One of the great joys of scouting and watching basketball is the players who make you think. Whether through their passing ingenuity, show-stopping highlights, defensive rotations, budding potential, or a conglomeration of them all,”, there’s something that makes you repeatedly go “hmm,” repeatedly.
During the early 2023 college season, no player has made me think about the game more than Maryland Terrapins senior star Diamond Miller. In a massive win over Notre Dame on December first, Miller put forth an all-time great performance, considering the moment and environment.
Dropping 31 points, corralling 12 boards, dishing the rock for five assists, and combining for five total steals and blocks, Miller’s hands were all over this game for Maryland. A buzzer-beating one-legged fadeaway cemented her stellar night and the victory.
It’s the multi-faceted, versatile nature of Miller that makes her so intriguing as a prospect and equally perplexing as to who she might develop into. Perplexing in a good sense; have you ever played Fallout? Elder Scrolls? Monopoly? The beauty in her potential is the unknown, much like when you start in those games. There are interwoven and diverging webs of skill development that loosely remind me of the blueprints of development in basketball.
For those who have not played, you start those games with a base allotment of skill points to spread amongst those trees, which in turn narrow out your path during the game. There’s a delineation from the basis of skill into more honed advancements as experience points are earned and unlocked, which is cool, but also, dude, I want to advance in every direction.
There are so many paths forward in her game because of her foundation of skill. She’s “starting the game” with a wealth of directions she can branch out into because of her intersection of skills.
I’ve asked myself point blank multiple times, “what position does Diamond Miller play as a pro?” and my only true answer is a resounding “YES!”
In a WNBA and general basketball landscape increasingly defined by pace, space, skill, and multiple ball-handlers/playmakers, players who can provide lineup versatility are essential. For instance, Miller has the speed and lateral quickness to guard some smaller players. She has the ranginess and instincts to rotate the backline and provide help side rim protection. She can credibly defend like-sized wings and front-court players.
By virtue of “being able to don numerous hats, there are, once again, more pathways with which you can envision Miller making an impact on the court.
At 6’3 with a sizable wingspan, Miller is a fantastic athlete, which is that first layer of skill that sets the table for her game.
She possesses a quick first step, particularly for her size. She often puts together her most impressive displays as a finisher and playmaker out on the break, which Maryland leans into heavily (in the 88th percentile in points scored on the fast-break per 100 possessions per CBB Analytics).
Her footwork and balance in the lane and that aforementioned burstiness are already uncommon in prospects. When you blend the three into the package that Miller has, it’s staggering.
Miller isn’t just a good paint scorer; she is, pound for pound, the most effective paint scorer in the country that isn’t a true big. Per CBB Analytics, Miller is in the 99th percentile in paint scoring (18.5 points per 100 possessions) while scoring efficiently on those shots as well.
She doesn’t get blocked often compared to her volume, and even if she misses, she’s adept with put backs. She’s an expert at drawing fouls, using her length to find contact if there isn’t an immediate scoring avenue. She’s currently 2nd in the NCAA for total made free throws, according to Her Hoops Stats.
This is yet another aspect where the intersection of skill comes into play.
In conjunction with a wide and high but effective and layered handle, Miller is a remarkably effective driver. She can attack off the dribble as a secondary option on the weak side but also thrives in ball-screen scenarios for the Terps. Blending that balance and finishing touch with the ability to maneuver as she pleases within the offense adds to her scoring versatility.
A. runs some tremendous stuff after timeouts, and on out-of-bounds plays,
B. primarily runs them through or for Miller.
Coming off the wide hand-off after in-bounding the ball, Miller forces a switch, gets her defender on the back foot, and then utilizes that stellar footwork and balance to get into one of her trademarked scoop layups. She’s so good with extension finishes like that that add that little extra oomph to her ability to cover ground and get to the rim.
It seems like a small thing, but the quick hip twitch she has at 6’3 is so difficult for most true posts to handle, as she can fluidly change directions.
The full vision of Miller’s scoring prowess can be glimpsed, particularly off of the set plays after timeouts and in-bounding that were drawn up during the Notre Dame game.
Wheeling out of the post with the opposite positioned post player clearing to the corner, Miller ghosts (fakes) a screen and then flies up-court. Her defender is top-locking her to switch in case Miller sets a screen that opens up the guard clearing out. In order to take advantage of this, Maryland sets an elevator screen for Miller.
An elevator screen is what it states; two players start apart and then close the gap like elevator doors. The fun part here is Miller flying to the outside of the screens rather than through them. The Irish are switching on screens with a pretty mobile lineup. With the switches typically happening under the screen, the elevator set cuts off the direct path for the actual switch to occur, which creates an advantage. Notre Dame has three players get screened by two, part of the ingenious of the play.
The screeners then clear to opposite sides, drawing or at least momentarily occupying their defenders. Miller receives the ball, immediately rips the lane, and gets an easy finish.
Not even ten seconds of play, and there’s so much to decipher and appreciate.
First off, man, this set rocks. Secondly, as mentioned earlier, with the change of direction, Diamond’s ability at her size to move in all planes is impressive.
In 6 steps, Miller is at the rim and finishing. Her stride length is massive in covering ground as quickly as she does, and that little sweep gathers she does to avoid Dara Mabrey’s quick jut into the lane to prod at Miller’s handle stands out. So often, players are finishing right at the basket, but the great finishers are fluidly starting to finish while they drive; combining multiple motions into one cuts down the time, and small margins matter greatly in the paint.
This is great stuff from both a prospect and an understanding of the game lens.
She has the guile and craft to take smaller players off the dribble, and she has a killer behind the back and crossover, the staples of her isolation game.
With her handle and ability to generate paint touches, passing windows are opened up. She has her best displays as a playmaker in the open court and from the middle of the floor where she can read the defense and hit baseline cutters, the dunker spot, or for corner kicks.
There’s room for the quickness with which she makes reads to improve, and for her accuracy to tighten up, but again, at her size, the playmaking is impressive. She’ll even whip out some crosscourt overheads and one-handed skips that really entice. There isn’t a great roll threat on this Maryland squad beside her, and I’d be excited to see what she can do as a pocket passer and what that would open up with her pick and roll game.
She has some struggles with turnovers at the moment; nail help can really get into her handle and she can get stuck on drives. Yet, some of that can be attributed to how much attention is on her. Her role will likely be different as a pro, and while there is still room for that to improve, the numbers likely overstate it as a factor.
One of the bigger questions will be how her shot develops; in order to routinely open up driving lanes and force closeouts, you need to take threes at volume and efficiently.
She’s only hitting 25.8% of her threes this season, but has shot slightly above average on above average volume for the prior three years of her career. The difficulty in her shots is also worth noting, as she takes the majority of her threes off the dribble or self-created.
When considering the potential of Miller playing on-ball in the league, the idea of what she can continue to grow into as a threat from outside is incredibly mesmerizing. The reps she has on tape with side-steps, multiple dribble combos into a pull-up, to gather into her patented hop step jumper are impressive.
If she can credibly hit threes from behind screens that defenders dive under to prevent drives, that makes it that much harder for defenses to gameplay against her and in turn opens up the offense.
This is by no means a one to one comparison, but it’s hard to watch Miller and not see some of the shades of what Dearica Hamby brings to the court. Hamby was a more established post player at Wake Forest, and Miller has shown more as a jump-shooter by nature of the change in play since Hamby was in college.
A point forward (read: big guard) who can impact defenses and bolster offenses in a variety of ways is someone to be excited about. Miller can be a turnkey of sorts to unlock a variety of lineups most teams don’t have the personnel to achieve, and as the game continues to shift, that feels all the more valuable.
As Maryland continues a season of encouraging play, watching Diamond Miller continue to evolve and thrive in her on-ball exploits is one of the major highlights of Big Ten play and the college season at large.
Miller is eligible for the 2023 WNBA Draft.
WNBA reporter Mark Schindler writes a column on WNBA.com throughout the season and can be reached on Twitter at @MG_Schindler. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.