Raptors sign Malcolm Miller to 2-way contract

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The Toronto Raptors have signed the first two-way contract in franchise history.

The honor of landing the team’s first hybrid roster spot goes to Malcolm Miller, according to a report from Doug Smith of the Toronto Star.

This seems to have been in the making for a few weeks now. Miller was first brought in to Toronto for the team’s two-day free-agent mini-camp at BioSteel Centre in June and was named to their Las Vegas Summer League roster shortly after. While there’s obvious competition from both of those groups for a spot – Alfonzo McKinnie and Jalen Reynolds were also at the workout and are on the Vegas roster, Kennedy Meeks has signed an Exhibit 10 deal that the team can convert to a two-way contract, and a handful of other interesting undrafted or G-League players are on the Summer League team – Miller appears to be a player the Raptors narrowed in on quite quickly.

A four-year senior out of Holy Cross, Miller jumped on the draft radar with a strong fourth season that marked a college career of annual improvement. With an emerging 3-point shot and a more multi-faceted offensive game, Miller carved out a larger role, ultimately averaging 14.5 points and earning Patriot League Second-Team honors. That wasn’t enough to get him quite in the mix, and he went undrafted.

Miller caught on with the Boston Celtics both for Summer League and for training camp that year. Over two Summer League tournaments, he averaged four points and 2.3 rebounds in just 12.1 minutes, then played just a handful of seconds in a single preseason game. Such is the life of an undrafted free agent, and accepting that reality, Miller jumped at the chance to be an Affiliate Player of the Celtics with the Maine Red Claws. In 47 games there, he averaged 12.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.3 blocks, shooting 49.6 percent from the floor and 39.8 percent on threes.From there, Miller opted to head to Germany for the 2016-17 season, where his role shrunk but he still proved efficient. In 18.7 minutes, he put up 6.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists with a 62.4 true-shooting percentage, including a 38.5-percent mark from long-range.

A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot wingspan and an 11-foot-11 max vertical touch, Miller’s an interesting prospect in the modern NBA. He has the length, size (he’s 210 pounds at last measure), and athleticism to project as a solid defender at either forward spot, and while he doesn’t quite have the ball-skill or passing to play a major role from the wing (he can get into the paint himself but won’t create a ton off the dribble), the steady 3-point production could make him the typical stretch four that’s quite en vogue. It’s hard to project defense from non-NBA samples, but he was an elite shot-blocker for his position in college, and his block rate was nearly four percent in Germany.

Still just 24, Miller has the raw pieces teams look for in 3-and-D prospects, and it’s presently a position of need on the parent club. He won’t be with them much, mind you, as the new two-way contracts limit a player’s NBA time to 45 days, plus any time before the beginning of G-League training camp and after the end of the G-League regular season. With the new tiered salary system for hybrid roster spots, the promise of some NBA time and a higher G-League salary is enough to compete with another season overseas, and Miller could earn up to an estimated $279,000 if he spends the maximum allowable time with the Raptors (with a much higher downside than on other G-League deals).

As a side-note, Miller won’t be eligible for the NBA playoff roster, though every two-way contract does have a conversion option that will allow the Raptors to convert this to an NBA minimum contract, should Miller impress and the need arise. As things stand, Miller will be with the Raptors for Summer League and training camp, then spend the bulk of his time with Raptors 905 (they don’t need to acquire his rights, as a two-way deal supersedes returning player rights) with occasional trips down the Gardiner to check in with the Raptors.

Miller will now be locked in to Raptors history as their first ever two-way contract signee. As a refresher, NBA teams now have two roster spots to give these kind of deals, which don’t count toward the salary cap or luxury tax (this has no bearing on the Raptors’ free agent situation). They’re a step toward creating a more robust development system and giving teams more control over developmental prospects, allowing them to take chances on helping a guy like Miller take the next step in his evolution with some certainty they’ll reap the benefits if it works out (players on two-way deals can’t be poached by other NBA teams). You can read more about the new two-way contract system here, I won’t bog the post down with more detail than that.

So, yeah, keep a closer eye on Miller in Vegas than you had maybe planned to. He’ll probably see a good slice of time at both forward spots, and he and Pascal Siakam could be a fun small-ball frontcourt for stretches there.

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