Why Carmelo Anthony is Better off in Denver

There are plenty of reasons why Carmelo Anthony might want to leave Denver.  The Nuggets are not one of the storied franchises in NBA history.  Denver is an awesome city, but it is not a top market.  There will be snow and cold during the part of the year your job requires you to be on site.  His lovely new bride would have more opportunities elsewhere and as a married man I believe in doing what you can to make your spouse happy.

I cannot debate the grass may seem greener on someone else’s lawn, however if you want to look at basketball, and only basketball Melo should stay in Denver.

To start let’s focus on the 2009-10 season.  If Melo wants to be a member of a contending team this year, his only two options of the teams he is reportedly interested in.  Those options are the Rockets and Nuggets.  The Magic would be a great fit for Carmelo, but I do not see any way they could work out an acceptable trade with Denver and so in my mind the Orlando option is simply not feasible.

Comparing Houston and Denver, both teams have some pretty big question marks when it comes to the health of their big men.  Nene, Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin have all had their health issues this summer.  There is a bid difference between their status and that of Yao Ming.  Yao has been cleared to play basketball again, but the last three seasons he has been hurt at the end of the season.  He is a hulk of a man and that makes him both a force on the court and a force on his overworked haunches.  For a man of his size his health problems make Kenyon Martin look like Bruce Willis in Unbreakable.  At this point Yao cannot be counted on when he is most needed, during the playoffs.

Carmelo can roll the dice and go to Houston.  After all, maybe this is the season he comes through and plays a full slate of games.  According to his Chinese birth certificate he will be 30 when the season starts.  The truth is a birth certificate from China has something in common with my personal checks; neither is worth the paper it is printed on.  The fact is Yao is getting up there in years.  He has played over 500 games in the NBA, has dealt with a brutal schedule with his national team in the past and who knows how many games he played before he crossed the Pacific and landed in Houston?

If you want to include the Knicks and Nets in the discussion, I firmly believe both would make the playoffs with Carmelo on board.  I also believe both would need a fortunate first round matchup to avoid Carmelo’s typical fate of a one and one playoff appearance.

The Nuggets will probably start the season without Kenyon and Birdman although Al Harrington will be here to fill in while Kenyon is out and once Martin returns they could provide a nice one-two offense or defense punch.  I may not have been a big fan of the Harrington signing, but I never argued with the assertion that he will help Denver win regular season games.

Ty Lawson was fantastic as a rookie, and he will only get better next season.  He is a pass first point guard who loves to drive and dish and has a knack for getting his teammates open shots.  Chauncey still has some gas left in the tank and with Lawson taking on more minutes in the regular season hopefully some of that gas will still be there come April.  Arron Afflalo is a terrific defensive wing who has improved his offensive game every season.  Nene is inconsistent, but can provide some punch from the paint and J.R. Smith can help lighten the scoring burden every one out of three games.

The one advantage the Nuggets have over all of the other teams Carmelo is considering is the potential for making a deal at the deadline.  There is no question that expiring contracts do not carry the weight they used to with so many teams having their current payroll under control.  Even so, if one or two teams end up seeing their season fall apart, the market for those deals could open up a little.  Between Kenyon and J.R. Smith Denver has over $23 million in tradeable expiring deals.  None of the other teams on your rumored list can match that firepower.

Melo also needs to put more value on 2010-11 because who knows when the next season will take place.  With what is expected to be a contentious battle over the next Collective Bargaining Agreement it is possible there is no 2011-12.  To throw away this season with nothing more than the hope things will be better the year after that is dangerous.

Denver was a contender before injuries and the frightening bout Geroge Karl underwent with cancer.  There is no reason that cannot be the case again this season.  If Carmelo wants to win now, Denver is as good an option as any.

That is all well and good, but I understand Carmelo is considering more factors than what might happen next season.  Every team Carmelo is rumored to be considering has some nice assets lined up for the future.  Houston has two draft picks from the Knicks.  Those may sound nice, but that lottery ticket did not pay off for Utah as well as everyone expected this summer when they only drafted ninth.  The Rockets also have a nice asset in their $6.3 million trade exception.  The Nets have some cap space to utilize over the next free agent period, but judging by their haul this summer that will not count for much.  They own a pick from Golden State they hope will pay off big as well, although I find it hard to fathom that pick ending up much higher than the Knicks pick did for Utah last season.  The Knicks also have some cap space coming up next summer although they are handicapped by the fact they do not own the rights to two of their upcoming first round selections.

Denver is not owed any future first rounders, although they also do not owe any at this point.  From a salary cap standpoint, Denver could be in as good of a position financially as any of Melo’s potential suitors.  Both the Knicks and Nets cap space would be chewed up by the addition of Carmelo himself and Houston would be in luxury tax territory with Melo on the books unless they let Yao walk after the season and what would be the point of going to Houston if Yao is not a part of the equation?  Assuming the Nuggets buy Chauncey out, not a safe assumption, but I think they would be crazy to pay him $14 million at that point in his career, and Nene does not opt out of the final year of his deal, which heading into a new CBA he would be crazy to do, Denver would have a lower team salary than the Knicks, Nets and Rockets would have with Carmelo.  The Nuggets could be players in the free agent market each of the next two offseasons.

Financially, Denver is the place to be.  Not to mention personally for Carmelo it is the only place he is guaranteed to get a max extension although as long as he is traded before the trade deadline this season I am sure whatever team he is dealt to will ensure he will be able to take a bath with a tub full of Benjamins every day.

With finances out of the way, it is time to compare rosters.

New York again falls short.  There are very few players on long term deals, but there are also very few high quality players.  Danilo Gallinari is a fan favorite and he is a good player, but he is not a star and probably never will be.  He struggles to get his own shot and over 75% of his attempts are from 16 feet and out.  I am one of the many people in love with Anthony Randolph’s potential.  Potential does not win games though and who knows if the issues that dogged him in Golden State will follow him across the country.  Melo can forget about playing with one or possibly both of those two as at least one of them would be heading to Denver in exchange for Carmelo.

The biggest strength on the Knicks’ roster is Amare Stoudemire.  Amare is a fantastic player, but I believe that strength will grow into a weakness in the near future.  First of all immediately Amare would be a terrible front court partner with Melo.  Neither player is defensive minded and both fall asleep on the defensive boards from time to time.  The biggest issue with Amare is his ability to stay healthy.  Despite the fact microfracture surgery has become much more reliable it is still an athletic death sentence.  The clotted blood that takes the place of the missing cartilage will only hold out for so long.  It eventually breaks down and at that point the players’ career is over.  Amare is up to over 300 games on that repaired knee and sadly the clock is ticking.

New Jersey has some nice pieces, Brook Lopez being chief among them.  However, they have a shoot first point guard in Devin Harris and not much else.  Nets fans are excited about Terrence Williams’ performance his rookie season, but he will not help space the floor for Carmelo and Lopez to work.  Derrick Favors is a great prospect, but as with Anthony Randolph in New York, potential has never won a game.  Troy Murphy is unique and talented player with his ability to rebound and drain three pointers.  He does not seem to be in the Nets’ long term plans though he could resign to provide some beef alongside Lopez.  Again, keep in mind one or probably more of those players would be gone if Carmelo was a Net.

Moving on to Houston, we have already discussed the fragility of Yao in Houston.  As he ages, it will only get worse and with Melo on board, Houston will not have the payroll flexibility or the high draft pick to replace a player like Yao.  Aaron Brooks is a good point guard, but looks for his own offense more often than not.  Kevin Martin is a very nice scorer, and would help Melo carry the scoring punch although he is not going to set Carmelo up with any easy looks.  Plus if Melo is in Houston, one of those two probably are not as the sentiment amongst Rocket fans is they will have to part with one or the other to acquire Melo.  Luis Scola is a talented player who works his tail off and is the kind of player most would enjoy as a teammate as he does not hog the ball and loves to do the dirty work inside.

Aside from finances and players there are two other factors that must be considered, market and ownership/front office.  As already noted above as a market Denver cannot compete, but what does market really matter in today’s world?  Carmelo Anthony is already in the upper middle class of NBA players from an endorsement standpoint.

Ownership and management is also a key.  It is difficult to argue the Knicks are in good hands with James Dolan (Bill Simmons absolutely eviscerates him in this article – go to theory number four) and the Nets have Mikhail Prokhorov who might be savvy like Mark Cuban or could be a disaster like Dan Snider with the Washington Redskins.  So far the addition of Billy King as GM is less than exciting and there is no doubt Melo would butt heads with the defensive minded Avery Johnson from the first practice on.

Houston is difficult to compete with thanks to Leslie Alexander’s willingness to spend coupled with Daryl Morey’s boy genius reputation makes the Rockets a very sound destination.  With the Nuggets in upheaval thanks to the transfer of ownership from Stan Kroenke to Josh Kroenke and the current search for a new general manger, it should be noted that the Nuggets are seeking to spend as little as possible according to this report (more on that soon), the Nuggets are a bit of an unknown quantity.

Despite the current upheaval with the Nuggets I believe when you consider all the facts it should be a two horse race between Denver and Houston.  The Rockets have some strong points, but when you consider the current roster and future flexibility I think the Nuggets are the best choice.

Apart from the measureable metrics in this debate there is one trump card that Denver has left to play.  As one commenter put it recently, Carmelo is the Denver Nuggets.  Carmelo can be the all time greatest player in franchise history.  Combine that with the dream of bringing the first NBA championship to Denver and he can have one of the great legacies in NBA history.  He can be the player who saved a franchise.  That experience is not available in New York or New Jersey, and it definitely is not available in Houston.  Maybe he can go on to be the man in one of those locations, but he will not be the franchise.

I put forward every effort to provide objective coverage of the Nuggets, but for just a minute allow me to look at this situation from the point of view of a fan.  With apologies to Andrew at Denver Stiffs who penned a fantastic open letter to Carmelo, I have something to say to Carmelo as well.

Embrace the challenge of bringing a championship to Denver.  Accept the responsibility on both ends of the court to be the best player on the floor every night.  Lift your teammates up and lead by example yet do not be afraid to voice your displeasure when someone blows an assignment or becomes lazy on offense.  You will have earned that right by giving it your all with or without the ball.

As far as that three year, $65 million extension, decline it.  That is right, do not sign it.  Of all the mistakes LeBron made this summer he did one thing right and that was accept less money for the sake of the team.  Sign a three year, $45 million extension and show that not only is winning your number one priority, but winning in Denver with your team.  If you are worried about getting help, know you do not need to go somewhere else.  Other great players will join you when they see your commitment and desire and the Nuggets will be in the position to make that happen.

LeBron James could not stomach that responsibility, but you can.  It is your time to show everyone who you are.  Embrace your time and embrace greatness.

  • David

    Jeremy, I agree with almost everything you say. I have to point out (again) though, that I don’t think LeBron would have left money on the table if he wasn’t going to a least partially make up for it by playing in Florida with no state tax. Also, when he did it, Wade and Bosh were already committed. Melo doesn’t have the financial benefit of playing in a state like Florida and there are no “superstars” committed to playing in Denver. Asking him to accept less than the proposed offer is asking way too much, in my opinion.

    But the main points of your article are right on. I am very excited about the financial position that the Nuggets will be in after this season. Especially considering the fact that the new CBA might handcuff the majority of teams, Denver could be in a great position, relative to other teams. I only wish there was a better crop of free agents available next summer.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com Jeremy

    Hi David, you are absolutely correct. It is a lot to ask that Carmelo take such a huge pay cut and it is probably not fair of me to ask for that. I also acknowledge LeBron, Bosh and Wade all had the immediate payoff of knowing who they would be playing with which made it easier to leave money on the table too. Even so, other players have done it because they value winning over money (aside from the South Beach Boys Tim Duncan has done it in the past and even Ron Artest has accepted a little less than he has been worth over the course of his career to play in good situations).

    I think the state tax gets a little bit overblown. Federal tax is the killer. The top state income tax rate in Colorado is 4.63%. The difference in state tax on a $15 million contract between Colorado and Florida is “only” $700,000. If it matters then I am happy to have Melo sign a contract that starts at $15.7 million to make up for state taxes.

    • http://www.bing.com/ Carli

      In the cpomlictead world we live in, it’s good to find simple solutions.

  • David

    Jeremy, good points. Didn’t Durant also take less than the max? I might be wrong about that, but in general Durant is the new Duncan. He’s everything you want in a superstar. Melo should be trying to emulate him, not LeBron.

    But still, 18 or 20 million is a lot for anyone to leave on the table. Of course, if it leads to championships, his endorsement dollars go way up. He would have to have a lot of faith in management (which is a mess right now) to take a lower offer, though. It would really help if the Nuggets would resolve the GM situation.

  • k

    i read somewhere that compared lebron going to miami to getting the two best/tallest guys on the same team in a pickup game. How can you take pride in winning if you were suppose to win. Melo has a chance to set the tone in denver and be remembered as a true great. They will say” lebron had to make a super team to win, Melo did it on his own”. So david and jeremy both have valid points. Melo needs to decide if he wants to win cheap(for max$) or be a legend. I hope he picks legend

  • David

    k… I’m with you 100%. It’s the same reason I’ve always hated the NY Yankees. With the money they spend, they should absolutely win almost every year. How can any Yankee fan (or Red Sox fan these days) brag about his team? Now I feel the same way about the Heat. They can win 10 championships and I’ll have less respect for LeBron than I did when he was with the Cavs and coming close. Hopefully, Melo will realize there’s no pride or honor in doing what LeBron did.

  • k

    thats a perfect analogy David. Would you want to be remebered as Derek Jeter (same team whole career and a winner) or A-Rod (puts up stats, had to join a super team).

  • http://RoundballMiningCompany Ray

    I’m not sure where Melo is going, but I know he won’t be in Denver next season and nor should he be. With Silent Stan purchasing the Rams the NFL will force him to sell the Nuggs/Avs. Not only is Denver losing a solid owner but it doesn’t even know who it’s GM will be. There is a reason Denver has never been able to pull the trigger on acquiring a quality big man. If you are in Carmelo’s shoes why would you stay in Denver. Carmelo goes somewhere else and wins a ring is no different than what Drexler did in Houston. If he stays in Denver and puts up great stats but never even sniffs a championship then he is no better than Nique. The ring is always the thing no matter where you win it at.

  • Truitt

    Call me a hater and call a spade a spade, but I think that Jeremy is understating some facts here and may be misrepresenting what thenuggets options here are.

    Firstly, our cap situation is effed big time and Jeremy isright that it will turn forthe better after this year, but I think he is overstating how much better it will be. we would have to let k-mart and JR go (without takin on more salary) and then resign afflalo and Lawson to extensions that would not inudethe raises they deserve AND have the cap go up significantly next year, just to stay under the tax. All of that isnot including signing melo to an extension like the one we offered him. As it stands (as gathered from espn.com) we are 25m in the luxury ( that means 50m in penalties) We are the yankees right now and we are losing.

    Second, melo is a contract employee and his contract states that he has the option to leave after next season. If he leaves he becomes a free agent and can sign with any team for whatever he wants and that team is under no obligation to compensate the nuggets. It’s on us to trade him if we want to get some value back. Sometimes, I read the comments here and I get the impression that some people think that we are doing melo a favor by trading him. Sadly, It’s the other way around. Melo is doing us a favor by letting us know that he plans to opt out. He could have not told us anything and then we could get blind sided by this, get nothing back for our team, and have our owner publically embaress our entire fan base. Not that that ever happens…

    Call it pragmatic, call me a hater, but these are just the facts as I see them and calling me names won’t change them.

    I think Jeremy is dead on is his assesment that the grassisnot as green as it would appear to be else where. This is a really good team. I contend that two years ago we would have madeit tothe finals(and probably won) if the refs had notchanged the way they were calling fouls in games 5&6. We have only gotten better since then, so I am feeling great about this year.

    Last year was a fluke and a tradegy; our head coach went into remission and an assistant coach who wasnot respected by the players took over. I dunno how many of you have had your lives Or the livesof your family touched by cancer, but it is scary andremission is even worse. It’s like Sara Connor blasting away at t2000 in the refinery, only it’s not a movie and you have no idea that Arnold is going to come and save the day. Luckly, our coach is healthy again and this team has gotten better so we should be right back to where we were two years ago.

    Frankly, I am sick of all of this carmelo speculation and hypothetical thought exercises to determine whether or not we should be offended by his actions. If he wants to go, he will go and it will be for no other reason than he thinks he can do better else where. In the end he may be wrong, but that will probably be the logic. I would rather discuss how our front court rotation is going to play out, whether harrington can put in minutes as Melo’s back up at 3, and what areas Lawson should be looking to improve on than waste anymore time alienating the best player on my favorite team before the season starts.

  • dani

    You cheat. Finanically, you count Yao’s salary but don’t count with the player. Without Yao, Rockets would have space to sign another max contract, even though everything indicates he’s trully coming back.

    Speaking about their roster, you don’t name Budinger, Lowry, Hill-Patterson… those players are present and/or future.

    And about the luxury tax topic, Les Alexander would love to pay it if that means he can get Melo.

  • http://www.javonwilliams.webs.com Javon Williams

    I agree with everytging you said here. I believe Denver is the best fit for Melo. Other teams don’t have the stuff to support Melo. If he wants to win he should stay in Denver. Look at all the great players in the past, MJ, Kobe, and others. They’ve stayed in the same city and won all those titles. I think Melo should stay in Denver.

  • http://briandoolittle.com/nba-radio-show/ Brian Doolittle

    First, thank you for being on my radio show again … and I agree with everything said here. And I love those final 3 paragraphs!

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com Jeremy

    As far as the salaries, I did assume Yao would return to the Rockets at a similar salary. If Yao is completely off the books then even with Carmelo the Rockets would have significant cap space.

    From the Nuggets standpoint I did not include a salary for J.R. and failed to consider adding in $5 or $6 million in case they trade him for a player with a non-expiring contract. I also did not include Kenyon because I am not sure if he can continue playing and if he does, it will be at a greatly reduced rate.

    I also did not mention all the Rockets promising young players and I probably should have. I thought I was getting a little too long with the post and as I attempted to point out, if the Rockets do trade for Melo it will be at the expense of some of their young talent.

    I still stand by my assessment that financially the Nuggets with Melo are in just as good of a financial position as the other teams would be if Melo was on their books next season.

    Thanks for reading and for taking the time to leave comments everyone!

  • http://burmesemtv.com Linn

    not so sure about that..

    but i think melo needs to change teams because denver may not progress in WEST

  • Vernon

    You forget the hornets who can offer an attractive package with cash and picks, any team with both CP3 and Melo is going to be a contender… We would also probably keep West in the deal and definitely keep Okafor as you wouldnt touch that contract, that leaves a very respectable team.

  • TSal

    A hornets trade would have to include one more team to make it work. CP3 and Melo one one team is nice, but not an instant competitor. Denver has a chance to build and win now, they should sct accordingly

  • Vernon

    Peja + Pondexter + Brackins + Picks + cash for Melo
    if you want to get rid of Andersens contract as well, Songaila can be put in as well. If this isnt enought there is Thornton that can be added. Or you could get Ariza instead of Songaila for Andersen.

    That seems a fair trade in comparison to many of the other ideas being bandied around, Any of these combinations is just as competitive as any other teams offer.

    And a team of Paul Thornton/Ariza/Pondexter Anthony west Okafor instantly contends.

  • Vernon

    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=26n9qv5

    I could put in Pondexter too but i think you would want less salary this year. A deal that included Ariza would have to go down later on in time (i think mid december)

    No third party involved, however, i believe the only way NO would trade for Melo is if he had already signed an extension. We dont want a one year rental and playing with CP3 is very appealing so it isnt unrealistic, it only depends on his wifes reluctance to go to New Orleans.

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