‘Melo Down Everyone

There has been a ton of trade talk this week involving Denver Nuggets superstar, Carmelo Anthony. Earlier in the week it was reported that a deal had already been agreed upon sending the 6″8 Brooklyn born forward to the Nets, (who plan to open the 2012-2013 season in the Brooklyn based Barclays Center) along with Nugget teammate, Chauncey Billups and  3-time All-Star Richard Hamilton, meaning Detroit would also have to get involved. Who would get back the expiring $11.97 million contract of Troy Murphy but would have to put up with Johan Petro’s contract until the end of the 2012-2013 season. They would also get a 2nd round pick from New Jersey. The Nuggets in return would get two future 1st round draft picks, Nets prized rookie Derrick Favors, ’09 All-Star Devin Harris, 3-point specialist Anthony Morrow, and money matching throw-ins Ben Uzoh, Stephen Graham, and Quinton Ross.

Confusing?

Don’t worry about it, cause it’s not going to happen. Which is why it hasn’t already happened. With the Pistons on-board, the Nets of course in, and the Nuggets got their wish of expiring contracts, young players to help build around (Favors and Harris-who they can trade with Ty Lawson waiting to eventually supplant Billups or keep), and two 1st round draft picks.

So what’s the holdup? Suddenly Denver wants more cap relief and wants someone (or a new team) to take on the contracts of either Al Harrington (expires 2015) or Renaldo Balkman (expires 2013). Really? We’re supposed to believe Prokhorov and the Nets is this close to getting Melo but refuse to work Harrington (a NJ native) or Balkman into the deal? After all, with the amount of players the Nets are trading away, wouldn’t they need players like Harrington or Balkman just to fill roster spots?  I’m not buying it.

Trading for Iguodala could allow the Nets to possibly keep Favors and Harris.

Personally, I don’t even like the trade for the Nets. With five 1st round draft picks in the next two drafts, help is right around the corner. Even if they believe Favors and Harris are not the answer you can use them as trade bait later and still draft whoever you want to build around. Even with Carmelo it’s no lock the Nets make the playoffs this year in this top-heavy (only six teams above .500) Eastern Conference. Why not keep your core guys and trade for a cheaper player on the block, like maybe Andre Iguodala or Gerald Wallace? They would come at much reasonable price and would in all likelihood allow them to keep Morrow, Harris, or Favors or maybe all three. Then at least you have other players to go around Iggy or whoever you bring in right away. As oppose to restarting the build again with an already in his prime, Carmelo.

According to Yahoo Sports, Billups has already stated that if traded he would seek a buyout so he could return home and retire in Denver. Rip will be 33 this February and is no longer the All-Star caliber player he once was. Theres no way Anthony believes he has a better chance of winning a ring with Rip in Jersey over what he already has in Denver. Instead I think it’s his agent Leon Rose (who is also Hamilton’s agent) just trying to get Hamilton’s name out and on the block because his client wants out of Detroit. Carmelo will be fine and he has options which is not necessarily the case for the Pistons shooting guard. He could be the force pushing these talks, not Anthony. For the Nets, is Melo worth losing picks, Favors, Harris, and Morrow for? Yes, they would have him for three years, but is it worth it for Melo to go there and rebuild while in the midst of his prime?

That may be why this trade hasn’t gone through. Although Carmelo hasn’t listed the Nets as a team he would not sign an extension with (a list that includes the likes of Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Washington) he hasn’t said he would either. He has publicly only mentioned one team on his list of teams he would sign an extension with; the New York Knicks. Maybe the reason this latest Melo trade (remember the one involving Charlotte and Utah back in September) was a “done deal” and didn’t go through was because Anthony didn’t want it to. That seems to be the logical explanation to me. If Carmelo refuses to sign an extension with the team trading for him, a deal is practically impossible to get done. What team would give in to the Nuggets high demand to see the prize of their trade walk away in free agency at the end of the season. So in the end it’s up to Anthony to choose where he wants to go and as currently demonstrated, when.

If the Knicks do end up trading for Anthony, they could be welcoming back an old friend as well.

Anthony controls his own destiny, which keep Donnie Walsh and the Knicks in play. New York is where Carmelo wants to go, it’s as simple as that. If Carmelo says he will only sign an extension with the Knicks or walk in free agency guess what? Denver has one team to try to trade with otherwise they could very well lose out like the Cavaliers did last year (unless, of course, new Denver executives Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke decide to handle the fate of the franchise by calling Anthony’s bluff). So even if the likes of Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Landry Fields are not what the Nuggets want for Anthony (as they have stated), they are surely better than nothing. Not to mention the Knicks wouldn’t have a problem taking on Balkman’s contract, given his popularity in New York, the team that drafted him. D’Antoni would find use in him as a three or four and could essentially take minutes from Bill Walker or Shawne Williams off the bench.

Walsh and the Knicks have and always had the upper hand in the negotiations which is why I believe they will ultimately wait until Denver comes to them.  Donnie is an experienced general manager which is the reason he was brought in to fix the Knicks in the first place. While Amare publicly endorses Anthony to pair with him in New York, Walsh can keep his poker face and take a back seat knowing that in the end, Carmelo will end up with the Knicks if that is truly what he wants. If Melo waits five more weeks (and he has waited this long already,) will he be willing to potentially leave $65 million on the table to sign in the summer under a new CBA? With the recent events of this latest deal, it certainly would seem so. What would he do to make up for his financial losses in that case,  probably go to a place where he can be marketable – billboards and jerseys; all over advertisements and endorsement deals; take the city by storm and what better place to do that than in the Big Apple?

Now in his third season in the league, playing time is all the 21-year-old Randolph needs to reach his promising potential.

Now in order for the Knicks to get a trade done by the February trade deadline, they need to make at least one other deal first. The will need to get at least one 1st round draft pick and there are some teams that have picks to spare. Most noticeably the Nets and the Timberwolves. I’d say the NY Giants have a better chance of winning the Superbowl this year than the Nets helping the Knicks get Melo. However, Minnesota becomes a very interesting situation. They are already rebuilding with pieces in place like Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, and Ricky Rubio (a player on the original Knicks wish list, who remains in Spain). So trading one of their picks is possible for say a young big man to put next to Love. Assuming Minnesota officials and GM David Kahn doesn’t truly believe Darko is an All-Star waiting to blossom, 21-year-old Anthony Randolph could very well an answer. It works out for the Knicks as they work on getting pieces Denver wants. It gives the T’Wolves a young seven footer who has been waiting to see consistent minutes since he arrived in the league and also allows them to identify talent and see what they have for when Rubio does (if he ever) comes to Minnesota.  Randolph benefits with the playing time he needs to develop on what seems to becoming the NBA’s “Island of Misfit Toys” (remember Beasley was exiled from Miami after “The Decision” for practically nothing) in Minnesota. Either way the Knicks have said they can acquire a 1st round pick for the Nuggets when they need to whether it is this route or another. Most recently, at the end of this week we are hearing rumors about the Knicks trying to get Memphis into the talks, with the hope that O.J. Mayo (whose had a disappointing and controversial season thus far) could be a young talent Denver would be interested in. More importantly than whether NY can get something done now with the Grizzlies in the picture, is the fact that they are showing interest and in essence are reaching out to Melo saying “of course we want you!”

I expect this to drag on at least another week or two and quite possibly right until the trade deadline and for a couple of reasons. For one, since getting picks is what Denver is about at this point, why not wait as long as you can to try to gain more clarity about where the picks will end up (whether it will be a high/low lottery pick, top 20, or end of the 1st round). It will allow them to evaluate the value of the picks better. Another reason, is despite the Nuggets poor play of late (which if it continues would be the reason a trade is made earlier) they are right in the thick of the playoff race in the West and could actually have a chance to make it even if they trade their superstar. That would allow them to rebound from losing Anthony and start the rebuilding process much quicker helping them go forward, especially from a fans perspective. Something the Cavs are clearly not going to be able to do for a while. And lastly because, like Carmelo has acknowledged, the Knicks are playing too well for Walsh to make any changes right now. If this is where Melo will end up, it will be on Donnie’s terms and when he’s ready, something Denver executives Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke can agree upon as they took discussions “underground” because they felt they were being pressured by the media. It comes down to what Anthony really desires. Will he pass on guaranteed money for a chance to win a ring and be happy in a destination of his choice? Or will he settle and take a trade to the Nets, creating what could be an eerily similar situation in Denver to that of Cleveland this year: loss of a legacy, status as a sellout, turned on by the city he once ran.

FANTASY FOCUS:

Anthony is currently averaging a career best in boards during his eight-year career (8.3) by nearly one a game. And it’s efficient as his playing time is down three minutes a game compared to last year. If he were to get traded though, I believe his rebound totals may suffer slightly, down to probably around six a game which is closer to his career average (of course this depends on where he goes and whose cleaning the glass when he gets there). However, there is room for his scoring to increase despite a current 23.9 ppg which is actually below his career average and five points a game down from last year. A trade to the Nets or Knicks should help to increase this mark and if he winds up in NY, I would expect an up-tick in 3’s as well, simply because in D’Antoni’s system everyone shoots more and better from downtown (as they spread the court and leave room for shooters on the perimeter).

If Carmelo leaves town, J.R. Smith could shoulder the offensive load for the Nuggets.

It’s hard to tell how the players traded for Melo will fair until we know who they are, but we can start to speculate who would pick up the scoring deficit the Nuggets would be left with. Aaron Afflalo’s career year should continue and although more shots could open up for him, I can’t expect an increase in his already 35.2 minutes a game. So now would probably be the time to go and try to cop J.R. Smith as a great buy low candidate. He will by default have to come out of coach Karl’s doghouse and could be inline for over 30 minutes a night. That means he could put up Nick Young numbers and would be a great source of 3’s and points, not to mention he is also averaging a career high in rebounds and may average over five a game with starters minutes.

Ask any Knick fan about Al Harrington and they will tell you he loves to shoot, like a lot. He would have no problem taking up the shots left over from Melo granted that he is not moving himself. If he stays, whether he comes off the bench or starts he will certainly see an increase in value as well, in points and 3’s which could be especially useful coming out of your power forward (and in some leagues center) spot on your roster.

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