The Cleveland Cavaliers reached a deal with veteran sharpshooter Mike Miller, reportedly being ready to sign the 14-year veteran to a two year deal worth around $5.4 million, including a player option for the second year. Miller is a favorite of homeward-bound Cavalier LeBron James (yes, that was as fun to write as it probably is to read) and he, by all indications, chose the Cavaliers over more lucrative offers from the Denver Nuggets and possibly Houston and Dallas. According to Jeff Goodman of ESPN, Miller had a longer-term, higher-paying offer of around three years for a total of $12 million from Denver. But he followed LeBron’s decision by wanting to play in Cleveland. For less money.1
Now it isn’t as if Mike Miller is hurting to feed his family, as Latrell Spreewell once proclaimed after being offered a $30 million extension from the Timberwolves that he felt was below his value. Miller, according to Hoopshype, has made just under $76 million in his 14-year NBA career. But due to his age, this could be Miller’s last shot at a long-term deal. You could be asking yourself, “Who is this guy and why is he writing about a deal that is yesterday’s news?” We’ll get to me later, but the answer to the latter half? Because he chose to come to Cleveland so he could play alongside the best player in the world and possibly compete for additional championships, that’s why. Why is this all significant? Because Miller wanted to come to Cleveland! No, he isn’t a game-changing player—although he will really help spread the floor with his dead-eye three-point shooting. Players want to play with LeBron and Miller’s signing demonstrated this. Hopefully this is just the first of many veterans that choose to come to Cleveland in order to win big and play with LeBron.
Last time James was in Cleveland, the Cavaliers were able to acquire veterans like Shaquille O’Neal, Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak and Joe Smith but those guys all came here through trades. The team signed some guys like Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones but had to overpay to get them to come here. This time, the front office could only offer the two-year, $5.4 million Room Exception (given to teams that reach the salary cap ceiling that were previously under the salary cap during the offseason.). Not an overpay, but actually significantly less than Miller was offered elsewhere.
What’s the difference now? LeBron is a two-time champion, has gone to four NBA Finals in a row and is widely considered the best player in the world. He was by all accounts the best player when he left in 2010 but didn’t have the winning accolades that he has now. That pedigree attracts guys who are down to the last few years of their career and prioritize winning. There aren’t a ton of other veterans out there now, and in free agency most guys try to understandably get the most money they can, and the Cavaliers only have around $1.5 million of cap space according to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal. After that the team can offer veteran-minimum contacts to fill out their roster. However, now isn’t the only time to acquire experienced guys looking to win. Post-trade deadline in the NBA is usually a time when some veterans get waived. Teams try to move guys in order to rebuild (tank) and buy out veterans who they were unable to procure assets for in trades. The waived veterans try to latch on with playoff/championship contenders. Shortly after Miller signed, another former member of the Miami Heat, James Jones, signed with the Cavaliers as well. Jones is a guy who grew up in Miami, played college at The University of Miami, spent the last six years with the Heat, and was by all accounts expected to retire with the organization. Instead, he left and came to Cleveland as well. Miller and Jones won’t be the first guys to choose to come to the shores of Lake Erie and for that, these signings are more significant than getting a couple of knockdown shooters.
Some thoughts on Dion Waiters and Twitter overreaction:
A couple of days ago, Cavalier shooting guard Dion Waiters was asked if he would accept coming off the bench this season. He responded with an emphatic, “Nooooooooo.” And the Cavaliers/NBA Twitter community freaked out. A meme was passed around of Waiters in a fur coat in Minnesota (alluding to him being shipped of to Minnesota in a trade) people said he was a cancer, wasn’t a team player, etc.
Let’s relax a bit. Waiters is known to interact with his fans. He was being honest. That’s a reason to attack his attitude? He didn’t say he would pout and be a problem and demand a trade if he came off the bench this season. He just said he wouldn’t accept it. That could easily mean that he would work his ass off in order to win the starting shooting guard job. I think it would’ve been more problematic if he said he didn’t think he should start.
We criticize athletes for their canned, cliched answers but then we get an honest answer and freak out? It’s a bit hypocritical. Waiters believes in his abilities and that confidence is clearly visible on the court. Furthermore, are we even sure Dion won’t be starting? There has been no indication from new Cavalier coach David Blatt that Waiters will be coming off the bench. Most fans just assume that if the season opened today, the team would start Varejao, Thompson, James, Wiggins and Irving and the bench rotation would be Bennett, Miller, Waiters and Dellavadova. But Waiters could easily be the starting shooting guard over Wiggins when the season opens. Or they could start together and LeBron could slide over to Power Forward. Blatt recently said that he doesn’t necessarily subscribe to the standard “1,2,3,4,5” positions in basketball and many NBA teams use small-ball lineups of one big, a “stretch-four” and three guards. That is a distinct possibility as Blatt talked about LeBron playing the 4 in a recent interview with Grantland’s Zach Lowe. Also, the offseason started less than two-weeks ago.
Moves could still be coming. It is entirely too early to jump to any conclusions regarding the starting lineup and Dion Waiters preference for being in it.
Brett Zelman is the Associate Fiction Editor at Whiskey Island Magazine. He’s currently obtaining his Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing in the NEOMFA program at Cleveland State University. You can follow him on Twitter at @blouiszelman.
(AP Photo/Michael Perez)
- Yes, the deal in Cleveland doesn’t include a third year so the actual comparison to the Denver offer has to be looked at in the prism of Miller and his possible contract two years from now, because he will most likely be getting paid something after his two-year Cavalier deal. But by that time Miller will be 37 and it would be surprising if he could still get close to that $4 million that Denver would’ve still been paying him. So for arguments sake, let’s say Miller will be playing for the veteran minimum of about $1.5 million two years from now. That means he would’ve taken about $5 million less over three years to come to Cleveland. That is quite significant. [↩]