Is Carmelo Anthony Worth the Extension Denver is Offering Him?

With the big free agent free for all of 2010 at hand the Denver Nuggets are stuck pondering what could happen in 2011. Denver has offered Carmelo Anthony a three year extension at max dollars in an effort to keep him off the market 12 months from now. From the day the media latched onto Melo’s potential free agency in 2011 I have claimed that the Nuggets would be able to sign him to an extension.

In order to become a free agent next summer Carmelo would have to walk away from a massive payday and doing so simply does not make sense. With Carmelo slated to make over $18 million in 2011-12 and with the current three year, $65 million extension on the table Melo would have to turn his back on a guaranteed $83 million from Denver to play the field next summer. That is a hefty price to pay to check out grass that might not necessarily be greener.

I have written about how important Carmelo is to the Nuggets. He is the face of the franchise and is on track to become the greatest player in franchise history. Denver was a lost franchise before he came to town in 2003 and thanks in large part to the drafting of Carmelo have earned relevance and relative success with him. However, the key word is relative. Should Nuggets fans be content with a continuation of the first round and out tango Denver has been dancing for years? If the Nuggets sign Melo to that extension the Nuggets are basically saying they are happy with the status quo.

Carmelo is a tremendously gifted player, but the one thing we have learned is that he needs some serious help in order to succeed. At $20 million a season, or more in years two and three of his extension, it is unlikely Denver could supply the help Carmelo needs to contend for a championship. Even surrounded by such talented players as Chauncey Billups, Nene, Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith Carmelo has not lifted Denver beyond the level of playoff patsy.

As painful as it is to part with an All-Star in the prime of his career I fail to see how it is better to cling to him at the cost of crippling the franchise for the next five seasons. The entire crux of this debate is the unknown of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. The reason why Carmelo might be willing to sign is because he knows under the current financial climate the next CBA will be much less friendly to players. Conversely, that is exactly why the Nuggets should pull back their extension offer.

The NBA has stated that they would like to push the percentage of Basketball Related Income (BRI) that goes to players from the current 57% down to 45%. That is a significant difference. Using the current 57% of BRI the salary cap for 2010-11 is expected to be set at roughly $56 million. Under the league’s proposed 45% figure the cap would be a mere $44 million (trust me, I was good at math in high school). Carmelo is scheduled to earn just over $18 million in 2011-12. Under that scenario the Nuggets would have over 40% of their cap tied up with Carmelo’s contract and that is before the massive extension they offered him kicks in. There is also talk of an absolute hard cap, which would make Melo’s extension an even greater albatross.

To be fair the 45% figure is merely the starting point for negotiations and it is unlikely that will be the final number. Still the uncertainty is driving decisions that are being made today. Players are operating under the assumption that salaries will be greatly reduced in the future and management should be doing the same.

I understand the desire to avoid the anguish that Cleveland fans are going through and the palpable fear of losing Denver’s franchise player. Even so, if the ultimate goal of the Nuggets organization is to win a championship, they cannot pay a player like Carmelo Anthony $20 million a year. If that means he plays somewhere else in 2011-12, or even 2010-11, so be it.

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  • JD

    These are some of the exact reasons the extension the Nuggets have offered Carmelo is not good for the franchise in the future. My other issue is I would have rather the Nuggets trade Carmelo in this Free agent Frenzy. He will not ever have more trade value than what he has now with all the teams that have the cap room and are looking for something to appease their respective fan base, which, have lost out on the Lebron James Sweepstakes. If the Nuggets choose to keep Carmelo starting the season with no extension signed, the Nuggets are more than likely to be a top five seed for next season’s playoff race when the trade deadline comes up. Fans will not be happy to see them trade him when the trade deadline comes upon us and Carmelo if he has not signed the extension and the Nuggets are in decent playoff seeding position. What I would give to see David Lee here (now that the Golden State Trade has happened this is not a possibility). I know, I know, David Lee is not all that, I have heard too many people tell me. Here is why David Lee works, He is consistent. The Nuggets have more than enough fire power to score points. They score points even when Carmelo is not in the lineup. I think the Nuggets are starting to suffer from the “Iverson Effect”. This is where all the other players stand around and watch Carmelo play one on one basketball. Yes I understand when Carmelo is not on the floor it changes the dynamic of the players on the floor. What I did see (watch the game against Cleveland in Denver this last year to see my point) is a team that played as a team. Not dependant on any one person yet relying on everyone on the team to get the job done. What Lee brings is Heart, and effort. Combine that with players such as Billups, Afflalo, Lawson, and Anderson (when healthy) you have a core that will play as a unit. I am tired of the inconstancy at which the Nuggets bigs decide to show up for a game. Nene, is what he is, a nice player with a contract too large for what he brings to the table, Kenyon, who at the time he signed his contract was paid as a MAX player who never played like a Max player (credit the Nets for cutting him loose), and is on his last legs as it is. I like how he has changed his attitude the last two years that still does not take away the fact that the Nuggets front court is a mess. I would rather take my chances without Carmelo than end up with a contract that hamstrings the team for years to come. You want longevity; look at the Pistons when they went to the Eastern Conference Finals six years in a row. That team had five important starters. Not three Superstars (by the way who else is going to be on the court with those three in Miami the next six years???). They had a nice bench that complimented the starters. I do not have the figures in front of me but I am pretty sure none of those players signed max contracts. The Nuggets can offer Carmelo this deal, Carmelo can wait to sign it, being envious of Wade and James and how the rest of the NBA gushed over them. At some point Carmelo will sign due to the new CBA on the Horizon, and the Nuggets will be good, but never great. His contract will suck up too much cap space. Funny, I guess when you do not make millions of dollars you sit here and wonder when is tens of millions of dollars enough? Players will say it is not about the money, even the three in Miami will tell you this, (and yes they signed deals far short of max deals) yet they will hamstring the Heat by not leaving enough to sign anyone of significant to help them win championships. I leave you with this. Does anyone remember how much money Jordan made in his career? How much money Kobe has made in his? No one does. All they remember is the number of championships each has won. So really, is it about the rings?

  • Charl

    AUnCon Kudos to you! I hadn’t thought of that!