September 10, 2010
The word out of Chicago and New York? "Yes, please," as both teams have the assets to swing a deal to make things somewhat passable for the Nuggets in return, along with a willingness to extend Carmelo's contract this season, before the new collective bargaining agreement hits. The idea about what makes it passable for the Nuggies is anyone's guess, as we have no idea what plans new GM Masai Ujiri has for his team, though we assume a full and proper rebuilding might be in order.
But the point about extending Melo's deal? That would seem to be the best idea for all involved, should a trade go down. You don't want to give up assets for just one year of Anthony's services, and you wouldn't mind tossing money at a guy who averaged 28 points per game last season. And if you're Anthony, you take the money before the league's salary structure might get turned on its ear.
So how do we swing this? And, for whatever side, should things be swung?
Start with the Knicks. Danilo Gallinari(notes) is a fine player working on a cheapo rookie contract, but at best I'm seeing fringe All-Star from this guy. If you have a chance to take Eddy Curry's(notes) expiring contract -- seems like just yesterday Knicks fans were rolling in the high street at their luck after Curry's sign-and-trade with Chicago -- and Danilo's promise and turn them into an up-tempo All-Star, you do it.
Adding Anthony to a team with Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) up front and Mike D'Antoni off to the side won't guarantee a championship, but it does guarantee the Knicks as becoming somewhat dangerous. I had the team in the playoffs as it is without Anthony. With his pick-and-roll prowess and ability to put up points in a pell-mell system -- who knows what could happen in either the first or second round of a playoff run?
And with all those Knick contracts that are set to expire in 2012? I'll stop there. Starting to sound like one of those message board kids from 2005.
Chicago's a different story altogether. Though Anthony is a clear step up offensively from Luol Deng(notes) because of his ability to create shots, Deng is superior in several other areas. He's far, far better than Anthony defensively, better on the glass and he's a more efficient scorer when he does look toward the hoop.
Toss in the loss of Taj Gibson(notes) (and, to a far lower extent, James Johnson(notes)) in the deal for it to work out cap-wise, and you have to wonder if this is at all worth it for Chicago, especially if it has to throw 2010 money at a player who will be playing in a post-2011 league.
You have to factor in need, though. And while Luol Deng's all-around gifts remain underrated, Chicago's most pressing need still is scoring. And that's what Anthony brings. Would the fit alone be worth possibly giving up more than Chicago should? That's tough to say. Anthony scores, but he doesn't do it all that efficiently. Then again, he still does it consistently, especially down the stretch of close ballgames. Love Luol, but you're not looking to him with the seconds ticking down.
For the Nuggets, well, I'm still of the opinion that they need to hang onto Anthony despite his bleatings, because they still have a good chance at putting themselves right into the thick of it in the Western playoffs. Few pull off the "us-against-the-world" tripe better than George Karl, and if he can rally these players in the face of a front office that, to them, has done it so, so wrong? Then you could have a Laker-challenger on your hands. Should have had that last season, were it not for Karl's illness.
And what about Anthony possibly jetting for nothing this summer? Let's see him try it. There aren't that many teams to Anthony's liking with cap space next offseason, and that's even assuming the 2011 cap will in any way resemble what we're used to. Anthony wants his cake and to eat it too, with the extension (money, naturally, comes first) and a team to his liking. But the Nuggets are under no obligation to help Carmelo get two servings of what he wants.
Because they've spent around him, in spades. And Anthony hasn't really developed much beyond getting better at the one thing he entered this league being great at -- scoring expertly from 20 feet on in.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets paid the luxury tax for years, put up with Anthony's off-court worries and they couldn't even get out of the first round until 2009. They were beat by better teams in every year from 2004 to 2008, but one can't help but wonder how things could have gone had Carmelo improved his all-around game. Maybe they wouldn't have beaten the Timberwolves, Spurs and Lakers in those first-round series. But with a better Carmelo and a better seeding, maybe they wouldn't have had to.
And now they have to take on the pittance of Danilo Gallinari or Luol Deng's big contract just to make their would-be former All-Star happy? Why, exactly?
Which is why you wait for the three-way deals to start rolling in. Which is why you heard the rumor about Chicago considering involving Joakim Noah(notes) in any deal for Anthony. Not in a straight-up deal with the Nuggets (because the Nuggets would still have to take on Luol Deng's contract), but in some three-way scenario that would land the Nugs more salary help and the Bulls a passable big along the way.
(And that's just a rumor, from a "league source" no less. Noah will in all likelihood sign a contract extension with the Bulls soon enough.)
Anyone can talk big in August and September. If life in Denver is so untenable, then let Anthony sit out games. Let him give money back. If he doesn't play ball, let the Nuggets ship him to a team that can offer immediate salary relief. The Nuggets, as frustrating as this might be, are still dealing from a position of power -- even with Anthony's contract set to expire next summer. The confluence of bad options, new CBA requirements and Anthony's love of quick cash demand it.
So while the rumored deals from the Bulls and Knicks are more than passable, the Nuggets (as presently constructed) will at worst be as good as Chicago this season and far better than New York. They're the good team with the very good player, and they're working in a league that is rife with capologists and heaps of players with expiring contracts or rookie deals that are ready to move. Trades involving players who score 28 a game -- however those points are scored -- shouldn't be limited to a three- or four-player deal.
Deal or no, Denver GM Masai Ujiri has the next five years of his team's existence to figure out in three weeks. Get it right, newbie.