It’s been more than two weeks since Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports tweeted that many around the league believed the Nuggets were trying to trade Andre Miller within the next 48 hours. Talk surrounding the 37-year-old point guard has cooled considerably since then, even though he still hasn’t appeared in a game since his confrontation with coach Brian Shaw during a game on January 2nd. The news that Danilo Gallinari will miss the season no doubt deals a fatal blow to whatever hope of contention the Nuggets may have clung to, meaning there’s less reason to keep an wily-but-aging backup around.
The notion that the Nuggets might trade Miller predates his clash with Shaw, as evidenced by chatter from this past summer. Earlier this season, teams around the league were expecting the Nuggets to unload Miller before the deadline. Miller’s value has no doubt taken a hit during the season, the least productive of his 15-year career. His minutes are at unprecedented lows, but his per-36-minute scoring and assist averages are lower than ever, too.
Still, he’s one of the most durable players in the history of the league. This is the first season in which he’s missed more than two games, but all of his absences have come as a result of his rift with Shaw rather than injury. His statistical declines this season could have as much to do with a poor fit in Shaw’s system as they do with any physical breakdown. Surely, all of his skills haven’t eroded so quickly.
Miller doesn’t possess the floor-stretching ability to shoot from long range that many teams require of their perimeter players, as most of his shots come from around the basket. Still, he creates plenty of looks for others with his crafty passing. He somehow managed to finish 18th in the league in total assists last season despite playing only 26.2 minutes per game, and he was 17th in assist percentage.
The 15th year veteran could help a team like the Suns, who are last in the league in assist percentage, according to NBA.com, in spite of the presence of Goran Dragic to pick up the slack while Eric Bledsoe‘s torn meniscus heals. Suns owner Robert Sarver calls his team a work in progress, so perhaps he’d be willing to have GM Ryan McDonough bring Miller aboard to show Bledsoe a few tricks and to help the team make the playoffs this season. The Nuggets might like to acquire Channing Frye to help with their shooting, though adding another big man to Denver’s crowded frontcourt doesn’t seem ideal.
The Kings are fourth worst in assist percentage, which explains their entreaties for Miller. Sacramento is reportedly anxious to move Marcus Thornton, but their package of either Thornton or Jimmer Fredette plus a second-round pick for Miller apparently hasn’t prompted the Nuggets to budge. That could change by the deadline, and Thornton could be an intriguing buy-low candidate for Denver, but it doesn’t look like there’s much traction here.
The Rockets have the sixth-worst assist percentage, and I’m not sure if either Patrick Beverley or Jeremy Lin is a championship-caliber point guard. Houston possesses plenty of long-range shooting that the Nuggets could use, but analytically driven GM Daryl Morey might not want to sacrifice any of the three-point arsenal he so highly values to go after an aging point guard who might not be a significant upgrade. The Knicks have been trying to find a way into Miller talks, but they don’t appear to have the sort of assets the Nuggets are seeking.
Miller, for as much guile, ball movement, and reliability as he can provide, is overpaid this season on a $5MM salary. He makes $4.625MM next year in the final year of his deal, but that’s only partially guaranteed for $2MM as long as he’s waived before July. He seems the sort of player that a contender willing to swallow hard and open its pockets would trade for in hopes of inching closer to a title. He could also be a fill-in for one of those teams if in case of an injury at the point guard position. The Nuggets don’t have much at stake this season, so they can afford to sit back and wait for other teams to come calling. The urgency lies with the teams seeking Miller, and so I wouldn’t be surprised if Denver doesn’t trade him until the deadline, when teams are under pressure to submit their best offers.