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.