top of page

Life imitates art with Timberwolves second round pick Miller



Second round pick Leonard Miller poses after being drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Photo Credit: Bruce Kluckholn/USA Today Sports

Like the protagonist from his favorite television show, “One Piece,” Minnesota Timberwolves forward Leonard Miller’s journey has taken him on a tour across several countries in hopes of finding a treasure of his own.


In “One Piece,” Luffy possesses a special ability to stretch his limbs to give him an advantage in any given situation. This is only possible due to the rubber-like material that makes up Luffy’s skeletal structure.


Miller mirrors those traits with his seven-foot, two-inch wingspan attached to his slim six-foot, 10-inch physique.


“Like how Luffy can stretch his body with him being rubber, I feel like I have great length on the court,” he said. “I could use my length to impact the game in many ways. [Luffy’s] just a leader, he’s the captain of the ship and I lead my team, try to be vocal and impact in winning ways.”


Like Luffy, Miller is unique in every way. From his point guard-like handles to compliment his slender power forward frame to his rangy three-point jumper coupled with his ability to rebound with bigs 40 and 50 pounds heavier.


Growing up, he was ambidextrous which led him to trying his hand at three different sports: basketball, volleyball and golf. Over time, one sport began to stick out more than the others.

Forward Leonard Miller take his headshot for Team Canada. Photo Credit: Canada Basketball (https://www.basketball.ca/)

“I just love the game,” he said. “This is what I do, I’m born for this. I live and breathe this. There’s nothing like basketball.”


Miller hails from Scarborough, Canada where the NBA was a mainstay in the country until 1995-96 with the creation of the Toronto Raptors. Eight years after the inaugural season for the franchise, this year’s 33rd overall pick was born.


“My brother, Emanuel Miller, was my basketball hero,” Miller said. “And all my other brothers, playing basketball with them growing up and learning stuff from them. They’re all my heroes.”


In 2019, the Raptors captured their first NBA Championship with all-star Kawhi Leonard at the forefront. At the time, Miller was just 15 years old watching from his home in Ontario.


“After the game, the whole city went crazy,” he said. “It was a good moment for our country.”


Three months prior to Toronto’s first professional basketball title, Miller brought Thorniea Secondary School the National Circuit championship. He’d follow that up by winning the FIBA Americas Under-16 Championship and claiming a silver medal for his country in Brazil.


“Different learning experiences being in different environments and different settings,” he said. “It built me as a player, as a person seeing different things. All those different stages of my life helped me get to where I am right now.”


Soon after, the basketball success would slow down for him. He received limited playing time at Wasatch Academy and would suffer a wrist injury that would prevent him from playing much at Victory Rock Prep.


“I definitely went through phases where I had to overcome adversity,” he said. “There’s been times, for example, where some schools I didn’t play as much like Wasatch. Maybe, you could say I didn’t belong there [because] I felt like I could’ve played more.”


Coming into his postgraduate season at Fort Erie International Academy, Miller had zero college offers. Fighting for his future, he recorded 31 points per game to go along with 11.6 rebounds per outing on his way to the Most Valuable Player award and Biosteel Canadian Boys Player of the Year.


Forward Leonard Miller looks to pass to the perimeter out of the post. Photo Credit: Duna Haigler

He’d leave the season with 25 offers including his landing spot, the G League Ignite. He opted for the fairly new path to the NBA rather than going the traditional route turning down offers from Kentucky, Gonzaga, Alabama and Kansas.


“I felt like it was the best place possible to get me to where I needed to be,” he said. “There were many benefits like playing the pro game at an early age. That’s a no-brainer, I don’t see why anybody would go against that.”


With then-projected top pick Scoot Henderson already projected to take the reins as the team’s starting point guard, Miller molded into his new role as power forward and center at times despite playing point guard in high school.


Even with his position change, Miller excelled in defensive rebound, coast-to-coast playmaking opportunities that often ended with a two-hand flush or a free throw chance. During his time with the Ignite, he averaged 18 points per game coupled with 11 rebounds per contest while setting the single-season record in double-doubles for the franchise.


“When I’m on the court, I definitely have a gear like [Luffy] has,” he said. “Like when I just go, full-on go mode. Same with Luffy, when he switches gears he just ramps up his intensity.”

Forward Leonard Miller shakes the hand of NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark A. Tatum. Photo Credit: KSTP-TV (https://kstp.com/)

Originally, Minnesota entered the 2023 NBA Draft without any draft picks but traded into the second round to select Miller 33rd overall. The Timberwolves sent two future second round picks to the San Antonio Spurs for the rights to the hybrid big.


During the annual NBA Summer League, Miller considered his hustle and motor as a couple of his NBA-ready attributes.


“That’s what a team can get out of me,” he said. “That’s what I can offer and that’s what I’m willing to do every night.”


Choosing the NBA’s developmental group to start his career meant moving to the United States at 18 years old. Fittingly, Luffy also left home as a teenager in hopes of finding his particular treasure.


Miller however, is in pursuit of a different kind of treasure.

Comments


bottom of page