Andre Miller's first stint with the Nuggets lasted from 2003 to 2007, three and just over one-quarter seasons, and his contributions were somewhat overlooked. Miller has been undervalued at every stop in his career. Consider that Denver traded Miller as part of the Allen Iverson deal during the 2006-07 season and add to that that 'Dre has played for six different teams (counting the Nuggets twice) over his 13-year career. Coming back to Denver now is exactly what this team needed.
During the 2003 off-season I was sure the Nuggets were going to sign the exciting young Gilbert Arenas away from the Golden State Warriors. The second year guard was also a second round pick who wore No. 0 as a scarlet letter of sorts for all the teams that passed on him during the 2001 NBA Draft. Arenas averaged 18.3 points per game and 6.3 assists during the 2002-03 season and seemed destined for big things in the League heading into free agency.
Kiki Vandeweghe had just drafted Carmelo Anthony with the No. 3 pick in the 2003 draft and teaming him up with Arenas was a surefire way to usher in a new exciting era of Nuggets basketball. It felt like a foregone conclusion that Arenas would be a Nugget. Then the free agency period opened and it was announced immediately that Vandeweghe had inked Los Angeles Clippers restricted free agent point guard Andre Miller to a 6-year $55 million offer sheet. Huh? Miller?
All I could recall of Miller was that his college team, the Utah Utes, had made a miracle run during the 1998 NCAA Tournament. A miracle run indeed as that team lost Keith Van Horn to the NBA; and then the next season made a run past the Mike Bibby and Jason Terry led Arizona Wildcats (where Miller recorded the fourth ever triple-double in tournament play) and played for the title against Kentucky. That was all fine and dandy, but this was the NBA and Miller was not a star in the making, like Arenas.
Miller posted nice numbers over his first four NBA season with 14.2 points and 7.8 assists, but he just didn't have the "Wow" factor. But the Clippers didn't match the offer sheet and the Nuggets had their new point guard. Miller had to be better than Kenny Satterfield, Carlos Arroyo, Chris Whitney, Junior Harrington (no relation to Al Harrington), John Crotty, Vincent Yarbrough, Shammod Williams, and Adam Harrington (no relation to Big Al) ... all guys Denver used after dealing Nick Van Exel.
And once Miller got to work for the Nuggets, he still didn't wow the casual fan, but he was a big time difference maker for Denver. During his 3+ seasons with the Nuggets he averaged 13.7 points and 7.5 assists. Miller didn't make any All-Star teams, but he was a steady player who could be counted on every night. Arenas on the other hand, during that same time span, averaged 25.7 points and 5.5 assists for the Washington Wizards and was an All-Star in 2005, 2006, and 2007. Could Arenas and Anthony of co-existed as high volume scorers? Who knows, but Miller was the team oriented and all-around player that the Nuggets needed, he just didn't have a partner in the back-court to compliment his game.
During Miller's led Nuggets years, the team depended on a variety of shooting guards and the team was always looking for ways to unclog the lane for Miller, Anthony, Nene, Kenyon Martin, and Marcus Camby. Voshon Lenard was about as good as it got for the Nuggets from beyond the three-point line. Anthony had yet to develop much of an outside game, he averaged just 2.2 three-point attempts per game back then ... compared to his 5.0 attempts per game thus far for the Knicks. The Nuggets' opposition used to just line up around the paint and the Nuggets were sunk.
The year Miller left town, the Nuggets had added J.R. Smith to the roster and shortly after that Arron Afflalo came aboard and the Nuggets have continued to develop into a perimeter oriented team that can also relentlessly attack the basket. Where were all these shooters during Miller's first go-round?
Well, the good news is that Miller's talents are now better suited to this current Nuggets team. Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Rudy Fernandez, Danilo Gallinari, Corey Brewer, and Al Harrington are all capable shooters and even Nene and Timofey Mozgov have shown an ability to hit little jumpers.
Miller's slashing ability is sorely needed on a team that is comfortable heaving up shots from the outside. And Miller's creative passing and remarkable court vision have proved well already for the Nuggets. Gallo and even Chris Andersen have benefited from Miller's long range passes and as the Denver big men get acquainted with (reacquainted with in Nene's case) Miller's pinpoint passes and lobs, his talents will be even greater appreciated by not only his teammates, but by the fans as well.
I undervalued what Miller brought to a basketball team. I was excited when Denver traded Miller for a superstar in Iverson and it took awhile, but I realized that a true point guard is more valuable than any star. As soon as the Nuggets got rid of one star, in Iverson, for a true leader in Chauncey Billups - the team took off.
And now that the team has Miller back he's helping in many ways; there have been tales of him pushing Lawson in practice, his constant court chatter helps the team's communication, his slashing opens up the court for his teammates, his jumpers just outside the paint are automatic, his passing is incredible, his workhorse nature is commendable, and he's again filling up the stat sheets with 11.5 points, 6.7 assists, and 3.8 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game in 30.5 minutes.
His role in Denver is a different one as Miller is now coming off the bench. But make no mistake, Miller's return to the Nuggets has been a godsend.
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