The proverbial "trade that helps both teams" might have occurred Tuesday when the Philadelphia 76ers finally unloaded Allen Iverson and sent him to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Andre Miller, Joe Smith and two 2007 first-round draft picks.
Philadelphia general manager Billy King basically accomplished all three goals he had when this process began, while the Nuggets added perhaps the fastest player in the league to an already quick, up-tempo team.
Here's what the deal means for the 76ers:
1. They pick up a good player in the deal. Miller will be the Sixers' starting point guard for the foreseeable future. Maybe King would have preferred a younger, up-and-coming star like Randy Foye or Shawn Livingston, but Miller is a very good point guard who will help Philadelphia fill the huge void left by Iverson.
2. Salary-cap relief. Smith's $6.8 million salary comes off the books after this season, and given that Miller will make an average of $10 million the next two years – compared to Iverson's $20 million average – the Sixers will in effect shave about $10 million off their cap in each of the next two seasons. And depending on their luxury tax situation (they're well over it this season), there could be millions more in savings.
3. Two extra first-round picks (to go with their own). Philadelphia will receive both Denver's pick and Dallas' first-rounder, which the Nuggets had acquired in a previous deal. The Dallas pick will most likely be in the late 20s, but the Denver pick (which apparently is marginally protected) could be interesting, depending on how well the Iverson/Nuggets marriage works out. With Carmelo Anthony out for the next 14 games due to his suspension, Denver could struggle and fall back some in the West. If the Nuggets stumble and don't make the playoffs, the 76ers could potentially have two lottery picks – their own (assuming the Sixers don't make the playoffs) and the Nuggets'. In a deep draft that potentially could include Greg Oden, Philly will have plenty of options to dramatically improve its team.
Here is what Iverson will mean to Denver:
1. He will bring a huge surge of excitement to the Pepsi Center. Iverson will give the Nuggets publicity that is unprecedented in their franchise's history. Fans will flock to see A.I. perform, arena shops will sell a ton of "Iverson" Nuggets jerseys, and there will be a buzz all over the league when Denver comes to town.
2. He'll join a team that already plays an up-tempo style. And with Iverson, that attack will now become even faster. He'll also play for a coach in George Karl who is well-equipped to handle egos and personalities. The prevailing theory around the NBA was that Iverson had to go somewhere with a strong coach who had presence. Karl definitely fits the bill.
3. He'll pair with Carmelo Anthony to form one of the most explosive duos in the league. The Melo/Iverson relationship is the key to the deal. If the two can click and share the ball, the Nuggets could potentially be very, very good. Also, A.I. gives Denver the big scorer it'll need as it attempts to tread water during the extended suspensions of Anthony and J.R. Smith.
Of course, the trade might not turn out well for the Nuggets. Iverson and Carmelo might not mesh. After all, we're talking about the league's two current leading scorers playing on the same team. Can they coexist? The fact that Melo doesn't handle the ball a lot in order to score bodes well, as does the fact that Iverson has proven to be a good distributor when he wants to be. (He averaged 7.4 assists per game last season).
Financially, Denver could be facing luxury tax hell, with the contracts of Anthony, Iverson, Marcus Camby and Nene Hilario putting the team well over the threshold. If the Nuggets don't succeed with this group, they will be hard-pressed to disentangle themselves from a salary-cap nightmare. But if it does work, they could challenge the Spurs, Suns and Mavericks for Western supremacy.
As for the Sixers, there doesn't appear to be much of a downside. This is probably the best deal King was going to get. The key for Philadelphia is to use the draft picks wisely, select the right players and begin to rebuild with an eye on shedding the contract of Chris Webber, which expires after the 2007-08 season.