(Deep Breath...) For the first eight games of the season, C.J. Miles was the backup small forward. Then, he started two games when Paul George was out with ankle soreness. When the four-time All-Star came back, he went back to the bench for two games. George needed more time to heal, so the sharpshooter started against the Suns. He missed the next six games with knee soreness, but once he was healthy he went back to the bench for 23 games. When Nate McMillan finally arrived at the realization that starting Monta Ellis beside Teague wasn’t working after back-to-back losses to the Lakers and Jazz, Miles became the starting two guard. That lasted for eleven games until he needed to man some of the minutes at four when Lavoy Allen was battling knee soreness at the same time as Thaddeus Young was already sidelined with a sprained wrist. The lefty power forward’s return allowed the 30-year-old to return to the shooting guard position for 15 games. But, Glenn Robinson III sustaining a calf strain at practice ensured that wouldn’t last until the end of the season. Without sufficient wing depth, Miles had to finish the final 10 games of the season back where he started it: reserve small forward. Well, at least until the Monta re-return went awry in the playoffs, and the Pacers needed him to start at shooting guard (again) for Games 3 and 4 (...Exhale).
Basketball Reference estimates that he played 43 percent of his minutes at shooting guard, 48 percent at small forward, and nine percent at power forward. On a roster slim on versatility and bogged down by non-shooting shooting guards and paint-bound plodders, C.J. Miles did whatever his team needed him to do.
How did C.J. Miles impress?
Better yet, he didn’t just do it. He did it well.
Most notably, by making an impact on the perimeter without dominating the ball. In his twelfth season, he set career-highs from three (41.3%) and the free throw line (90.3%), and he averaged more points per touch (0.397) than anyone else on Indiana’s roster. Minimum four attempts per game, only seven players in the entire league shot better off the catch than C.J. Miles (42.6%).
Granted, he isn’t an offensive initiator, but the offensive finisher’s highly efficient use of his minuscule time of possession (0.6) in part explains why the starting lineup was 7.9 points per 100 possessions better with him at shooting guard as opposed to Monta Ellis.
Of course, it was a shame that it wasn’t possible for him to be in two places at once because the bench was closer to being in the black with C.J. Miles playing beside Al Jefferson than any of the dreaded double-plodder lineups. Especially effective at the end of the season was the five-man unit with the lefty sharpshooter and Paul George playing interchangeable forwards alongside Lance Stephenson, Aaron Brooks, and Kevin Seraphin, which posted a monster plus-25.5 net rating over the final six games.
Whether acting as a stop-release for Jeff Teague and Paul George or unclogging the paint for Lance Stephenson and Kevin Seraphin, C.J. Miles was a rare breath of versatile air on a roster too often left gasping for air.
How did C.J. Miles disappoint?
Unfortunately, his numbers took a slide in the playoffs for a second-consecutive season.
He got decent looks from behind the 3-point line, he just didn’t make them at near the same clip (31.3%) as he did during the regular season (41.3%). Even so, it would’ve been preferable if more of his shot attempts had been derived by curls or double-stagger screens than off skip passes or drive-and-kick action. There’s no way to know if doing so would’ve resulted in more makes, but it certainly would’ve tested some of Cleveland’s weaker defenders.
Then again, even when the Pacers went small with Miles at four along with Lance Stephenson, Monta Ellis, Paul George, and Myles Turner, the Cavaliers never put Love in the position to have to chase him through a maze of picks. Rather, he was free to play a sort of one-man zone against Stephenson or Ellis.
Stagnant offense and wonky lineups aside, the Pacers should not have been better with C.J. Miles off the court than on.
It’s possible he may no longer want to be what the Pacers need at the price they can pay. He has a $4.7 million player option for next season, which the consummate pro will reportedly decline. He could still re-sign with the Pacers, but that’s unlikely if he commands a salary anywhere near to what Marvin Williams drew last summer. If he does, Glenn Robinson III will be waiting in the wings.