long term future, I canít possibly kid myself into thinking heís going to bust out of the gates this year scoring 18 ppg. In fact Iím pretty sure Byron Scott is going to lose patience with Dion to the point that heís riding the bench and playing 15-20 minutes per game for stretches, leaving the door wide open for C.J. at the 2-guard. In that scenario an already inefficient C.J. will have the burden of many more shots than he has any business taking. His usage rate will blow up to 24-25 and his shooting percentages will go in the tank, drawing much of the ire we laid on Jamison & Parker for the past 2 years. If Iím wrong it means that Waiters is a budding star, Chris Grant is a blue chip GM, and the Cavs will contend for titles down the road.
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