Stein: Nuggets in pursuit of Mike Miller

ESPN’s Marc Stein is reporting that the Denver Nuggets are targeting 33-year-old 3-point specialist Mike Miller, who entered the free agency market after being waived by the Miami Heat:

The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a new suitor at the forefront of the free-agent pursuit of Mike Miller, according to sources close to the process.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Nuggets are now getting strong consideration from Miller along with the early frontrunners in the race to sign him: Oklahoma City and Memphis.

The Nuggets, however, will be facing some stiff competition in the Miller sweepstakes. As quoted above, Miller is drawing interest from the Thunder and Grizzlies. Stein goes on to add that the Houston Rockets have already made Miller an offer, and in an earlier ESPN article Brian Windhorst reported that the San Antonio Spurs have expressed interest as well.

All of these teams, especially after the departure of Andre Iguodala, are seen by most as closer to championship contention than Denver is as its roster is currently constructed. And after winning two consecutive championships with Miami, it would seem unlikely that Miller would settle for less than a shot at another ring.

The one advantage the Nuggets might have is the ability to offer him the full bi-annual exception. This would pay him more than the veteran’s minimum salary, which is the most some of the other teams can offer.

At just over $2 million, the BAE wouldn’t pay a great deal more by NBA standards than the roughly $1.4 million minimum for veterans with 10 or more years in the league. But if it were a two-year deal, a team offering Miller the full BAE could guarantee him a contract totaling $4,122,720, as compared to $2,847,997 under the minimum. For a player approaching retirement, that difference might not be insignificant.

I personally am not a huge fan of this potential move by the Nuggets, especially given that it would likely take the full BAE to attract him away from the crop of contenders.

Which is not to say that there are no good arguments in favor. Denver was 26th in the league in 3-point percentage last season, and having a legit sharpshooter such as Miller would help in that regard. He would also be a veteran presence on a team stacked with youngsters, and (now that Corey Brewer is gone) the only player on the team with championship experience.

He could, additionally, be a trade piece of some value (though probably not too much) at the mid-season deadline.

But none of this means much at all if his body breaks down. His struggles with injury have been notorious over the past several seasons, and though to everyone’s surprise he was able to log 59 games at 17 minutes per last season, he’s entering his 14th season in the NBA, and ain’t getting any younger.

There’s a real chance, based on his injury history and age, that he could end up being just dead weight on the payroll. Not that the financial risk is that great, but at a time when the Nuggets are already over the salary cap, and contract extensions are on the horizon for Kenneth Faried and other recent draftees, a couple million dollars here or there could crimp their flexibility.

On top of this, Bobby Gonzalez from Nugg Love interviewed Timofey Mozgov’s agent at the Summer League in Las Vegas, who said that negotiations “are looking favorable for Denver.” If the Nuggets do come to terms with Mozgov, they will have 14 players under contract for the 2013-14 season.

Signing Mike Miller would lock them in at 15, preventing them from being able to sign second round pick Erick Green or any other young prospects they might scout out. For a team that’s essentially developing in mid-stream and isn’t on track to be a credible contender in the short term, it doesn’t make much sense to use its resources and assets on players that won’t be a part of its future.

But the price wouldn’t only be a roster spot and a chunk of the payroll. If Miller were to remain healthy enough to maintain his 17 minutes per game of last season, and Brian Shaw chose to give him that much burn, then those are 17 minutes that are taken away from Evan Fournier and Jordan Hamilton, both of whom really need to see more daylight in order for their games to blossom.

The Nuggets seem to be sending mixed signals. Afer George Karl was fired and Kosta Koufos was traded, what seemed to be a fairly clear narrative emerged of a coach who would do everything it took to avoid losing versus a front office that wanted to prioritize youth development even at the cost of a few wins.

Recent reports of Denver’s interest in Nate Robinson (29) and Mike Miller (33), along with the acquisition of Randy Foye (30 in September) directly contradict that modus operandi. (Though, to be fair, if Andre Iguodala was determined to walk – which it seems he was – then the Nuggets did quite well to land Foye and a fat trade exception rather than nothing at all).

Perhaps there is an overarching vision, a cohesive and logical end game to this seemingly scattershot collection of trades, personnel moves and players-of-interest. Perhaps I am just shortsighted for not being able to see it. But for now, at least, consider me skeptical, because at least on the surface, it sure looks like a lot of grasping at straws.

It seems like the front office is essentially trying to eat its cake and have it, too. But winning enough to stay slightly above average now is far less important for the long-term health of the franchise than building a team that can win big a couple years down the line. And perhaps even damaging.

Signing Mike Miller wouldn’t be the end of the world, and could be positive in some respects, but it would raise more questions than answers about which direction the Nuggets are committed to taking this team.

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Joel is a long time Denver Nuggets (and Broncos) fan from Colorado who's been living in Japan since the mid-90s, and blogging about the Nuggets since 2008. You can contact and follow him on Twitter: @denbutsu.
  • Duane Grasmick

    Don’t see him signing here

  • EWilson

    Not a big fan of signing Miller if he takes minutes from the youngsters. If he wants to mostly ride the bench and serve as a mentor to Hamilton, Fournier, etc., then he might be worth a cheap, one-year contract. My bet, though, is that he’s looking for minutes and a chance to win another ring. Let someone else spend their money.

  • Trip

    Quick question…How does a long term injury affect the roster example like Gallo’s. Does he still take one spot on the 15 man roster, or is there some injury flexibility where they could sign green until Gallo is healthy and then send him to he D league? I am more familiar with this in the MLB where they can use the disabled list to clear a roster spot for injured players and bring in minor leaguers to play/be on the bench until the stint on the disabled list is over.

    • loops

      NBA has one of the worst injured player policies of any league. He counts as a roster spot and he gets his full salary. There is no injured reserve list, they just sit on the inactive list.

      • Bricks

        Nugs in desperate need of def-minded SG/wing. Looks like KronCon — if they are seriously looking at an old man like MM and gunner NateRob — wants to stack the 2 with long-range shooters and settle for sieve-like defense.

  • loops

    Please no.

  • herpderpnuggets

    Nuggets are definitely making a trade before this season starts, if mozgov is signing with the nugs, then our frontcourt is loaded. I expect a trade in the next couple of weeks.

  • Kyle Roper

    You are aware that under the amnesty provision, Mike Miller gets TWELVE MILLION guaranteed from Miami? Any contract he signs will be covered by that. He doesn’t get a double salary. Money is going to make zero difference where he signs.

    • Daniel Winston

      True. That’s a good point.

    • TomRMC

      If he’d been picked up off waivers, whatever he signed for would be subtracted from the Heat portion of the contract.

      But since he cleared waivers, I think (can’t find anything specific in Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ) he actually can be double-paid. Which means money might make a difference.

  • ben ward

    Did i just read the phrase “miller sweepstakes?” am i missing something or have we just ran out of interesting signings to talk about? like, this is mike miller we’re talking about, right?

  • eddi0

    Understand the move in a certain respect, for outside shooting/veteran presence but why a guy who is near retirement and cannot stay healthy. With the trade of Koufos for Arthur, Hickson signing, then Foye and now speculation on MMiller this offseason has been a head scratcher at best. Brian Shaw will have his hands full in terms of playing defense this year. Team looks primed to score 120 every night and give up 130…ugh.

  • Bricks

    Ideal world: Nugs trade one of their 4s and TEP for a younger, def-minded, long-range shooting, 80+ free-throw shooting SG/wing . . . starter material, so Foye can come off the bench. Miller was that guy a few years ago, but not now. So who’s avail? Looking more and more like season will open with Foye starting at 2, with E4 and JHam rotating.

    • Vitor Lago

      Danny Green and Gordan Hayward fit that description but doubt we could get either of them for anything less than Faried (which is the last 4 I’d give up).

      • Bricks

        Well, Mr. Lago, if I remember right, you were inquiring about Foye in this forum just hours before Nugs Nation was being blown up with the news. Are you predicting something here again? :*)

        I lke both your suggestions. I went on record a couple weeks ago with calling for a Hayward deal, and I WOULD offer up Faried in a deal for him. Danny Green? Be interesting having the Tarheels’ old backcourt of Lawson/Green in Nugs blue. Will Green always fold on the big stage like in Games 6 and 7? Too bad he’s gonna have that rap for awhile.

        • dynamo.joe

          Maybe, if the Thunder get Miller they will be dumb enough to give up Sefolosha?

    • loops

      I wonder how much Derrick Williams costs these days. He’s got a not so friendly cap hit. I do like his versatility to play the 3 or 4 though and he has improved every season. Faried is worth more than he is IMO. More successful, cap friendly contract. Etc.

  • Mikey K

    Significant playing time or another ring at slightly less money? Well, since he’s still getting a hefty paycheck from Arinson in Miami, I see Houston or OKC winning his services in limited time.

    • Bricks

      Yep, exactly.

  • David Acker

    Yeah not a fan of this move. I still don’t mind Nate as the backup point but even with Miller’s shooting he takes away minutes from Evan. I still believe like many others that Den will make another trade. They may wait until later in the season after they see what kind of team they have. Shaw will have a small honeymoon period but as a frustrated Denver fan this team needs to finish top 4 for it to be a successful season. Do any of us think MEM or LAC will settle for anything less. Both fired their coaches just like us. WHY SHOULD DEN SETTLE FOR ANYTHING LESS?????

    • Mikey K

      Overall talent? They KNOW what they have. We don’t. They felt their coaches were stymieing their growth and progress to a championship. We don’t have a clue what we have anymore until we see it.

      • David Acker

        Exactly what I’m saying we really don’t how Arthur, Foye, and Hickson will fit in with the current players but when Gallo returns they are more than stacked at the 3/4

  • Josh Chin

    I think it really depends on how the management sees the team right now. Do they believe denver is gonna be a top 4 team again? Do they believe signing Miller will push them there? I want to see JHam get 12-15 mintues a game! I like the idea of having him around while Gallo is out but once he’s back there isn’t space for him. Unless they’re trying to stack up on depth and pull a trade for someone good…Aldridge?

  • Josh Chin

    It’s sad because we all don’t know where Connolly is heading this team. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I had no idea Masai was going to be that great so hopefully we are pleasantly surprised

    • Charliemyboy

      That’s the deal. Masai/Karl had something going. Writers are saying we took a downturn. Why? Karl being stubborn and Josh thinking he knew basketball, which, in appearance, he does not. Too bad we can’t do anything about it. Please let Shaw gel these folks for another big season, or we’ll all be pissed. This waiting game takes too long.

  • Trevor

    Great article Joel. Sums up my thoughts and feelings pretty much to a T.

  • Isaac Gillen

    If JHam and Fournier weren’t needing to develop this would be a good signing but with our already packed roster there is not a whole lot of playing time to be handing out. Even though we lost 2 and essentially 3 (with Gallo) of our wing minutes guys Miller wouldn’t be worth cash strapping ourselves in the long run

  • sherlock

    I agree here that this move seems pointless/visionless. We have Jham and the French Mamba that need time at SG. Miller takes time away, Nate Rob on the other hand I can see the vision in that, a scoring backup PG to get Andre out, Green could see some minutes behind Rob. Miller would be the head scratching move here, no likey.