If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
Rarely is that phrase applicable to both sides of the battle, but in the case of Andre Miller and the Los Angeles Lakers, it is. An unexpected but well-warranted result after the Lakers eliminated Miller's Denver Nuggets, despite Miller's efforts which took the Lakers to the brink of elimination.
With both team's season now in the books, and review the only form of evaluation possible, it's time to look for the future. Just in case the Los Angeles Lakers have failed to do so, Andre Miller gave them a bit of a kick-start with some rim rattling statements, statements that could be directly applied to the Lakers' offseason.
"I'll keep my options open," Miller said. "At this point in my career, if I'm going to be a backup, I'm going to be a backup on a championship-caliber team. Obviously, [the Nuggets] is a good team that's going to get to the playoffs, but the thing is if they are committed to getting to that next level to compete for that championship."
Forgive me for assuming this rather complex has such a fundamental solution, but wouldn't this qualify the Los Angeles Lakers as front-runners in the Andre Miller sweepstakes?
As evidenced by the Lakers' inability to slowdown Miller, Ty Lawson and Russell Westbrook in the 2012 NBA Playoffs, their trade deadline acquisition of Ramon Sessions didn't play out as planned. Sessions offered a nice change of pace to the often stagnant Lakers' offense, but struggled to create offense in the half court. His shortcomings as a defender, however, overcome all other deficiencies.
In acquiring Andre Miller, a 13-year veteran with playoff experience and plenty of quality minutes left in the tank, the Lakers' struggles could come to a screeching halt.
Miller spent the 2012 season backing up a player who shares an eerie resemblance to Sessions, Ty Lawson. While Lawson excels in certain areas that Sessions falls short in, this was easily his best season to date as he saw career-bests in points, assists, rebounds and steals per game. Jumping from 4.7 to 6.6 assists per evening can be directly correlated to the arrival of Miller.
In other words, Miller is a lead-by-example point guard whose passing abilities, which still remain amongst the best in the NBA, are infectious. He'd be the perfect mentor for the 26-year-old Sessions, thus transforming his game from reliant upon speed and burst to half-court driven. He'd also help Sessions improve upon his shaky assist-to-turnover ratio.
As for Miller's desire to start for a championship-caliber team, it could occur in Los Angeles. Sessions may be a better fit for the second unit, as of this moment, due to his ability to change the pace of a game with his open court ability. Miller, meanwhile, lives in the half court and has long thrived with the presence of a dominant big man.
His pick-and-roll game just so happens to be amongst the NBA, as well as his lobbing ability.
Considering the Lakers possess two of the game's greatest big men (for now), it's hard to imagine a better fit. Miller helped make LaMarcus Aldridge into the player he is today and was instrumental in JaVale McGee's tremendous progress. One can only imagine what he'll do for the already established stars in the Lakers' front court.
Most important of all will be two factors: Miller's ability to counter elite point guard play and the presence of Kobe Bryant.
Against quality opponents, Andre Miller averaged 11.2 points, 6.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals on an inconsistent average of 28.1 minutes per game. Those opponents included, but were not limited to, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Steve Nash and Rajon Rondo.
While Miller may not be the high-profile name that some Lakers fans would like to see, he remains one of the league's best pure point guards. He rarely commits mistakes, always shows up and never backs down from a challenge.
As for his future in Denver:
"I want to be on a team that's going to compete for a championship, and not use youth as a crutch or inexperience as a crutch," Miller said. "This team does have guys that can compete and can get out of the first round. It's just whether I can swallow my pride and deal with being a backup point guard. I have no problem with it, but at the same time I definitely still see myself as a starter in this league."
See you in Los Angeles, Andre Miller.