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Should He Stay, Or Should He Go?

MillerDrive10809.jpgWith trade rumors flying and the trading deadline fast approaching, this franchise is going to have to make a tough decision. Right now, Andre Miller is playing his best ball of the season, and he's honestly matching the season he put up last year.

Miller's re-emergence as a premier point guard couldn't have come at a better time for a couple of reasons. One, the team needs him now more than ever. It appears as though they've started their patented second half run ahead of schedule this season, and he's a key ingredient in the team's improved play. Two, if the Sixers are going to make an impact trade at or before the deadline, it's going to mean either Ed Stefanski was able to pull the wool over some GM's eyes, or Andre Miller will be headed out of town.

After the jump we'll take a closer look at what trading Miller would mean, what they need to get in return and whether moving him at all is a good idea for the short and long-term future of this team.

If Elton Brand comes back healthy and he can be assimilated into this team, playing this way, the Sixers will become a very dangerous team when the playoffs come around. The problem, of course, is that if you hold on to Miller, he very well may walk away at the end of the season. You might be able to swing a sign-and-trade with someone over the summer, but his value in a sign-and-trade is nowhere near what it would be right now.

Ed Stefanski is going to have to weigh the short-term against the long-term success of this team, see what other teams are offering and then make the best decision possible. Trading Miller will have a disastrous short-term effect on the team. Holding on to him could have worse long-term implications if they don't get anything back for him. Before the season, I said they had to sign Miller to an extension. After waffling on that thought for part of the season, I think I'm back in the "extend him" camp.

Take a look around the league, how many points can you honestly say are better than Miller? Here's the list I came up with, in no particular order:

  1. Chris Paul
  2. Deron Williams
  3. Steve Nash
  4. Jose Calderon
  5. Chauncey Billups
  6. Mike Bibby
  7. Tony Parker
  8. Devin Harris
  9. Derek Rose
  10. Rajon Rondo
I'm hesitant to put Rose and/or Rondo on the list, because they've been pedestrian lately after stellar starts, but for argument's sake, let's leave them there.

I can tell you, without a doubt, the Sixers will not be able to replace Miller with anyone on that list. Not through a trade this season, nor through a trade or free agency next season. Let's talk about free agency a little bit. If the Sixers can somehow find a way to be under the cap, what FA point guards could be available?

  1. Mike Bibby
  2. Jason Kidd
  3. Chucky Atkins
  4. Allen Iverson
  5. Travis Diener (player option)
  6. Jason Hart
  7. Steve Francis
  8. Smush Parker
  9. Chris Quinn (player option)
  10. Ramon Sessions (restricted free agent)
  11. Kevin Ollie
  12. Stephon Marbury
  13. Nate Robinson (restricted free agent)
  14. Steve Nash (team option)
  15. Jacque Vaughn
  16. Brevin Knight
  17. Mike James (player option)
There's no way they'll be able to get far enough under the cap to sign Bibby. Kidd is over the hill, and playing like it. The Suns will exercise their option on Nash. I don't think Iverson is coming back to Philly at a steep discount, so cross those guys off the list right away.

So of the guys remaining, who do you want to be the Sixers' point guard in 2010? Assuming this year is toast, because if they trade Miller it will be, how are things going to be any better next season?

The only way trading Miller is even remotely palatable is if you can either (a) get a premier shooting guard back. Mike Miller, maybe, (b) you can get a legitimate replacement for Andre Miller in return. Or (c) you make another move for a serviceable point, preferably moving Dalembert in the other move.

If you trade Miller and don't accomplish any of those three goals, you aren't only giving up on this season, you're giving up on next season as well. That's two years of Elton Brand's contract down the tubes.

If you advocate trading Miller and tanking the season in the hopes of landing a top PG in the draft, how long will it take for that PG to develop into the kind of point who can take you deep into the playoffs? Two, maybe three years, if you get extremely lucky. Brand would be 33 or 34 by the time you developed a Stephen Curry or Brandon Jennings type, and it would take a monumental collapse, or an extremely lucky ping pong ball to get into the top 5 to be able to take one of those guys.

Right now, I think Miller is a top-ten point in this league. If you sign him to a two or three year extension, it would take a miracle for him to still be at that level throughout, but I doubt he's going to drop off to the point of the other guys on that list of available points above. If you don't extend him, I'm not sure what you're expecting to do. There has to be some kind of plan in place, and losing Miller's contract alone is not going to yield enough cap space to replace him at the point, let alone add a shooting guard.

I may be in the minority on this one, but that's how I feel right now. Trading Miller for anything short of Mike Miller (or a comparable shooting guard) or a point of equal or greater productivity will set this franchise back. It will narrow the window Elton Brand's signing opened up and it will cripple the team on the court. Royal Ivey is not a viable option as your starting point unless you surround him with plus talent at all four positions. Lou Williams is not a viable starting point under any circumstances.

Extending Miller, however, is a tricky proposition. Assuming he's interested in an extension, which is somewhat in doubt, when do you do it? Take a look at the economy, and its effect on baseball's offseason. The premeire free agents have gotten their money (from the Yankees), while all of the second tier guys are signing at huge discounts. If you give Miller 2 years/$20M right now, you're probably paying more than market value. I wonder what he would be able to get on the open market as a free agent. Would he be an MLE guy? I could see Portland making a play for him, if they don't lose all their cap space.

Letting Miller hit free agency is a dangerous game of chicken, but it could have a decent payoff. They may get a discount on his contract in both dollars and years when the recession hits basketball's economy the way it's hitting baseball's economy right now.

I realize there are going to be some strong opinions in the opposite direction, so let me have it in the comments. All I ask is that you provide some kind of reason, and some kind of solution. If you want Miller traded, I want to know who you envision being the point guard for this team on opening night next season, and how the Sixers are going to get him. 
by Brian on Jan 8 2009
Tags: Andre Miller | Basketball | Sixers | Trade Rumors |