Friday, February 23, 2024

2023 NBA Draft: Alabama’s Brandon Miller turns pro after excellent but controversial freshman season

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Alabama‘s Brandon Miller is declaring for the 2023 NBA Draft after a prolific freshman season, the star forward told ESPN on Thursday. The 6-foot-9 SEC Freshman of the Year and SEC Tournament MVP was the focal point for an Alabama team that became the first in program history to secure a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament.

Miller’s lone season of college basketball also featured its share of controversy because of his connection to a fatal January shooting. Court testimony from police in February alleged that Miller brought the gun used in the killing of 23-year-old Jamea Jonae Harris to the scene of the shooting. However, Miller was not charged by law enforcement or suspended by Alabama.

His involvement complicated an otherwise excellent season for the former five-star prospect and will likely follow him as he interviews with NBA franchises in the weeks ahead. But on the court, there are few questions about Miller’s readiness to be a professional.

He finished the season leading all freshmen nationally in scoring at 18.8 points per game while making 38.4% of his 3-pointers and grabbing 8.2 rebounds per game. He also rated as Alabama’s second-best defender, according to evanmiya.com, and showed all the tools of a player who can thrive in the modern NBA.

Brandon Miller’s NBA Draft projection

With a rare combination of size, length, skill and defensive intensity for a player of his age, Miller is clearly one of the top talents in this draft class. Even in games when he struggled offensively, Miller still managed to impact the game as a passer, defender, rebounder and free-throw maker. He is a passionate competitor with an excellent feel for the game. At worst, he’ll be a three-and-D role player in the NBA. But he’s got an All-Star ceiling and all the tools to reach it.

Miller ranks No. 3 in the 2023 NBA Draft Prospect Rankings from CBS Sports. He landed at No. 5 in a recent mock draft from Kyle Boone and landed at No. 3 in Gary Parrish’s most recent mock draft.

“Great size + scoring combo that’ll make him plug-and-play at the next level,” Boone wrote.

Impact on Alabama

The off-court controversy surrounding Miller complicated his time with the program, but it doesn’t change the fact that he was largely responsible for one of the best seasons in program history. Miller could become Alabama’s first top-five draft pick in 28 years and just the program’s third all time. The success he had with the Crimson Tide should only help coach Nate Oats recruit more five-star talent in the years ahead. 

Replacing Miller’s production won’t be easy next season, and it’s reasonable to expect a step back from Alabama. Oats has three players from the Class of 2023 signed, but none of them are top-50 prospects. That will put the onus on returners from the current roster to replace Miller’s production, unless the Crimson Tide make some major acquisitions in the transfer portal.

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