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Leonard Miller Is full of potential

If the Mavericks trade down, they could target the draft’s biggest mystery

NBAE via Getty Images

There’s plenty of evidence the Mavericks may pick further back in the draft than 10 as they scour the trade market. Their pick comes after a tier drop in the consensus ranking, so multiple shots at young players might be preferable. With the new CBA rules making rookie contracts important for depth, and with a depleted frontcourt rotation, it’s worth looking at the plentiful wings and bigs later in the draft.

None are more interesting than Leonard Miller, the G-League Ignite’s 6'10 mystery box of a frontcourt player. He’s often mocked in the late teens and twenties, but for my money he’s the single most underrated prospect in the class.


Miller considered coming out for the draft last year and drew buzz for his uniqueness. Hidden away in a Canadian prep league, Miller had a crazy teenage growth spurt after starting out a guard. He was not heavily recruited because he had yet to grow into his height; he was a string bean with no coordination, as if he’d just woken up in the body of another species. I can’t emphasize enough how “two years away from being two years away,” Miller felt, as seen below.

Doesn’t sound exciting? Well, he was recruited to the Ignite, and underwent a shocking acclimation to his own body. The appeal, even at his skinniest, was the guard skills attached to his length (he has Anthony Davis’ standing reach, and Tacko Fall’s hand size). In the G-League, he figured out how to play like a big, and put up an efficient season against grown men. In one year he’d gone from a total lack of coordination to having control over his own unconventional movement patterns. The easy sell is the remarkable progress he made in such a short time.


Being a long 6'10 and being able to legitimately handle the ball is an intriguing place to start. Miller can go past centers, is too big for small wings, and can lead a fast break off a rebound. It’s an important building block for potential; once upon a time, Pascal Siakam or Bam Adebayo could handle the ball without knowing what to do with it. Miller is a decent passer for how raw he is, and though he’s still learning advanced basketball, the intersection of size and skill is so enticing.

He has excellent touch in the paint and lives around the basket, getting to the line frequently. He banks it over smaller players, extends past bigger ones, and is a tip-in fiend. It sounds rudimentary, but finishing is hard for young players, and doing it consistently against G-League competition is impressive. That touch extends out to the mid-range, with the short jumper of an Antonio McDyess or various other mid-2000’s power forwards. An interesting point of comparison is Jonathan Kuminga, who’s stronger and faster, but is much smaller than Miller. Kuminga shot just below 40% in the G-League, while Miller shot over 50%.

Miller has serious defensive potential with his length. It’s a bit of a mess right now (as I’ll get to), but the tools are there for him both as a mover and protecting the rim. He is smart about rotating from the weak side, and gets vertical to contest shots. Guards will mostly be too quick, but he could end up flummoxing wing scorers. He’s also a high effort competitor who doesn’t give up on plays, and that extends to the boards, where he’s a fighter who knows how to use his long arms.

Some of his value is a double-edged sword. Is he versatile, or positionless? If he can’t shoot, then he will be a problem at the four. If he doesn’t put on weight or shoot, he may be a very specific kind of backup five (think Philadelphia's Paul Reed). At the same time, if he can reasonably space the floor with his other skills, that’s a small list of guys who really impact playoff basketball. I believe Miller’s floor is higher than others do; if he doesn’t shoot, he can be an energetic bench big, like a more skilled Brandon Clarke. If he doesn’t shoot but puts enough work in defensively, he’s the same size as Nicholas Claxton at 215 pounds and really holds up as a rebounder — maybe Jarrod Vanderbilt is comparable. A forward-thinking team could push him toward the five if he adds muscle. It’s a bet that if you shake the snowglobe and are patient, you’ll come out with a good NBA player.


Miller’s shot holds him back from being a top-ten pick. He shot threes in the low thirties, and while his free throw percentage hovered around 80, his motion is broken. He shoots from his chest, and his legs are everywhere. He’s putting his whole body into it, whereas the little fadeaways he hits in the restricted area are fluid. I can’t say I fully believe in the shot; it appears to me the entire motion needs to be reworked, but the right shooting coach might change his life. Still, free-throw percentage and touch are good indicators, and his quick development elsewhere might show adaptability.

His defense is still partly theoretical because of discipline issues; he bites hard on fakes, is too eager closing out, and misdiagnoses actions. It’s important to remember how few reps he’s gotten of high level basketball, both as a point in his favor and to indicate the development he needs. He’s also still not completely filled-out to face NBA strength. I’ve mentioned his potential as a smaller five, but Bam came into the league at 240, and Claxton is a rarity that still gets pushed around in the post. Still, the marriage of length and movement skills is intriguing.

It’s part of his ambiguous nature that both of his weaknesses are dependent on development one can’t foresee. It informs the most common criticism of Miller – how does he fit, practically, into lineups?

There’s too much potential if a swing skill hits. Can he be an Aaron Gordon-level shooter, and bring everything else like Gordon? If Lamar Odom entered the NBA now, would he be forced into a bench role, or would you shoehorn him in? He’s so raw that such comparisons ring hollow, but it also indicates how rarely players with his intersection of traits come along.

I keep coming back to his insane development curve. Look at the game below, compared to the one in early 2022. He remade his relationship to his body in one year, had ball skills to begin with, and played well in a tougher league than the NCAA. It all points to an adaptive mind that knows how to learn.

Fit with the Mavericks

It’s true that Miller isn’t a perfect fit with Luka Doncic, considering you would want a four to space the floor alongside him. They might also want someone game-ready, and Miller probably needs more G-League reps.

Still, he’d have rotational use without improving much. The skills that will translate quickly, his length and finishing, will really translate because he’s special at them. If the other team goes small, Luka with Miller at the five is a terrifying proposition. As he matures, even without the shot, that kind of change-up big is an interesting piece to have. He can roll or pop off screens, provide length, and exploit mismatches.

The potential, on the other hand, means you were able to trade down, pick up other pieces, and possibly get a holy grail positional archetype that fits anywhere – a two-way creative forward who helps you protect the rim.


Miller draws all kinds of comparisons. Lamar Odom? Pascal Siakam? There’s the outline for it. There’s role player outcomes, too. If he only shoots somewhat, can he be a bigger, badder Thad Young? If he can’t shoot but can bring energy and a different look at the five, can he be a Brandon Clarke? I’ve heard one more skeptical analyst mention Kevon Looney’s development from a guard, to a wing and then a center could be Miller’s destiny. It all depends, but Miller’s physical gifts outmatch most of the role players mentioned. Is it scary you could also say Anthony Randolph had those gifts? Sure, but that’s why they’re upside bets!

Comps aren’t ultimately as instructive as archetypes, and these archetypes have been more valued recently. He’s much rawer than a Jeremy Sochan, but he already has a better sense of how to score. He may not be as powerful as Kuminga, but you can argue he already has better feel. Either way, betting on massive wings with any sense of ball skills is smart. Hitting on them is that valuable.