- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2006

In the first blockbuster deal of the NBA season, Denver acquired 6-foot guard Allen Iverson, the 2000-01 MVP and four-time league scoring champion from the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday. The Nuggets also received 6-8 rookie forward Ivan McFarlin, while shipping out 6-2 point guard Andre Miller (third in the league in assists at 9.1 a game), 6-10 forward Joe Smith and two 2007 first-round draft choices.

What it means for Denver now: They add arguably the best little man ever to play the game. When Carmelo Anthony (31.6 points a game) returns from his 15-game suspension next month, the Nuggets will have the top two scorers in the league. Denver’s offense fits Iverson (31.2) perfectly because the Nuggets get up and down the floor quickly and rarely run anything out of a set offense. Denver now must be considered a serious threat to win the Western Conference and could play for the first NBA championship in franchise history.

What it means for Philadelphia now: Miller is a pure point guard who will help the organization determine whether players like Andre Iguodala, Samuel Dalembert and Rodney Carney can play. Smith, the former Maryland star who has never lived up to being taken with the top pick in the 1995 draft, has an expiring contract. His only value to the 76ers is that he will provide cap relief this summer. The 76ers are trying to position themselves to draft Ohio State center Greg Oden, who likely will come out after his freshman year and be the top pick in what is considered a deep draft.

What it means for Denver down the road: The Nuggets have fastened themselves to the tandem of Iverson, who should remain an elite player for the next three years or so, and Anthony, who should be great for the next decade. Iverson is often knocked for never having won a championship or for not making the players around him better. That’s interesting, considering Dallas has gone further without two-time MVP Steve Nash on the roster, and Nash has failed to lead talented players like Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion to the NBA Finals. On the downside, the move does tie up the salary cap and hurts Denver’s ability to add free agents. Next year their cap number could be as high as $80 million.

What it means for Philadelphia down the road: It means everything, later rather than sooner. The 76ers know they are aren’t going to be better without Iverson. They won’t start reaping the benefits of this move until next summer, when the team is off the hook for Chris Webber’s $22 million salary. The 76ers will have tremendous cap room in the summer of 2008, when Gilbert Arenas might consider opting out of his contract in Washington, and will be a major player in free agency.

Which team comes out best: Denver, both on and off the court. Denver is a playoff team that has two great scorers and a solid third one in J.R. Smith. The front line isn’t all that good, but Marcus Camby — as the Wizards saw firsthand on Monday when he put up 25 points, 17 rebounds and five blocked shots — is much better than serviceable. Off the court, Iverson’s presence immediately will fatten the Nuggets’ coffers. Iverson’s iconic status will have powder blue No. 3 jerseys popping up everywhere from Denver to South Philadelphia.

Speaking of Philadelphia, Wachovia Center, where the 76ers play, is about to become a morgue. The hard-to-please fans already had stopped coming to games, and the generic Miller and the disappointing Smith aren’t going to change that culture. The key is what general manager Billy King does in the future. Judging by some of his bigger moves (acquiring a broken-down Webber and trading Bruce Bowen, Larry Hughes and Billy Owens for another relic, Toni Kukoc), everything indicates he will bungle this one, too.

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