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Traxler: For budding NBA stars, agent Mike Miller has plenty to offer

For the last few months, Miller has been in his element, helping to mentor and coach some of the top college prospects, including former Duke star Paolo Banchero.

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In this file photo, Mike Miller waves to the crowd at the Corn Palace during the Hoop City Classic in 2017.
Mitchell Republic file photo.
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Twenty-two years later, Mike Miller is back in the draft.

But unlike in 2000 when he was a coveted prospect, Miller is now trying to advocate on behalf of his players as an agent. It is the latest move in a long and interesting basketball life for Miller, who became an NBA agent in 2021 after stepping down from his college and high school coaching jobs in Memphis.

For the last few months, Miller has been in his element, helping to mentor and coach some of the top college prospects. Among them, the 42-year-old Mitchell native is representing former Duke star Paolo Banchero , who is expected to be among the top picks in Thursday’s NBA Draft, which will be held in Brooklyn, New York.

Miller is one of the founders and president of Lift Sports Management, which represents Banchero, along with Miller, Wake Forest guard Alondes Williams, Duke forward Wendell Moore and Alabama guard JD Davison. According to Sports Business Journal , Lift Sports Management is owned by Miller, partner Daniel Frank and Donnie McGrath, who previously played college basketball at Providence and played professionally in Europe.

Miller has the experience of being a high pick in the draft, going No. 5 in the 2000 NBA Draft to Orlando. He has the experience of coming into the league with expectations, something that will be valuable to Banchero and other potential high draft picks. Miller’s opening season ended with the NBA’s rookie of the year award, putting him in rare company for Year 1 production.

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Miller’s opening success as an agent with Lift Sports Management was with R.J. Hampton, the young standout for the Magic. Over the last two years, Miller worked closely with Hampton during the pre-draft process and helped him improve his shot and Hampton’s 3-point shooting percentage has steadily risen in two NBA seasons.

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Mike Miller playing with the Memphis Grizzlies in a photo from the 2013-14 NBA season. (Justin Ford, USA TODAY Sports)

Miller’s work ethic and commitment were among his best traits in his 17 years in the NBA and is easily the No. 1 attribute that he can try to pass on to the young players he will mentor. It’s clear that Miller loves working with young players in a 1-on-1 or skill development role, showing the pre-draft process of intense workouts to be a perfect fit with the Mitchell legend.

As far as being a pro, roles change for players and can be a stark challenge for new players. Miller can show how adapting and flexibility helped extend his career and earn him those championships, which came in years 12 and 13 in the NBA. Success arrived overnight for Miller — with NBA rookie of the year in 2001 and averaging 20-plus points per game early in his career — and even then, he still needed to evolve and improve.

With the exception of the G-League, there’s not a part of the NBA ecosystem that Miller hasn’t experienced. He’s been traded four times. He’s been a free agent. He’s been waived and he battled injuries throughout his career. He’s had his roles and responsibilities change. Late in his career, he was a key bench player and mentor, and he’s had his contract bought out.

For a draft prospect, what more could a player want? Miller has experienced so much of what a college player might have questions about and if Miller doesn’t have the answers, he definitely has a wide array of contacts who can help him get those answers. (Mike Miller knows LeBron James pretty well. That can’t hurt when talking with young players.)

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In this Jan. 8, 2021 file photo, Mitchell native Mike Miller walks to the locker room along with his sons Mason, left, and Mavrick while coaching the Houston (Tenn.) boys basketball team at the Corn Palace.
Mitchell Republic file photo

After all of that, if there’s any question about Miller’s reputation, he can break out the two NBA championship rings and run back the film of Miller starting in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. If there’s one question about Miller as an agent, it would likely be related to how he will handle issues such as contracts and trades between his clients and their teams. Miller hasn’t had a lot of reps in that role yet, but his experience as a player sitting in on those conversations when they pertained to his playing career has to be beneficial when advocating at the negotiation table.

Banchero is the bold-faced name that will potentially put Miller’s agent career into the spotlight. If his playing career was any indication, Miller is going to find a way to make his time as an agent a success.

Related Topics: MITCHELLBASKETBALL
Opinion by Marcus Traxler
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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