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Can C.J. Miles Be The Raptors Three-Ball Savior?

Outside of Danny Green, the Toronto Raptors haven’t looked good hoisting the three-ball this season. The hope is that as Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet “feel better” they’ll round back into form, but it was C.J. Miles that president Masai Ujiri acquired last season who was supposed to be the volume difference-maker in a new style of play where Toronto shoots over 30 threes a night.

When Miles was acquired from the Pacers after the 2016-17 season, he had shot better than 41 percent on over five three-point attempts per game and he was going to be expected to shoot more in fewer minutes with the Raptors. He did it too, but his shooting percentages reverted back to his historical average of about 36 percent from three. That’s good, but not great. Useful, but not scary.

This season we’ve been led to believe Miles has been playing sore/hurt and that’s why his minutes, three-point attempts and success rate are all way down from last year. So when he returned to the rotation after barely seeing the court after Christmas and hit on 10 of 20 three-point attempts in his last four games, the cry of “he’s back” began to ring out, but do the Raptors really have their badly needed three-ball savior in Miles?

It’s hard to know.

Miles is a savvy vet, an excellent locker room presence and a contributor on offence, but is asking the nearly 32-year-old wing/undersized forward to turn around a sagging three-point attack really fair? It might have seemed so at the start of the 2017-18 season, but no one should be buying into it now.

The best the Raptors have seen from Miles came during last year’s playoffs when he hit on a career postseason best 42.2 percent of his three-point attempts, but he accomplished that taking two fewer three-point attempts per game than in the regular season in three more minutes and that’s not what Toronto needed from him. On a team evolving, like the rest of the Association, into a group that has to shoot the three to succeed, Miles must be a volume three-point threat in as few minutes as possible and maybe, just maybe, that’s asking too much.

If Miles is truly back to 100 percent healthy and no longer too sore to get his legs into his shot, we will see a guy that can shoot 6+ threes in 20 minutes or less at a rate better than 35 percent. He’ll help them during the regular season win as many or more games than last year, but that has never been the goal of a team investing 35 million luxury tax dollars while trying to convince Kawhi Leonard to re-up in July.

If Ujiri can find a trade to improve his team’s three-point proficiency, now’s the time.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.