I've avoided writing this post all season long, but I'm afraid the time has come to at least broach the subject of trading Andre Miller. A comment string from earlier today put a little perspective on my thoughts, you can check it out here
My thinking is this, everyone is pointing to the 2010 free agent class as the motherload, LeBron and Kobe could both hit the open market, along with a ton of other quality players. It's generally believed that the 2009 free-agent class will be a rung below on the talent ladder. That may be the case, but I think the Sixers are perfectly positioned to make a big splash that could turn this team around immediately. The only problem? They need more room under the cap.
According to GM/President Ed Stefanski, the Sixers will be about $10M under the cap
after this season (they're on the hook for about $8.5M until Iguodala and Lou Williams either sign or leave). That's probably not enough room to get a top-line big man and a shooter. It's probably only enough to get the shooter, and just a shooter isn't going to be enough.
The other day I took a look at the power forwards who might be available
in the offseason. Here's my short list, in order of preference. Josh Smith (restricted free agent), Elton Brand (player option, may decline), Emeka Okafor (restricted free agent). The team should make it their top priority to land one of those three guys. Each represents a different direction for: In Smith they'd get a defensive machine who can run the floor, play 3 positions on offense, defend 4 positions, block shots like a center and a perfect compliment to Iguodala, Dalembert, Thad Young and Lou Williams. They'd be a running team that could hold opponents under 90 on a nightly basis. Elton Brand would be a departure from their current path, but maybe a worthwhile departure. He'd give them a go-to guy on the inside, a guy who'd contribute on the post, dominate the boards and finally give the Sixers a relieable option in their half-court offense. Okafor would give them a little bit of everything. Better offense up front, but nothing spectacular. Superior interior defense, but less positional flexibility. As for shooters, well let's just say my lists begins and ends with Jose Calderon. Especially if they move Miller. He could either start or come off the bench as the 6th man, depending on Lou Williams' development.
Now, if these are your targets, then you have to accomplish one thing in any Andre Miller trade. You have to clear his salary from the cap for 2008-2009. Ideally, you'll do a little better than that, and bring a draft pick or two back, but let's start with the teams who could use Miller and the contracts that could accomplish these goals. Miller will make $9.3M this season, and $9.9M next year. The contenders:
- Los Angeles Lakers - The Lakers have played excellent basketball this season, thanks in large part to the emergence of Andruw Bynum, and Kobe Bryant's intense desire to play for the franchise (I kid!). Seriously, though, the Lakers have played to a 23-11 start, but they lack a true starting PG. Derek Fisher is a backup and Jordan Farmar isn't ready yet. Miller would give them a legit shot to go deep in the playoffs. The best thing about the Lakers is that they have a perfect contract to send to the Sixers in return for Miller, Kwame Brown. Brown is 100% expendable for the Lakers, and his $9,075,000 contract expires after this season. Throw in a #1 pick or two and this deal would set the Sixers up with $19M in cap space and a legit shot to land the two free agents they need to make the quick transition to contender.
- Orlando Magic - The Magic are in the same boat as the Lakers, playing much better than expected, but missing the veteran leadership needed to go deep in the playoffs. A trade would be a little more complicated here, but the salaries could definitely match up. Something like Andre Miller and Calvin Booth ($1.1M, player option for next year) for Carlos Arroyo ($4M, expiring), Pat Garritty ($3.8M, expiring) and JJ Redick ($2M, team option for next year, which they could then decline). Adding Miller would allow the Magic to play Jameer Nelson as their sixth man, and erase any defensive matchup problems the diminutive guard causes them. He'd be a steady hand who could distribute to Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkuglu and Rashard Lewis. He might be enough to put them in league with the Pistons and the Celts in the East. Again, the Magic would have to throw in picks to make it happen, but I could live with it.
- Cleveland Cavaliers - The Cavs have been everyone's favorite to land Miller for a while. They absolutely need him, and they might have the pieces to get the job done. The only problem with a Drew Gooden ($6.4M this year, $7.1M next year) and Ira Newble ($3.4M, expiring) deal for Miller is that Gooden would still be on the books for next season. This would push the Sixers up to about $13M in cap space, which may or may not be enough to land the pieces they need. I'd rather not take that chance if they're going to deal Miller, it should be pretty close to a sure thing.
- Miami Heat - About a month ago, when the Heat were still holding out hope that they weren't a horrible team, there was talk of a deal sending Jason Williams and his $8.9M expiring deal to the Sixers for Miller. At this point, I think that ship has sailed. The most amazing thing about the Heat is that Jason Williams is making almost $9M per year.
That's four teams who have the pieces to make a deal for Andre Miller happen, and clear the cap space needed to get two pieces in free agency. Another, more creative option would be to send him to Portland for Steve Blake ($4.25M, expiring), James Jones ($2.9 with player option for '08-'09) and maybe one more piece. Again, a young team in desperate need of veteran leadership. Perfect fit.
I'm still not cashing in my chips on the '07-'08 season. I think the Sixers can right this ship. If they don't, it's still nice to know that there could be deals out there that would help Stefanski turn the team around quickly. We'll just have to wait and see if he makes them.