How close is Carmelo Anthony to becoming a member of the New Jersey Nets? Close enough that the Nets and Pistons “were surprised on Sunday night when Denver allowed the players included in the proposed trade to play in a game against the New Orleans Hornets.” That sounds like a deal that is all but done.
As difficult as it is for the Nuggets to swallow shipping Carmelo Anthony to the swamps of Newark, the proposed three team 13 player trade, which could include as many as 15 players when all is said and done (that would be a record) also requires them to say goodbye to Chauncey Billups as well, which certainly merits discussion in a future post. All I will say for now is it seems Denver is throwing in Billups to save more money and possibly help convince Melo to sign with the Nets when Denver could have simply held onto Chauncey and received Favors, Harris, Murphy and two first rounders for Melo alone.
If there is any question in your mind that Carmelo would agree to play for the Nets, all you need to know is that Melo’s agent, Leon Rose, is the one pulling the strings behind the scenes. Sorry Knicks fans, Rose wants the commission on that three year, $65 million deal more than Melo wants to play in MSG.
After all the fretting and consternation, should this deal become a reality, how well did the Nuggets do? A haul of Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, some warm bodies with expiring contracts and two first round picks is under the circumstances a very good deal for Denver although as mentioned above they are getting only additional savings for throwing Chauncey into the deal which is eating at me more and more as I dwell on it. In the end the Nets were basically negotiating against themselves as Denver made it abundantly clear the Knicks were nowhere near being able to consummate a trade for Carmelo. The Nuggets were fortunate the Nets were desperate beyond words to acquire Carmelo otherwise we would be welcoming Danilo Gallinari and Landry Fields to Denver instead of Favors, Harris and two decent first round picks.
Looking at the players involved, the real keys are obviously Favors and Harris. Favors is a huge and athletic power forward who will not be able to drink legally for another 18 months. He makes his living around the basket with four of his 4.7 shots a game coming from within ten feet although he does not have much of a post up game to speak of. Reportedly a very hard worker Favors is a prospect that can help provide hope for the future. The biggest reason to watch the rest of the season will be to track his development. For now all you need to know about Favors is Nets fans are not real keen on losing him and he was by far the best prospect the Nuggets were offered in exchange for Carmelo.
Harris is a former all-star, although clearly not a perennial all-star, who is very quick to the rim and has good court vision. At one time as a member of the Dallas Mavericks he was an efficient scorer who played very good defense. His trade to the Nets, in the deal that sent Jason Kidd to Dallas, saw a transformation where he became a less efficient scorer, due to the fact he had to carry the offensive load, and defense was not quite as big a priority. It will be interesting to see how he plays in Denver. For those hoping he will revert to his ways as a Mav keep in mind he is replacing a scoring point guard on a team who just lost their top two scorers.
The key to the acquisition of Harris is he is a player coveted by other franchises. Denver could probably trade him to Charlotte tomorrow for Boris Diaw’s expiring contract and probably a protected first round pick. Portland is another team who has shown significant interest in Harris, but not so much they will agree to part with Nicolas Batum who the Nuggets reportedly covet. While Harris may be detoured from Chopper Circle to the trade route as soon as he arrives in Denver it might make some sense to see how he fits in Denver’s fast paced iso heavy offense. Ultimately, Lawson will be the point guard of the future in Denver and Harris regardless of fit or talent level will probably be a short timer. Contract wise Harris is well paid, but with two years and roughly $19 million remaining he will not kill Denver’s cap and is very moveable.
The worst part of the rumored trade is the inclusion of Anthony Morrow and not because he is not an NBA player, but because he possesses a contract that runs through 2012-13 paying him a flat $4.0 million per season. Morrow was a great fit in Golden State in their wide open up and down style of play where he capitalized on numerous open looks from behind the arc. He could find similar opportunities in Denver, but he joins a crowded rotation at shooting guard with Arron Afflalo, J.R. Smith and possibly Devin Harris also looking for minutes at that spot.
The only other player of note in the deal is rookie point guard Ben Uzoh. An undrafted free agent out of Tulsa, Uzoh is a long and athletic point guard who might prove one day to be Lawson’s back up. Look for him to spend the rest of the season in Boise with the Stampede unless Anthony Carter somehow finds his way into the trade.
The other assets Denver would be receiving are two first round picks. The Nets have five first round selections in the next two drafts although the two most valuable are heavily protected. The Nets own the Warriors’ first rounder in 2012, but it is top seven protected in 2012 and 2013 and top six protected in 2014. The bad news is if it is not conveyed by 2014, it transitions into a second rounder. The Nets have a similar pick from the Rockets that is lottery protected between 2012 and 2016. It too becomes a second round pick, in 2017, if it is not conveyed by then. New Jersey also owns their own first round picks and the Lakers owe them a first rounder starting this June which is top 18 protected. Denver should certainly receive the Warriors pick, but none of the others are very tantalizing. The Nets own pick this June might be the second most valuable.
With all that being said, what will Denver look like going forward? The Nuggets will still be a talented team with Lawson and Harris at the point and Uzoh lurking for the future, J.R. Smith, Arron Afflalo and Morrow at shooting guard. Small forward becomes a bit of a weak spot with Gary Forbes the likely starter with Stephen Graham and Quentin Ross possibilities there as well. In the front court the Nuggets will still have Kenyon Martin, Nene, Chris Andersen, Al Harrington and now Favors. Denver would be wise to include Harrington in the trade if at all possible and it is possible he is the current hang up as the Nuggets brass is reportedly looking to make changes to what players will be involved. Shelden Williams may or may not be on his way to the Nets or Pistons as the Nuggets frontcourt is suddenly crowded. We could see George Karl either play small, although that would limit Favors’ playing, or Harrington could return to his original position of small forward opening up more time for Favors.
Financially Denver is looking at saving a great deal of money immediately. In addition to the estimated $5 million in salary they will save, their luxury tax bill will be reduced by $10 million. Plus it puts Denver close enough to the limit where they might be able to make a trade or two to get under the tax threshold this year. Going forward Denver would only have Harrington, Favors, Harris, Birdman, Afflalo, Balkman, Morrow and Lawson under contract for 2011-12 with Nene possessing a player option for that season. Denver could be looking at significant cap space depending on what they do with Harris and what Nene chooses to do. If Harris is traded Denver will only have around $33 million committed for next season. If Nene opts out, that number drops to about $22 million.
The saving grace for Nuggets fans at this point is once the trade is completed we can all finally move on. This season was doomed from the start as Carmelo was determined to force his way out. While the team somewhat admirably played well to start the year despite the swirling rumors it is obvious things have bottomed out. After pathetic showings against two of the three worst teams in the conference and now a sorry home loss to the reeling Hornets who are 11-15 since starting the season 11-1 something needed to be done to move on.
This trade needs to be completed and it needs to happen now. The Nuggets cannot continue to drag this out, for the sake of the teams they are negotiating with, for their own sake and for the sake of the fans. As much as it pains me to say it, Sunday’s loss should be the last game Carmelo suits up as a Nugget.
Other Melo to New Jersey Links
The Daily Dime has some info from J.A. Adande, Dan from Piston Powered, and of course, yours truly.
Andrew at Denver Stiffs reports Melo was roundly booed during the second half of Sunday night’s game. Despite his best efforts not to be the bad guy in all of this, there is no way to avoid the truth he is forcing his way out of Denver.
Chris Tomasson reports Melo just will not give up the ruse and continues to act like he is some kind of innocent victim of baseless rumors.
Dennis of Nets are Scorching has the line of the day proclaiming that if the Nets believe that adding Carmelo and oldsters Billups and Hamilton will fix the team “is equivalent to taking a trip to the Joshua Tree out west and shrooming it up.” Ouch.
Dan at Piston Powered looks at how this trade works under the CBA.
Ken Berger wonders why Melo would agree to sign with the Nets when he obviously prefers the Knicks?
If that is not enough links for you, head on over to Nets Daily where they have a gaggle of them.