With the NBA trade deadline looming on Thursday afternoon, the Washington Wizards made an attempt to improve their bench by landing veteran point guard Andre Miller from the Denver Nuggets, according to multiple people with knowledge of the situation.
The Wizards have agreed in principle to a three-team deal that would send Jan Vesely, the disappointing sixth overall pick in the 2011 draft, to the Nuggets and Eric Maynor, the sparsely used backup point guard whom they signed as a free agent last offseason, to the Philadelphia 76ers. Philadelphia will also receive two second-round picks in the deal – a 2015 pick that the Wizards got from New Orleans and another from Denver.
Miller, who turns 38 next month, hasn’t played for the Nuggets since late December and has been apart from the team ever since he got into a verbal spat with Denver Coach Brian Shaw last month. But the point guard brings 15 years of experience with Cleveland, the Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia, Portland and Denver.
Miller started his career playing for Coach Randy Wittman with the Cavaliers and spent several seasons with both Nene and Al Harrington in Denver. He has career averages of 13.6 points and seven assists and averaged career-lows of 5.9 points and 3.3 assists in 30 games this season for the Nuggets. Miller will make $5 million this season, but only $2 million of his $4.6 million salary is guaranteed for next season.
Vesely makes $3.5 million and Maynor earns $2 million, so the Wizards wind up saving money and move further under the luxury tax line. They also have a roster spot available to sign a free agent or call up a player from the developmental league.
Miller lashed out at Shaw on the bench after receiving the first DNP-CD of his career and was suspended for two games. Denver later kept Miller away from the team for “personal reasons” and were unable to find a compromise even after the Nuggets lost Nate Robinson for the remainder of the season with a knee injury.
The Wizards, though, now have another playoff-tested veteran who is accustomed to winning. Miller has made the playoffs in nine of the past 10 seasons and provided Denver with its only victory over Golden State in the first round last postseason, when he scored a game-high 28 points, including the game-winning layup with 1.3 seconds remaining.
The lone season since 2004 that he failed to make the playoffs, Miller joined a struggling Philadelphia team in a trade involving Allen Iverson and immediately turned around the culture. Despite his ability to reach the playoffs, Miller has never advanced beyond the first round.
Several published reports had the Wizards and Minnesota Timberwolves both chasing after Miller but the Wizards pulled ahead by sacrificing a player who never panned out after being taken in the lottery three years ago.
The Wizards failed to pick up the fourth-year option on Vesely’s rookie contract last October, and he has been used sparingly. He hasn’t received more than six minutes in a game since Jan. 20. In 141 career games with the Wizards, Vesely posted career averages of 3.5 points and 3.4 rebounds.
With Vesely gone, Chris Singleton now stands as the only pick remaining from the 2011 draft class. Shelvin Mack was gone after one season. And Singleton will be a free agent this summer after the team failed to pick up his fourth-year option as well.
The Wizards selected the 6-foot-11 Vesely with the expectation that he would be an athletic running made for John Wall. But three years into his career, Vesely remains a high flyer with limited skills. Vesely had a successful offseason in which he performed well during NBA summer league in Las Vegas and the European championships in Slovenia but was unable to have that production translate to the regular season. He fumbled an early opportunity with Emeka Okafor out during training camp, which prompted the Wizards to make a deal for Marcin Gortat.
Gortat tried to assist Vesely but he continued to struggle, especially from the foul line, where he shot a career-low 26.7 percent (8 for 30). Wittman’s inconsistent rotation also kept Vesely confused as he oscillated between stretches of playing significant minutes to not playing at all, without much explanation.
Maynor signed with the Wizards last July – making a commitment on the first day of the free agent recruiting period – with the expectation that he would be John Wall’s backup. But he soon lost his job to Garrett Temple and has only appeared in one of the past 26 games.
The Wizards had been high on Maynor from his time as a valued member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. But despite a decent run with the Portland Trail Blazers last after getting traded from the Thunder, Maynor hasn’t been the same player since suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He averaged 2.3 points and 1.7 assists in 23 games for the Wizards.