Right away in her rookie season, Minnesota Lynx guard Diamond Miller found out what life is like as a WNBA player. She admitted she learned a lot about herself through that process, both on and off the court, resulting in somewhat of a roller coaster year for the second overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft.
Off the court, she was about 18 hours away from her family and friends while being truly by herself for the first time, pushing her to go outside of her comfort zone while trying to find new hobbies.
“As a person, I mean I love college, but nothing prepares you when you’re really by yourself. This is my first time being kind of away from home. …It’s a bit of a transition just being away from family and learning what are my hobbies. I don’t have roommates anymore, what do I like to do? I really found that out, like what I like to do and in my free time.”
On the court, she was dealing with the challenges of a new team, a new system, a new coach and the demands of being a WNBA player while going non-stop during the season. All while trying to work on aspects of her game in order to develop as a pro.
In the end, despite what ended up taking place on and off the court, Miller felt like her rookie campaign was a success in Minnesota. But she isn’t satisfied with what has happened thus far. She’s ready to get back to work and improve so she can hit the ground running in year two in 2024.
“I feel like overall this rookie year has been a lot of fun,” Miller said at the end of the season. “I feel like I learned so much about myself throughout these four to five months and I’m just happy to know what I need to know for next season. I think I did some really good things and I think there is room for improvement.
“Year two, coming soon.”
Working on Her Game
From the first time she stepped on the court with the Lynx, Miller was thrown the responsibility of taking over a spot in the starting lineup as the organization focused on her development and getting the necessary reps to accomplish that.
Although she will be the first to tell you consistency was an issue for her as a rookie, Miller showed flashes of her potential at various moments of the year while averaging 12.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.9 steals over 26.1 minutes in 32 games, also shooting 40.7% from the field and 30.7% from three during the regular season.
Miller, who earned WNBA Rookie of the Month honors in July, was the second-best rookie in her draft class while ranking second among rookies in scoring, fifth in rebounds, third in assists and tied for third in steals over the summer.
“Diamond has just been terrific in terms of her eagerness to do whatever. … She’s just a sponge. I mean the definition of a sponge,” Lynx head coach and president of basketball operations Cheryl Reeve said earlier this season. “She’s humble, she recognizes that if she didn’t do something well, how to fix it. Just all great things, which allow you to improve. … We want her to evolve so that she has a chance to reach her ceiling.”
With her first season over, Miller is eager to get back to work to continue in her development, which starts this offseason while playing overseas in Hungary before the 2024 WNBA season begins.
“I’m going to Hungary and I’m super excited about that. … Your basketball career, it seems long when you’re playing in it, but when you look at the grand scheme of life, it’s not as long as you think,” Miller said. “You have this really weird, cool opportunity and I’m just gonna enjoy it. I’m not saying every day is going to be a good day because that’s just life in general, but I know that I’m very lucky and blessed to be in this situation. I can’t wait to see how I grow during that time being overseas.
“I’m definitely looking forward to getting in the gym and working out. … It’s just gonna help my game in all aspects.”
A few things Miller wants to improve upon this offseason and throughout her WNBA career is consistency, getting better as a three-point shooter and adding to her overall game so she can be more of a threat offensively outside of being a scorer. All aspects of her game she will start working immediately overseas ahead of her sophomore year.
“She learned a lot defensively and got better defensively. … [Driving to the basket] is something she’s really good at, and I think that’s something she worked on the most. To try and figure out how she can be in that space where she’s turning that corner, going to the basket and how you see contact,” Reeve said. “I think that’s probably the biggest thing she can learn so she can get back to the free throw line because that’s a big part of what she does. … I thought Diamond was a sponge. Learned, had some success, had a lot of learning experiences and was a success story for us.”
Future with the Lynx
After exceeding expectations in 2023 and returning to the playoffs after failing to do so in 2022, the future is bright in Minnesota. And one of the building blocks on the team is Miller, who will be just 23 years old when the 2024 season tips off.
Sure, Miller had some consistency issues on both ends of the court over her first season in the WNBA, but most rookies deal with the exact same learning process. The only way to get better is to go through those experiences, learn from them and work to improve. Something the Lynx set out to do while inserting her into the starting lineup on day one.
“I think for Diamond, it was actually an atypical transition from college to the pros in that Diamond’s free throw rate and the things she did in college — playing in transition, getting to the basket and finishes — that came a heck of a lot harder than maybe she could ever imagine,” Reeve told Canis Hoopus. “It was very much, for her, like truly learning on the fly and trying things on the fly. ... The pressure of being a starter and having to find a way to help, and with all of that, she still averaged 12 points a game. That’s pretty impressive.
“We haven’t scratched the surface of being able to, like for me, being able to play-call for her and saying ‘okay I know she’s going to do this’,” Reeve continued. “We never got to that part in her rookie season. That’s what’s next. I think that’s what makes her excited, and obviously, it makes us excited for her.”
With that learning process underway, the good news for the Lynx is Miller has the determination and desire to reach greatness in Minnesota.
“What excites me is my development,” Miller said on the Hitting the Hardwood Podcast with Mitchell Hansen during the season. “It’s when I grind every day, that excites me. …“I think it’s all going to come together, and I’m still a rookie so it’s just exciting to know that I have so much potential. I’m very diverse. I have a lot that I can do, now there’s more details and sharpening up all the edges.”
Looking back on the Lynx draft class from 2023, they nailed their selections headlined by Miller and fellow rookie Dorka Juhász. Two players Minnesota will build around Napheesa Collier and others into the future.
“In terms of accomplishing what we set out to do, those two rookies gave us the chance to do that, and we found success,” Reeve said. “There’s not much more you can ask for in terms of what they got. They know what they have to get better at. I’m really looking forward to the future with those two no-longer rookies being a part of what we’re doing.”
Before that future can commence, the work starts now for Miller. And she thinks her rookie campaign provided her all she needs to know so she can work towards being an even better player the next time she puts on the Lynx uniform in the WNBA.
“There are definitely some nuggets I am going to take back with me from this year,” she said. “It was a great season, a great rookie year, but it’s over and I’m gonna prepare for next season and really take that next leap.”