Miles McBride has proven himself at every level and is starting to do so for Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks. He should soon be ready for more responsibility.
When analyzing a prospect, one of the most important variables to consider is the contextual situation. Regardless of if it is pre-draft or deep into the career of a veteran, there will always be different factors that impact their success. Whether it is a specific coach or a role thrust upon them due to roster construction, these situations are especially important when looking at the potential development of young players.
The contextual situations change for prospects early in their career giving more environmental variables compared to later in their career when they have settled in. When taking into account the different ecosystems players exist in, it is important to look at the similarities and differences specifically in regard to roles. Oftentimes you see college players with bigger roles that look drastically different in the National Basketball Association.
If you are looking at a player like Miles “Deuce” McBride, you have a couple of different contexts to consider. A second-round pick like McBride does not necessarily get the opportunities handed on a silver platter that somebody like RJ Barrett does as the third pick of the draft. What you do get in place of the important reps at the highest level is opportunities in different roles against varying levels of competition.
Like all, or most, young prospects in the NBA, the first place to look is how they fared in their college environment against lesser competition. With a player like McBride, you also have two seasons of the Las Vegas Summer League to consider, as well as multiple stints in the G-League. All of these contexts and situations added up to a place where McBride was finally able to work his way into the Tom Thibodeau rotation. That is a decision that has paid dividends with a significantly improved team defense and led to a winning culture that helped the Knicks win seven of their last 10 games.
While McBride was certainly not the only reason they were able to right the ship and put together some wins, he absolutely played a role. Looking over the various environments and situations Deuce has played in, there are some very optimistic commonalities to look at.
Many people expect rookies to immediately impact the game, or at least get on the court, but that is not always the case. With a player like McBride, the chance to play in the G-League allows a huge opportunity for growth and development. That is one of the situations where context is so important to consider where someone like Deuce can attempt nine threes a game, even though he has not averaged more than 2.1 per game in either of his first two seasons in New York.
Deuce McBride with the smooth pull up three pic.twitter.com/97wOHHKzeq
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) July 9, 2022
When looking at contextual anomalies and differences from varying roles, there is one thing jumping off the page. Within the various opportunities for the West Virginia guard, he has shot the following numbers in every place except Madison Square Garden: 41% on 3.8 attempts per game, 50% on six attempts per game and 48% on nine attempts per game. That leads you to his time in the Association where he has not only shot at a significantly lower volume, but also a much lower accuracy. Compared to college, the Summer League, and the G League respectively, McBride has shot 25% on 2.1 attempts.
At least in Westchester, Deuce McBride has 25 points and 5 triples through 3 quarters
— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) December 3, 2021
McBride has been a decent offensive role player in low-usage situations with the Knicks. He has been efficient and effective in minimizing turnovers and facilitating from a connector role. This has been what he has been asked to do at the NBA level, but looking at various contexts, it is clearly not all he is capable of.
The passing has always been there and the different contexts and teams he has played within have always reflected that. While he has played both on-ball and off-ball in various situations, off-ball has been the more comfortable role throughout his career. His role in the NBA has increased these habits exponentially, taking away many of the things that made him an intriguing offense prospect.
Miles McBride with a nice sequence here.
Takes his man off-the-dribble for a bounce pass kick-out to RJ Barrett, who splashes home the three.
Deuce is this year's Knicks success story with the way he kept his head down, worked hard to earn a good role in the second unit. pic.twitter.com/XcledDpi17
— Ersin Demir (@EDemirNBA) December 25, 2022
Looking at his advanced stats in his first two seasons with the Knicks, there is a statistical edge to his off-ball shooting. 63% of all field goals McBride has attempted in his career have come from beyond the arc, an overwhelming amount. In total; he has made an underwhelming 28 of his 111 attempts. Of the 28 threes he has made in his short NBA career, 23 of them have came off of assists.
The NBA version of McBride offensively is different than other places in his career due to the type of shots he is taking. The tracking stats make this abundantly clear, when looking at the frequency of when and where his shots come from. We have established that Deuce is largely existing as a spot-up shooter in the Tom Thibodeau offense, but when you look at the numbers, it explains the lack of volume in his shooting profile.
Out of every shot that McBride takes, 59% come with zero dribbles, above the league average. 52% of all of his shots are zero dribble threes with over half of those shots qualifying as true catch-and-shoot opportunities. When you look in finer detail at the breakdown of the catch-and-shoot looks he is getting at the NBA level, it tells even more of the story. Of those three-pointers he is taking, which are largely off the catch, just over 57% are open or wide open with no defender within four feet.
While this shooting profile is concerning on one hand, due to the fact that he is shooting his worst percentages on what should be the easiest shots of his career, there is a silver lining. With the lack of volume that McBride has shown, it is easy to understand how he has been unable to get into a rhythm. To refer to him as a selective shooter at this point in his career would be an understatement. This would explain why someone who took 54 threes in six regular-season G League games last year has taken only 111 threes in 61 games.
One of the things that was highlighted about McBride as a prospect out of West Virginia was his pull-up jumper. He had shown an improved bag in the expanded role in his time under Coach Bob Huggins and an increase in shot creation and tough shot making. Those are aspects of his game offensively that we have not yet seen in the NBA. When looking at his stats in the 12 G League games he has played over the last two years, the shot profile is significantly different. Not only did he shoot more and score more proficiently, but he did it from all over the court. Even though he was still taking nine threes a game, he was taking 21 shots a game. Around 60% of those shots came from 16 feet and in, where he was getting to the basket and scoring around the rim with extreme efficiency as well as a variety of pull-ups and shot attempts of an arsenal of dribble moves.
Mikes ‘Deuce’ McBride w/ smooth fadeaway out of the post. McBride cooking early w/ 11 Points on 5/6 shooting. pic.twitter.com/q4GiENmwtt
— League Him (@League_Him) December 13, 2020
The tough shot-making that was a selling point of his college offense and has been seen in the G League as well as Summer League has not yet been shown at the NBA level. However, it is not like he is missing these shots or struggling comparatively, he is simply not taking them. It is a part of his game that has not been opened up in any way under Tom Thibodeau, but this should only be getting better.
While the raw stats and per-game averages for McBride will never knock you off of your feet due to the low usage and smaller role, the advanced stats tell a different story. This is something that is consistent throughout every situation he has played in since college; teams are better when the Cincinnati native is on the court. Per cleaning the glass: McBride has an 82 assist usage rate, which is 12th in the NBA this year. This is on the heels of last year where he led the league in turnover percentage last year in his 30 games with the Knicks.
McBride has not been asked to do too much and the role he is playing reflects that, but he is making the most of his minutes within the system and contributing to the offense in different ways. It remains to be seen if he will progress to show some of the offensive weapons he unleashed at West Virginia and in Westchester, but if he is continuing to get more minutes and opportunities, we can hope that his development will follow suit.
Throughout this article, I really wanted to focus on the offensive ability because of the changes in context and roles throughout his career and how that impacts his ability and development. However, I would be remiss to not at least mention McBride’s defense, in fact, this may be the most words ever written about McBride without mentioning his defense.
Cool to see Deuce McBride’s defensive impact pop at the NBA level. Ball pressure, 24-sec shot clock concentration has carried right over. Earning/deserving fourth quarter minutes.
— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) December 17, 2022
Deuce was highly regarded as a prospect due to his defensive prowess and on ball peskiness, a specifically impressive trait for a traditionally undersized guard. The advanced numbers reflect exactly why that was always going to be the case, and this has followed suit no matter where he has been playing. This is one of the major reasons that he has always been able to impact winning and teams have always been better with him on the court.
If you were to read any of the draft profiles about McBride, including the one that I wrote, you would read a plethora of different articles saying the same thing: activity. Deuce McBride is an extremely active defender, he gets his hands on the ball, he makes winning plays. In my profile I wrote, “This is a player that is built to make opposing guards miserable with extreme activity on defense and will make himself known because of that activity leading to blocks, steals, deflections, and denials.”
Deuce McBride defensive pressure is so much fun. He EATS UP AIRSPACE, at the POA and even off-ball. 95th percentile passing lane defense, 96th steals/75, 96th deflections/75, 95th in defensive miles.
NYK young guards are ball-pressure maniacs—#1 defense over the last 10 games pic.twitter.com/satLpzWkEa
— NBA University (@NBA_University) December 19, 2022
This has all come to fruition and is reflected in the defensive stats tracked by Cleaning the Glass. McBride has been top 20 in both years in ability to defend without fouling, as well as top 30 in preventing opposing offensive rebounds for all combo guards. The active hands parlayed with the defensive instincts that he has shown give the ability to make a difference in areas across the board in defense and rebounding. The two areas that show this more than ever are the opposing shooting percentages and the steal percentage.
Of all players in the NBA that are playing ten or more minutes a game, McBride is the statistical leader in opposing shooting percentage in the restricted area. On 5.5 attempts per game, opponents are only shooting a stifling 51% around the basket, which is extremely impressive when looking at McBride’s size. Not only is he impacting defense around the basket, but he is also holding opponents to a 29.4% shooting percentage from deep, including 26.3% on above-the-break 3’s which is third among players playing 10 or more minutes only behind Cole Anthony and Josh Okogie.
Not only is he getting in the faces of defenders and making it tough to shoot, but he is also still getting his hands on the ball and creating turnovers. Just like he was top five in steal percentage when he was at West Virginia, he is top five currently in steal percentage amongst active NBA players. His 2.4 steal percentage puts him in the 94th percentile of all defenders in the league, which is 5th amongst combo guards behind De’Anthony Melton’s league-leading 3.2%.
Watch Deuce McBride on this possession. pic.twitter.com/Cc6FBFv3o8
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) December 10, 2022
What all of these numbers add up to is helping the team: it is that simple. Teams have always been better with McBride on the court and that is no different in the NBA, while many guys get the reputation as “winners” for team success they experience, few actually impact that individually. While Deuce was not the most heralded recruit out of high school, nor was he on a dominant dynasty in college, he was on a good team that he made good. Throughout all of these contexts that we are looking at and the various roles he has played for however many coaches and umpteen teammates, the defenses have been great when he is on the court.
Whether you credit that purely to his on-ball defense, or some of the help he provides, or if you attribute that more to the effort he brings and the culture that McBride’s defensive intensity can bring, it is undeniable. Every number and every metric says the same thing, regardless of what his stats are or how small his usage may be. In his rookie year, the Knicks were +15.8 with him on the court, which was the 98th percentile. Now, in the opportunity he is getting with the main rotation, he is +10.4 in the 91st percentile amongst all players. While raw +/- is an extremely flawed measure, the Cleaning the Glass on/off numbers tell a more complete story to flesh out what exactly McBride’s impact is.
McBride is in the 99th percentile for both offensive rebounding percentages on both sides of the ball, due largely just to that activity and intensity he brings. Sometimes, effort can really just make a difference, and Deuce McBride embodies that idea, and the numbers reflect it. Another representation of that is the +1.5% improvement in percentage of possessions that end in a turnover, which puts the 6′ 2″ guard in the 80th percentile.
“That came from my dad & my older brother…When my brother & I would play 1v1, my dad made us play make it take it. So my brother’s scoring on me constantly, so I finally got the attitude I had to stop him. Then from there, I just took pride in it”
—Deuce McBride on his defense pic.twitter.com/O1RzfXUQXA
— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) December 10, 2022
The clearest place however to tell this story is in the defensive efficiency numbers, the impact is evident. When McBride is on the court, opposing teams shoot 5.7% worse on the field, the result of that lower shooting percentage is 14.5 point decrease for opponents per 100 possessions. When Miles McBride is on the court, it is harder for opponents to score, that makes a difference. Those numbers put McBride in the 99th and 97th percentile respectively among all players and explain why Tom Thibodeau has been willing to lean on him more heavily even despite the offensive struggles.
Just watch Deuce McBride here. Main reason why the Knicks defense has been so incredible since he joined the rotation. pic.twitter.com/qxXC06W7UP
— Michael Grogins (@mikeygrogins_) December 12, 2022
The development of McBride is something we will be following closely, and something all Knicks fans should be rooting for. We can hope that the shooting regresses to the mean of every other situation he has played in, and that we see a return to the versatile shot profile we have seen in the past with the tough shot-making and shot creation. An optimistic fan or evaluator will tell you that those things will come with an increased opportunity and role in the NBA, a pessimistic one will say that it may not be in the cards for McBride to score at that rate at this level.
Even though there are enough signs to believe in that offensive development, a case can be made that it is not the end all be all. Even just in the smaller usage and lesser roles he is being put in, McBride is making a difference and impacting the game. From everything we have seen in his career, he has only gotten better and improved with the opportunities he has been given. If he is able to continue that trend and his defensive and rebounding numbers with more minutes and higher usage, the least he should be would be a potent defensive guard just as he has been his whole career, and there are certainly worse things to be in the modern NBA.
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