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.