If you have been following the bonanza of Carmelo Antony trade rumors that are exploding all over the internet the past 48 hours, I am sure you are wondering what you can believe and what you cannot. The real truth is that no one person knows exactly what is going on. This much is true, the Nuggets are set to receive Derrick Favors, Andrei Kirilenko and a pair of first round picks for Carmelo Anthony in a four team deal that also includes the Charlotte Bobcats.
There is no lack of motivation for a deal by any of the parties involved. The Jazz want to save money, and this trade would reportedly save them about $13 million next season. The Bobcats desperately need a starting caliber point guard after the free agent departure; they would receive Devin Harris from New Jersey in exchange for Boris Diaw. The Nets desperately want a star caliber face of the franchise, and the fact Carmelo is the numero uno object of desire from the cross river rival Knicks is all the better – remember the billboard the Nets put up at the start of free agency near MSG?
The Nuggets know Carmelo does not see a future for himself in Denver and waiting to pull off a sign and trade when they have zero leverage or until the trade deadline when their position is only slightly stronger. The Nuggets laid out the assets they were hoping to glean in exchange for Carmelo which were a young, player full of potential, expiring contracts and a first round draft pick or two. This trade gets them everything they asked for. Trading Carmelo will probably be the most difficult thing that the current Nuggets front office will ever do. Even so, it must be done and I cannot imagine Denver getting a better offer than the one currently on the table.
Keeping these facts in mind, I believe this trade will happen despite all the current hand wringing going on by those involved.
By all accounts the Nuggets are holding up the trade in the attempt to pry Joakim Noah from the Bulls or Blake Griffin from the Clippers. If that is indeed the case, I have two thoughts. First, good for them. If they think there is a chance to land a better deal, and in my humble opinion the current trade on the table is far better than any deal they would do with Chicago, they should take a day or two to make sure this trade is their best option.
Secondly, if they hold this deal up much longer and it falls apart, shame on them. Utah will have other options to shed salary and if they do so, this trade will be gone and the new Nuggets management triumvirate will get the reputation of a group that will yank you around and are not worth working with. Billy King is reportedly getting very nervous and is pushing the Nuggets to pull the trigger as Denver continues to work the phones (Denver apparently is still interested in wresting Jeff Foster from the Pacers). I gave Denver’s management kudos on Twitter for acing their first major test, but if they let this opportunity go by they will regret it. They might convince themselves that the Nets will be willing to part with Favors, Harris and two first round picks anytime, but why would King go through this again knowing that the Nuggets could string him along again?
Of course, the Nets are not without fault. They are holding out hope the Bobcats will include D.J. Augustine to provide them some Farmar’s insurance in case Jordan Farmar is as bad as he has looked at times in L.A. That has certainly slowed this process down as well.
If I was a Magic 8 Ball I would say all signs point to yes when it comes to this deal getting completed.
Getting to the trade itself, as you can tell I am very bullish on it. Favors is an out of this world athlete and talent who has the chance to be a top flight power forward. He is very raw and young, but has the ability to contribute right away. Most importantly, he is a very hard worker and plays will complete effort on every play. I will take him over any other player that has been listed as being sought by the Nuggets save for Blake Griffin and when you factor in Griffin’s injury history there is room for debate over which player is more likely to reach his potential.
The two first round draft picks that are coming to Denver are nice assets as well. One will belong to the Nets, which would likely be a mid first round pick. The other belongs to the Warriors. It is protected 1-7 in years 2012 and 2013 and top six protected in 2014. The bad news is if the pick is not conveyed by 2014, it defaults to two second round picks. With the stable of players in Golden State and the presence of new owners I seriously doubt Denver gets stuck with two second round picks. My intuition tells me Denver will get that pick in the summer of 2012 and that it will be a top ten pick.
For those of you hoping to get a pick in 2011, read this Chad Ford article (Insider required). Many GM’s are worried that the possibility for the lockout will decimate the pool of players available next June.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the trade is Andrei Kirilenko. At first he appears to simply be a large expiring contract that the Nuggets have sought as part of any trade for Carmelo and of course his $17.8 million contract does come off the books after the 2010-11 season. However, it would appear the Nuggets have more in mind for AK-47 than watching his contract come off the books after the season. The shocking news about this deal is the Nuggets are actually adding salary. And we are not talking just a few thousand dollars. Denver is looking to add between $3.5 and $5.2 million to the payroll.
The Jazz are reportedly receiving Quentin Ross from New Jersey in addition to Boris Diaw, but under the CBA where salaries for teams over the cap must be within 125% plus $100,000 that alone is not enough salary to make up for the $17.8. However, if the Nuggets send Renaldo Balkman and his $1.65 million salary to Utah, it will not only make the deal work, but will help reduce the financial impact of the trade.
There are certainly some opportunities for Denver to decrease payroll in this trade. The reported outline of this trade has room for Chris “Birdman” Andersen and/or J.R. Smith to be sent to one of the other teams involved.
This added payroll may give us some indication as to what the Nuggets plan to do next season.
Could the Nuggets be every bit as good as they were last season with a starting five of Chauncey Billups, Arron Afflalo, Andrei Kirilenko, Kenyon Martin (once he is healthy) and Nene? Do not forget about a bench featuring Ty Lawson, J.R. Smith, Al Harrington, Birdman and Favors?
I have been a strong advocate of rebuilding right away when Carmelo was traded, but with George Karl back from cancer and entering the final year of his contract and Chauncey getting up in age and able to be bought out in 2011-12 I am interested to see how well the Nuggets may be able to do. They are certainly in position to be a much improved defensive team.
The key would be Kirilenko. He has struggled with lower leg problems over the previous few seasons. He is 29 and entering his tenth season. The last two seasons he has missed 24 and 15 games respectively including the first eight games of the playoffs last season. He did return for the for the final two games of the Jazz second round sweep at the hands of the Lakers, but he only played 29 minutes in those final two games.
Offensively, Denver could become much more of a system team like Utah. There is no primary offensive player that must be focused on allowing the team to take advantage of the above average passing abilities of their frontcourt. There will be no more need to clear the lane and stand a stare at Carmelo waiting for him to make his move. It will be a great study of the benefits of a star who draws double and triple teams and the strength of using the collective talents of a group of five players to be better than the sum of the parts.
The big question will be who takes the last shot as that was certainly Carmelo’s specialty.
Of course all of this is mere speculation and could all be for naught. However, I firmly believe this deal will be done and Denver will move on to the future without Carmelo Anthony.
By the way, those of you who were waiting for a post, I was posting my thoughts on Twitter so make sure you follow me @RoundballMiner.