Andre Miller is not long for the Denver Nuggets

After 13 years of NBA service, it’s fair to say Andre Miller has been one of the more overlooked and undervalued point guards of his generation. His ability to produce well into his thirties places him in the rarified company of Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups, and Jason Kidd yet his lack of playoff success and individual accolades exclude him from being held in the same regard.

Playing with that chip on his shoulder has made Miller the successful, highly motivated player he is today. Unfortunately, it’s also put Andre at the center of another point guard controversy in Denver after candidly telling Chris Tomasson he’s unhappy with a backup role and prefers to go elsewhere in free agency next season.

While it’s important not to overreact to the wording of Miller’s statement, there should be no misunderstanding about his intentions – Andre is not done as a starter in this league and he’ll seek to lead his own team in free agency next season. Despite Benjamin Hochman’s claim that Miller’s representatives say there is no problem, his own words can’t and shouldn’t  be disregarded as some sort of passing joke.

On the surface, it seems like Andre Miller is squabbling about semantics. Despite coming off the bench, he averages a healthy 29 minutes a game against his career average of 34.3 – not to mention he’s 35 years old. Still, that doesn’t change the fact Miller’s bench role is different than what he’s been accustomed to for over a decade. Not only is he playing for his next contract, Miller is also valiantly fighting off the typical decline a 35-year old inevitably suffers as he enters the twilight of his career. To Miller’s credit, he hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down at all.

Last year with Portland, Andre averaged at or near his career averages in most every category with the same efficiency he’s maintained throughout his career. When adjusted for minutes, the 34 year-old Miller actually produced at virtually the same level he did as a 27 year-old in his first stint with the Nuggets. The fact Denver traded Miller nearly 5 years ago and essentially got the same player back is incredible.

It’s too early to write Miller off while he adjusts to becoming a bench player with the Nuggets, but in terms of production he’s primed for his worst season since his rookie campaign. His efficiency hasn’t trailed off dramatically, but it’s worse and despite nearly matching his career averages per 36 minutes, the consistent playing time just isn’t there even with Karl playing him as much as the rotation allows.

One area where Miller has to adjust is not having consistent starting-quality big men to play off of. Miller is often first off the bench, but Nene soon goes out and he’ll play with an inconsistent rotation of Chris Andersen, Al Harrington, and Danilo Gallinari as the main bigs on the floor. The result is less pick and roll action, much smaller lineups and a situation where Miller will look for his own offense more often due to limited options.

Andre is also sharing the court with Ty Lawson, not to mention Rudy Fernandez and Gallo who can all bring the ball up the floor to start a possession. Miller still has the ball in his hands plenty, but his assists mostly come in transition off leak-outs and steals as his role is to get Denver’s aggressive transition game going as quickly as possible.

Miller plays almost exclusively in a small lineup, and along with the rest of the team it has been inconsistent, especially on the defensive end. We have seen size stifle the Nuggets ability to run and in turn the half-court offense come to a grinding halt. The fact Denver has such a deep roster is going to limit Andre’s impact in certain games, simply because situations will call for more size, longer defenders or shooters to space the floor and Andre doesn’t provide the correct mix of versatility for all situations. Regardless of Karl’s desire to play Andre as much as he can off the bench, Miller’s point guard duties and need for the ball often overlap with the other players on the floor.

When a more conventional lineup is called for, Ty Lawson is the first choice to handle the point guard duties and Miller is asked to step out of his element as a shooting guard who doesn’t excel at shooting. Early results are Andre shooting over double the amount of three pointers he normally attempts (1.5 versus 0.7) where he is only makes a career 20%. Again it’s early, but Miller is also averaging a whole 2 fewer free-throws than he normally attempts (2.5 versus 4.5). It’s not really Andre’s fault, that’s just the role he is stepping into on a deep team like the Nuggets.

The season is young and of course there are plenty of good reasons to have Andre on the court where he is a fantastic fit. The most obvious of course being the luxury of having a quality distributor who can seamlessly step into a starter’s role when Lawson is injured. Miller also does a good job taking care of the ball and is a crafty finisher who can post up opposing guards when needed. Miller can be a solid mentor to the younger players on the team, although he told Tomasson he prefers to be playing and thinks Ty has already completed his tutelage under Chauncey Billups.

Ty Lawson is the point guard of the future, who not only needs room to grow but a reliable long-term backup who can spell him when needed and embrace that role. Andre Miller is not that guy. He is a fine player and a great short-term asset for the remaining 50-odd games of the season. However, to Andre’s credit the numbers suggest he is more than capable of managing the freedom and the opportunities afforded to a starting point guard in the NBA. Miller is more than adequate in an extended bench role with a timeshare at the point guard position, but that’s not what he wants and I honestly do not blame him. Miller should explore his free agency options and seek a team willing to start him if we can take him at his word.

Andre Miller is a solid player and the Nuggets should not be in a rush to trade him for the sake of allowing him to become to a starter. The Nuggets still face the likely scenario that the best outcome for both sides is to eventually part ways regardless of what happens this season. With Rudy Fernandez, Julyan Stone, and no shortage of athletic wings on the roster, Denver is not hurting for guards to play off the bench. Assuming Andre Miller can bring back anything of moderate value for the future, the Nuggets should make the difficult but necessary long-term move and grant him a trade.

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Charlie Yao

Managing Editor at Roundball Mining Company and writer since 2010. Unhealthily obsessed with Nuggets basketball since 2002. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at the links on the left.
  • Peter

    It’s a shame he wants to leave. What contenders would he start for anyway? OKC needs a backup point guard now that Maynor is done, but I don’t think he wants that. He doesn’t fit in Miami(they need a 3 point shooting point guard and Chalmers fits their system better), same thing with the Lakers. Even at his declining age and efficiency he’s not starting over Jason Kidd in Dallas. Is he better than Jameer Nelson? I think Orlando is better off with a deep threat point guard too. He can’t go back to Portland and he’s not starting over Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Tony Parker, or Chris Paul. Jrue Holiday is not going anywhere in Philly. I think Atlanta is committed to Jeff Teague going forward. The only one you could talk me into is that he would be a slight upgrade over Darren Collison in Indiana, but they seem to be content with their young team for the time being, and giving up a piece for Miller would not be an all in move that puts you over the top. I don’t see any situations better than Denver. I would say the Knicks could use him, but they got Baron coming back and they want to play fast paced anyway. I guess he’s just going to have to stick it out here until an injury happens or get dealt to a non-contender.

  • evan

    Andre Miller for Toney Allen and a pick.

    Memphis needs a legit veteran PG to make a run.

    Toney Allen is a baddass defender.

    • Desean

      Ooooo I like dat girl

  • Cody

    Hmmm no wonder he always looks so uninterested during the games

  • AndreFanPDX

    As a Blazer fan I was sorry to see the old dog depart. Hugely underrated as a player and as a locker room presence/teacher (ask LaMarcus Aldridge). I’m hoping he’s able to move to a contender next year or maybe even sooner. I think he’s got a lot more left and could easily make the transition to Dallas. Kidd is on his last legs and won’t make it through the end of the season. I also think he’d provide a dramatic upgrade in Utah, where he’d be comfortable returning to his old college haunts. Probably not enough to make them a contender though. So here’s my magic bullet proposal, it almost seems too obvious: Lakers. He’s twice the player Derek Fisher is. He’s a master at setting-up low post players. He’s unselfish enough to feed Kobe all night. He’s as hungry/desperate for a title as Kobe and he’s from Compton. I think it’s perfect. I know I’d hate to see him in goldenrod back in Portland come June. What does everybody else think? I say trade him for a pick and give him the shot he deserves.

    • evan

      He’s on a Contender right now.

    • Desean

      Lakers seems the closest thing to a logical choice, maybe the first rounder they got from Dallas in the Lamar odom trade

    • Kalen

      Yeah, that would be a great fit especially considering they’re not running the triangle anymore. Andre would be a HUGE upgrade over Fisher and would give their crosstown rival, “Lob City,” a run for its money with Bynum and Pau there.

  • Jeff

    Trade Andre Miller for Norris Cole! The Heat are obviously going for a title this year and could use Andre as their starting point guard. Denver gets a good young backup for the future in Norris Cole.

    • Desean

      Miami would never do that. Norris cole was a steal in the draft and is 14 years younger than miller. He doesn’t dominate the ball like Dre in a team where they don’t need the pg to do that. Cole spreads the floor with deep shooting which miller does not and that is crucial for heat.

    • Desean

      Not to mention salaries are not even close, we would have to get mike miller back and give someone else up.

      Look it’s a nice though and I would love the deal if it happened but it just ain’t happening man

      • Jeff

        Yeah I agree that it would take more than a straightup trade, but would the Heat really scoff at having Andre and Wade in their backcourt with Chalmers coming off the bench? Miller doesn’t spread the floor for them, true, but with Lebron and Wade running in transition and Andre throwing those long lob passes they would be pretty unstoppable. And the Nuggets would get a perfect backup in Cole.

  • noah

    trade andre miller and his expiring contract, wilson chandler (in a sign and trade type manuever), and timofey mozgov for chris kaman and a future draft pick

    • Desean

      No no no no no no no no no . Not Wilson chandler are you kidding me. No non no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no

    • Sanokumo

      OH I like the idea for Denver though Id ask for Okafor, over Kaman. But this is kind of a slap in the face for Miller.

    • finazzaus

      did he just say kaman???????????????

  • Desean

    Andre miller, rudy Fernandez for Andrew goudeluck, Luke Walton, dallas 1st rounder and a couple of second rounders

    • mohamamd

      u cant get rid of rudy too that just dosent make sence the only way well trade miller is us knowing that we got rudy on the bench that could play the point if we get rid of both of the whos goin to come in for lawson

  • James

    Andre miller for okafor or miller for kaman plus some supplementarie. We get a big man they get a point guard and solve big man issues

  • Ernie

    I wonder what it will take to get Demarcus Cousins, (who maybe is not itching to leave anymore now that Westphal is gone). The thought originally was you wanted to be the 2nd team that got him so he could prove the first place he flamed out was a fluke, although that was widely to be considered in year 5 after some maturnity.

    NBA trade machine is down so I have no options involving Miller. But I would think since Cousins is still on his rookie deal that Miller, Chandler and Moz for Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and some stiff might work and solve both frontcourt and backcourt issues for the Nugs and maturity and defense issues for Sacremento.

  • Aurress

    Cut him.

  • steve

    i said this yesterday after i heard this…we should try and move him to the hornets for Jarrett Jack. Jack fits our system a little better as he can push the pace. He actually guards SG’s better than PG’s which fits well if we keep playing 2 pg’s at times. Also, jack hits 3 pts unlike dre. He isnt the best 3 pt shooter but he’s definitely an upgrade. I think N.O. would do this because they could use a vet in the locker room and they save money long term. Jack is making 5.5 mill i believe while dre is making 7ish. Andre has expired deal and jack is signed for 1 more year, so long term they can save money for new owner coming in next year. Maybe we throw in a 2nd rd pick to sweeten up the deal. We have so much depth that we wont need a 2nd next year.

    • mohamamd

      jarret jack wouldnt like being a bench player neither lol thats the whole problem wit miller wat we need to do is trade miller and mosgov for a legit center we have enough guards that can play we odnt need jack

      • steve

        jack has been a backup a good portion of his career. plus i bet he’d enjoy playing for a winner. You would think dre would think like that too. Most playoff teams have their PG locked in. Not sure where Dre could go where he could win.

        what legit C is available? I honestly dont know of one.

  • Jason

    There is no real need or rush to trade him. Sure, Masai would be wise to look into options, but Andre was frustrated in Portland also sometimes with his role. Remember for a while he backed up Steve Blake.

    But I would say I agree, for the long term, it is best that they part ways. He still has many years of quality play left in him, but he has the desire to play a significant role. On this team, that would require him to play with Ty in a two PG lineup. I don’t hate the 2 PG lineup, but Karl overuses it. It is productive in stretches, but he uses it too much, probably in an effort to please Dre.

    So long term, I think it will be better for Dre and the Nuggets to part ways. Sad to say that, as I like Dre and think it could be awesome having him as a backup, but more in the 20-25 mpg vs. the 30 mpg backup.

  • Alex

    I wouldn’t bee too sad to see Andre go, as his slow pace really doesn’t fit the rest of the team. Unfortunately for him, I really don’t see much as far as greener pastures go.

    Celtics – Backup to Rondo, already too old
    Nets – Backup to Williams, not a playoff team
    Knicks – Could use a PG, but might backup Baron and a poor fit for D’antoni’s system.
    Sixers – Need to play/develop Jrue Holiday, would be a backup at best
    Raptors – Is Miller better than Calderon at this point? I think it’s a wash and Tor is committed to the youth movement.
    Bulls – Have the MVP at PG already
    Cavs – Got rid of Baron to let Irving play
    Pistons – Should be playing Knight for the future, but just got robbed by Stuckey
    Pacers – Miller may be better than Collison, but this team is looking to play younger
    Bucks – Not as young/exciting as Jennings, but probably a better player at this point. Still MIL is committed and is not looking like a playoff team.
    Hawks: Seem to be committing to Teague, and have a serviceable backup.
    Bobcats: Have young PG’s in Kemba Walker and DJ Augustin. Miller may be better than those two, but not good enough to get them anywhere near .500. They should develop youth.
    Heat: Could be better than Chalmers or Cole, but I don’t think he’d be thrilled about his number of shots he could take on this team, he also plays too slow for them. (Sound familiar?)
    Magic: Wouldn’t be a terrible fit, but ORL likes shooters around Howard, and Jameer Nelson is much more of a shooter than Andre.
    Wizards: Could certainly use some veteran leadership, but their best player and the one they really need on the court is a PG.
    Western Conference:
    Warriors: Already playing 2 PG’s simultaneously that are both younger and better than Miller.
    Clippers: Have 3 former or current all-star PG’s (although Mo Williams All Star Selection rings a little hollow)
    Lakers: Could make sense. They have had terrible PG play, but Miller likes to shoot, and Gasol/Bynum already get fewer touches than they deserve even with Fisher taking only 2 or 3 shots per game.
    Suns: Once again, would have to be a backup unless the Suns trade Nash, then this might actually work. The pace has slowed enough this year, but Nash is still better and probably sticking around.
    Kings: Depends on whether you call Tyreke a PG or not. He could start with Tyreke, but not over him. Too many black hole players on this team.
    Mavs: Already too old, wouldn’t start over Kidd based on them being the defending Champs. Mavs
    need to develop Roddy B.
    Rockets: Lowry is quietly putting up good numbers in Houston. He could be a backup, but wouldn’t get more minutes than he’s getting in Den.
    Grizzlies: Seem committed to youth movement of Conley and Selby. Again, not enough time or shots for Andre here.
    Hornets: Jack is putting up 15 and 8. Miller could do that, but is he big enough an upgrade to validate benching Jack at this point?
    Spurs: Popovic likes shooters. Parker is the unquestioned starter unless he’s traded, but those talks seem to have cooled.
    Minnesota: Have this new guy that seems to be playing alright, and should probably start soon.
    OKC: Wouldn’t start, and shouldn’t be taking shots from Durant and Harden anyway.
    Portland: Just came from there, and they are playing faster/better without him. Felton’s not really any better, just a better fit up there.
    Utah: Could go back to his college stomping grounds, but Utah has an equivalent in Devin Harris, and is best letting the young guns play.

    We keep talking about how he is a starting caliber point guard, but considering the league wide talent at the position, maybe he isn’t. The only team that clearly doesn’t have a PG as good and Andre Miller is the Lakers, and Kobe has the ball 80 percent of the time anyway. It will be interesting to see what happens, and I won’t be sad if/when he’s dealt, but I really don’t see much by way of greener pastures.

    • Charlie

      Keep in mind the Nuggets don’t have to trade Miller somewhere he’ll start. They can trade him anywhere so long as both teams agree to it. Andre has a nice expiring contract and he can help any team win, bench or otherwise, so he has value.

      The main point about Miller wanting more is there’s no interest in him staying in Denver. The fact he’s seeking this big role is a chemistry issue and I believe it will also lead to him playing too many minutes as a Nugget. I expect the Nuggets to trade him to whatever team will take him so long as Denver gets anything of value, even if its not much

      • Alex

        I agree that Miller should be traded for anything of value regardless of whether or not he will start. My point was that we keep calling him a starting caliber PG, when there are few if any teams he would start on. I hope we can get some value back, but at this point I think his expiring contract is more desirable than his contributions on the court.

        I’m not going to go so far as wish for an injury, but a scenario where a team would be desperate for a veteran PG is what the Nuggets really need.

  • Kalen

    I think it’s imperative that the Nuggets trade Miller before season’s end. Stone basically does everything he does, except play better defense. I think the two PG lineup would be way more effective with Stone and Ty since the size balances out more (Stone is as tall or taller than most shooting guards) and Ty is more of a scorer than a distributor right now. If Miller was happy as a backup I wouldn’t force the issue of a trade as much but the fact is he still carries a lot of value even on a one-year deal and is the type of player that could really push the Lakers, or another title contender, over the edge. The only thing is, if Chandler comes back and you package Miller with him, that creates quite the asset rather than just the sole value of Miller alone. I doubt he gets traded anytime soon (we’re better with him than without him) but I suspect once the trade deadline approaches, things could heat up a bit.

  • gk4prez

    I don’t think they have to trade him at all, his cap space is probably worth more than anything moving forward. If he doesn’t want to resign with the Nuggets let him walk and use next years 1st round draft pick to select a pg. I am not sure if Kendall Marshall will declare or not, but he is projected to be somewhere in the range of where the Nuggets will be drafting. The Nuggets also have the pieces available to move up a few spots if he were to declare.

  • Aaron

    Let’s not get out of hand. . . no one on the Nuggets roster “does what Andre does” as a veteran. His leadership down the stretch, (even holding the Nets off by himself the other night) is invaluable.

    I think we’d need to trade him for a veteran.

  • Dan

    I think it would be a mistake for the Nuggets to trade Miller. He provides more value to the Nuggets during this one year than they will get in return over the long run.

    Only if the Nuggets are in a situation when they don’t think they can make a push for the championship should they trade Miller. Otherwise, we’ll be sacrificing a lot of veteran leadership and reliability along with any sort of depth at the PG position.

    You trade him for a big man and we lose depth at PG. There aren’t many teams out there willing to swap youth for talent at PG other than those looking for a championship. But, if we put ourselves in that category, why would we make that move?

    It’s tough because it’ll feel like we’re losing a lot of value if Miller walks not to mention that he was a key piece of the Felton trade. But sometimes it is what it is and there’s nothing you can do about it – and don’t forget Felson was as good as gone once his contract was up. As I said, I think he provides more value right now in making a championship run than what we could get in a trade.

    That being said, I did read a couple proposals on here that made some sense. I’m not sure why NO would trade Jack for Miller but that might be acceptable for the Nugs (but NO wouldn’t do it because they know Miller would leave at the end of the season). Trading Miller to LAL for Blake and a draft pick could work as well, but why would we strengthen a key opponent in the race in the west and weaken ourselves? Trading him to Miami could work to get a guy like Cole but I don’t know enough about Cole to comment on that. Perhaps we could try to get Iman Shumpert from NY (probably would have throw in Wilson Chandler and NY’s first rounder next year or something like that). Maybe some other possibilities are there.

    But all of these are borderline and the better options are probably not realistic in terms of the other’s teams desire to trade for Miller. I don’t see anything that convinces me that giving up Miller now makes more sense than keeping him for a championship run this year and trying to convince him to stay beyond that.

  • SmokinNugs

    Why are we talking about trading Wilson Chandler? When he comes back in March he’s gonna be overjoyed to play on the best team in the West!

  • Aaron

    At I Was On ESPN.Com An I Clicked On Rumors, And I Saw Something About Danilo Gallinari But I Couldn’t Read It Cuz I Had To Be An “Insiders” Which I’m Not, But Does Any1 Know What Day Was About?

    • Jeff

      Yeah the Nuggets are discussing signing him to a new contract, and he said he would like to stay here in a situation similar to Afflalo. At least that’s what I read somewhere, but not on ESPN insider.

      • Aaron

        Okay Good, I Was Hoping He Didn’t Want Traded Or Something, Pheww Have.

  • finazzaus

    i think we let his play out this contract here. we have alot of guys become FA in the next to years and to use miller 7+ mill to keep our core will be handy. i think stone has the ability to be a soild back up PG, might not be as good as miller but if we add stuff in other areas stone can me a cheap important cog in our team.
    but what i would like to see if we are going to do that plan is to try and give stone some more time this year. i dont want to lose games becasue we are playing him instead of miller but to give him even just 5-8mins in some games will be so important to his development.

  • Alex

    I would say trade miller for a big man if anything, but in no way include chandler in any trade he is a guy that can score 30+ off the bench