OKC took a shot at landing a promising young player in C.J. Miles this week.
Utah had other ideas, rejecting that attempt by matching the team’s offer on Friday and keeping the restricted free agent shooting guard.
But the attempt was a wise one considering Miles’ age (21) and past production when given the opportunity. That’s why you must overlook his ho-hum career averages of 4.0 points, 1.3 rebounds and 0.8 assists. Why you can’t write him off as a player who would have been a minor acquisition. Why Utah ultimately matched a significant four-year, $15 million deal despite having three additional shooting guards on its roster, all of them talented and all of them 27 or younger.
Miles could have developed into something special when lined up alongside Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook. He could have been the perimeter shooting threat that made defenses pay for sagging off to help clog the lane and prevent Westbrook’s penetration. He could have been the hot hand when Durant’s and Green’s went cold.
I could be getting ahead of myself.
But cases like this happen all the time, when teams decide to not retain their free agents only to see those players blossom elsewhere. It happened in Utah in 2004 with point guard Mo Williams.
Williams was a bit player as a rookie for Utah before signing a modest three-year, $5.5 million contract with the Bucks and developing into a top 10 point guard in Milwaukee. Obviously it’s water under the bridge in Utah because the Jazz now have a top five point guard in Deron Williams.
But Miles could have had Williams’ same type of improvement in Oklahoma City, where it’s not guaranteed the franchise will draft a top 10 shooting guard talent next year. (Not saying Miles is or is going to develop into a top 10 player at his position, just sticking with the Mo Williams example).
And so after a week of uncertainty, Miles will remain in Utah, where the Jazz must figure out a way for him to mend a rocky relationship with coach Jerry Sloan while also solving the quandary of how to divvy up minutes among four young shooting guards.
So where does OKC go from here? That’s the question I’m tackling for Sunday’s editions of The Oklahoman. The team doesn’t seem to be eager to jump to a Plan B in free agency. OKC also has 13 players under contract – 14 if you count restricted free agent Robert Swift – and more and more I’m starting to get the sense the front office is content with standing pat with the current cast.
That’s not to say there won’t be a move here or there. I’ll examine some potential options Sunday. But, as I wrote a few weeks back, the free agent market doesn’t figure to be where we see this team shake up things this summer.
Oklahoma City tried its best down that route this week, attempting to add a young, hungry and talented player to its roster. Utah had other ideas.