Reggie Miller was one of the best shooters in NBA history and a pioneer for today’s modern play style. But whether it’s an all-time ranking list or a comparison between Miller and another player, the longtime Indiana Pacers guard never seems to get the respect he deserves. However, a deeper look at his career shows that Miller was an all-time great. Given his low consensus all-time rank, why is Reggie Miller underrated?
Deceptively Great Production
A glance at Reggie Miller’s career box score stats hints that he was nothing more than a mid-level star. He averaged 18 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists for his career, a stat line that’s been bested countless times. But these stats are somewhat misleading. So the question remains, why is Reggie Miller underrated?
They don’t account for Miller’s slow-paced, defensive-oriented era that deflated his numbers. Those numbers are also weighed down by the seasons he played late into his career’s twilight and didn’t show Miller’s greatest strength as a player.
When evaluating scorers, it’s essential to factor in how many points they score and how efficiently they score those points. The difference between an efficient 30-point scorer and an inefficient 30-point scorer is significant.
Reggie Miller embodied efficiency, thanks to his elite skill set that allowed him to make plays with and without the ball and score effectively from all three levels. He’s one of the few players in NBA history that could combine elite off-ball offense with solid on-ball shot creation and scoring versatility.
So, why is Reggie Miller underrated? Miller topped the 58% True Shooting mark for every season of his career and broke into the 60% threshold an insane 13 times. Additionally, his ability to do it in an inside-out defensive era is even more remarkable. He was regularly 10% above league-average efficiency, which is Stephen Curry-esque. Miller is also one NBA player to score 24,000 career points. Miller is the most efficient (relative to the era) at +8.1% career relative true shooting.
Miller’s assist total also seems low, but it completely undersells his playmaking. Miller’s scoring prowess elicited defensive attention his way at inexorably high levels. As he constantly moved without the ball, multiple defenders would typically swarm Miller before he could even get his hands on the rock. This subsequently left Miller’s Pacers teammates open and created a surplus of scoring opportunities for them. So while Miller didn’t accumulate many assists due to his low ball dominance, he made up for it with all-time great scoring gravity and off-ball playmaking.
This combination of scoring and playmaking naturally led to immense team success on offense. Despite not having another elite scoring option alongside him during his career, Miller was the driving force behind a lethal Indiana offense that ranked in the top 8 of offensive rating nine times in 11 years and boasted the league’s best offense twice in 1999 and 2000.
The Pacers’ offensive excellence seamlessly carried over into the playoffs every year of Miller’s prime, except one: 1996. Not so coincidentally, Miller missed four of the Pacers’ five playoff games that year. The Pacers went as far as Miller could take them.
All-Time Great Playoff Performer
However, he rarely gets brought up as one of the best overall playoff performers ever to live. This is ironic, as Miller elevated his game in the postseason more than just about anyone. His diverse three-level-scoring arsenal translated extremely well against intensified postseason defenses, particularly during his peak years.
At Miller’s postseason apex from 1991-1995, he played a total of nine playoff series. Of those nine series, three came against the league’s top-ranked defense, while four other opponents ranked inside the top 10. Not only that, two of those defenses (1993 and 1994 Knicks) rank as the top five defenses of all-time.
Why Is Reggie Miller Underrated?
One would expect Miller’s production to dip, or at the very least stagnate, against such formidable competition. However, it was the exact opposite. He somehow got even better and put together one of the best five-year playoff scoring stretches in NBA history. Across those five postseasons, Miller averaged a gaudy 26.1 points per 75 possessions (adjusted for current pace) on an unprecedented +9 relative true shooting percentage.
These numbers aren’t just great; they’re historic. Miller’s postseason production even stacks up comparably to the five-year playoff scoring peaks of Kevin Durant (28.2 points/75 on +5.2 rTS%) and Kobe Bryant (29 points/75 on +3 rTS%), two of the best scorers ever.
Even when looking at a lengthy 12-year span, Miller’s playoff production remained terrific. From 1990 to 2002, he showcased elite longevity in the playoffs, putting together a 12-year run where he averaged 24.6 points per 75 on +7.9 relative true shooting, showing that his insane peak numbers weren’t a fluke. Whether he was 24 years old or 36 years old, one thing always remained inevitable for Reggie Miller: playoff dominance.
Miller’s Lack of Accolades
Just like his box score stats, Miller’s accolades are rather underwhelming. In 18 career seasons, he made only five all-star teams and three All-NBA teams. He won no MVP awards or championships either.
However, his lack of accolades deserves context. For one, all-star teams and all-NBA teams are media awards, voted on by subjective, opinionated people. Naturally, there will always be controversial omissions for players who deserved recognition but were wrongfully left off. Therefore, it’s wrong to act as if such teams represent who the league’s best players are.
In hindsight, Miller is a prime example of this. For instance, in 1995, Sacramento Kings guard Mitch Richmond made the All-NBA second team over him. Richmond’s superior box score stats likely captivated voters at the time. However, Miller’s efficiency and advanced stats were far ahead of Richmond’s and should’ve been enough to earn him a selection.
The only issue was that such advanced stats were years away from becoming mainstream. Further, Miller would’ve likely earned far more accolades if voters evaluated him in a more modern way. If anything, Miller’s mediocre trophy case reinforces the notion that he’s underrated. Even the media and coaches alike undervalued his production.
All-time rankings are heavily subjective. However, regardless of one’s criteria, Reggie Miller is worthy of a spot within the top 40 and arguably in the top 30. His combination of playoff resilience, longevity, and efficiency deserve far more admiration and made Miller a legendary player.