|The Nuggets say Andre Miller wants to come back. (Getty Images)|
The Denver Post reports that Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri said following the team's exit interviews that he believes it's a slam dunk that his reserve point guard, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, will be back in 2012-2013.
"Andre Miller told us plain and simple that he wants to come back and play here," Nuggets executive Masai Ujiri said today.GMs don't get much more confident than that when discussing the future of unrestricted free agents, and there are a number of explanations for the certainty in Ujiri's tone even though Miller said earlier this week that he plans to "keep his options open."
"Do we want Andre back? Yes," Ujiri said. "Collectively, the organization, ownerships, Coach Karl, teammates, we want Andre back, he was great for the team. Andre told me he wants to be in Denver. And all the contract stuff will take care of itself."
At 36, Miller is still an extremely effective floor general, the league's premier lob-tosser, a strong rebounder for his position and master of all available "old man" tricks. But this season saw him numbers decline for the fifth straight year -- he averaged 9.7 points and 6.7 assists, the first time in his 13-year career that he hadn't hit double figures in points. After some early season squabbling about wanting to be a starter, he embraced his big-minutes reserve role and was very effective off of Denver's bench, playing his fewest minutes (27.4 per game) since his rookie season. Pairing him with an above-average starting point guard who can carry a team full-time is an ideal situation. The Nuggets happen to have Ty Lawson to do just that.
At this point in Miller's career, fit is of prime importance. He clearly has a real-recognize-real relationship with Nuggets coach George Karl, and he looked more comfortable and engaged during the 2012 playoffs than he did at any point during his two-year stint in Portland, when he showed flashes of surliness and butted heads with former coach Nate McMillan. Miller has played for three different franchises since he turned 30; there's real value in sticking with a situation that allows the "My way or the highway" vet to do what he does without needing to acclimate to a new coach or roster of teammates.
It's worth noting that Miller played in his first career Game 7 this season against the Los Angeles Lakers. While he got locked up a bit by Lakers forward Metta World Peace in Game 7, his play in the preceding two games was a major reason why Denver was able to push L.A. to the brink. He's made it clear that he wants to play for a serious playoff team in the past and the Nuggets figure to be that with virtually their entire rotation locked up through next season.
Financially, Denver is well-positioned to retain him. In 2009, he signed a 3-year contract worth $21 million (including a player option on the final year), and his market value has certainly decreased, not only because of his age but also because of a tighter collective bargaining agreement. The Nuggets face a more difficult and expensive proposition in retaining center JaVale McGee, but their payroll is currently well under the salary cap after trading Nene Hilario to the Wizards at the trade deadline. Miller has been around the block and understands how the NBA works; it's unlikely that he will ask for the moon in negotiations or command big-dollar outside interest.
After surveying all the major factors, there just aren't any obvious roadblocks for a Rocky Mountain return. With any luck, Ujiri will get McGee re-signed too and we'll all be treated to 82 games worth of ridiculous Andre-to-Javale alley-oops.