Disgruntled point guard Andre Miller has been rooted to the bench in Denver.
The latest trade talk during the NBA All-Star break has centered on one issue: the lack of trade talk. One executive told CBS Sports' Ken Berger that the weekend before the deadline was "as slow as it's been in a long time." Fortunately, the trade market still has Andre Miller and a host of Philadelphia 76ers led by Evan Turner.
According to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer:
The 76ers' focus in the days leading up to Thursday's NBA trade deadline is acquiring draft picks, according to an Eastern Conference executive. The franchise wants to gain future compensation in exchange for Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, and Thaddeus Young, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
If you know anything about the 76ers roster, you will know that those are the three core veterans leading the Sixers on a nightly basis right now. They comprise three of the team's four leading scorers and the three leading rebounders.
According to ShamSports.com, Hawes' contract is set to expire, and Turner has a qualifying offer coming up next year. Thaddeus Young is signed through next season with an early termination option in 2015-16. That contract status simultaneously makes Young the most attractive piece and the only one the Sixers could easily stand pat with until next season.
Turner is still just 25 years old and was the second-overall pick in 2010. He offers solid skills as a swingman by posting 17.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.0 steals per game, but his three-point shooting leaves something to be desired at just 28.5 percent this season. It would be interesting to assess his skills in a different offense, but he could stay put past the deadline.
As Pompey reinforced, the future is wide open since the 76ers hit the break at 24 games below .500 while also armed with trade assets and cap space:
With the most cap space in the league and an open roster spot, the Sixers will consider acquiring an expiring contract from a team looking to dump a salary. But that most likely will also involve receiving a draft pick. As a result, the 76ers are believed to be the most active team in trade talks leading up to the deadline. The Sixers have had discussions with all 29 other NBA franchises.
While it is possible that none of the three players are traded with the market going so slow this week, at least one of that trio in Philly seems likely to be shipped. Hawes is averaging a career-high in points (13.2 per game) and rebounds (8.6), not to mention hitting 40 percent from three-point range, so his big-man skills could lure a desperate buyer from the pack of playoff contenders.
The ultimate problem is that no team seems willing to part with a first-rounder to acquire any of those three. Pompey sees the Charlotte Bobcats as a landing spot for Turner, and he says the Portland Trail Blazers have reportedly contacted the Sixers about Hawes, but a first-round pick is a very high asking price for a team that is hypermotivated to move assets this season.
Another player who has regularly seen his name among the trade rumors is Denver Nuggets guard Andre Miller. He has been inactive since his rant about coach Brian Shaw and a lack of playing time during a loss to the 76ers on New Year's Day. Miller was suspended two games for his conduct and has not taken the court since.
On All-Star Saturday, a CBS Sports report from Ken Berger stated the Nuggets were working out Miller and he was nearing a return in light of the "very difficult market," as one executive termed it.
However, Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears quoted an unnamed source who completely shot down the rumor of Miller's return:
The vibe is delusional. It's a burned bridge. No reconciliation. He's waiting by the door with his bag already packed. The relationship is irreparable. Under no circumstances does he want to come back to Denver. ... Andre hasn't spoken about the situation. He's being quiet out of goodwill.
With Spears' source sounding unequivocal and Berger noting that report in an update, things could be heading either way, but every other indication up until now has suggested that Miller's days with the Nuggets are indeed over.
It has been a stunning development for Miller, who is in his 15th NBA season and ranks ninth on the career assists list behind Hall of Famer Gary Payton.
Miller had been averaging 5.9 points and 3.3 assists in 19 minutes per game this season, the lowest marks of his career in those categories. He had averaged at least 9.6 points and 5.4 assists in each of his previous 14 seasons, and he had missed only one game over the last six campaigns.
Since Miller is essentially dead weight on the roster and earning healthy DNPs, it's surprising that the Nuggets have waited for six weeks with him on the shelf. As Berger pointed out, the trade partner Denver is seeking may not exist:
The ideal scenario for Denver would've been to move Miller to a contending team that needs point guard help, thus being able to receive an asset in return. Dumping his contract on a team that can absorb it, such as Philadelphia, wouldn't give the Nuggets the return they are seeking in a trade.
The Nuggets had also discussed dealing Miller with the Sacramento Kings back in December, but that team gets back in action after the All-Star Game tied for last place in the West with California neighbors the Los Angeles Lakers.
You can blame stingy general managers for the muted trade buzz, which has led to an overall lack of teams willing to part with assets. The Toronto Raptors seemed sure to trade Kyle Lowry, but it seems that teams have stopped calling Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri.
Ujiri said he really has not heard from anyone lately, actually showed me his phone... a lot of calls from the family, not NBA GMs— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) February 17, 2014
There is also the looming future status of Kevin Love beyond the Minnesota Timberwolves. According to ShamSports.com, Love is only signed through 2014-15 with a player option lying in the next season.
Will the 76ers get a first-round pick for one of Hawes, Turner or Young?
Similar to the LeBron James sweepstakes of 2010, some teams may be seeking to retain payroll flexibility with an eye on landing a marquee free-agent like Love next year.
Regardless of what happens before the deadline on Feb. 20, the 76ers appear to be in very good shape going forward. They have a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year in point guard Michael Carter-Williams, and defensive dynamo Nerlens Noel should be able to join the team at 100 percent next season. The youth movement is in full swing, and high-earning vets don't fit that equation.
As for Miller, he must get far away from Denver as soon as possible so he can avoid closing his career on such a sour note. There will surely be teams eager to acquire the savvy veteran, but the Nuggets are over a barrel considering they have not played Miller for a single minute since the calendar turned to 2014.