The Melo Market has Bottomed Out

After months of rumors, sporadic play on the court, booing fans, speculation out the yin yang, millions of words written in newspapers, magazines, on the internet, in emails, in tweets, spoken around the water cooler and thousands of potentially productive man hours lost to fiddling with the ESPN.com Trade Machine the Carmelo Anthony saga appears to have hit rock bottom.  There are multiple reports that the Nuggets are in negotiations in a three team trade that would send Carmelo to New York in exchange for Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer a future first round pick from the Timberwolves, and if I understand things correctly, an eight digit trade exception.  That is it.  No Danilo Gallinari, no multiple first round picks and no dynamic young player with promise.

Before you completely discount the rumor as being something the Nuggets would never agree to, which my first inclination, keep one thing in mind.  While it is certainly the worst deal for Denver that has been leaked from a talent standpoint it would save the Nuggets roughly $15 million dollars this season.  Denver would be sending out Carmelo’s $17.1 million salary and only taking back $5.8 million providing roughly $4 million in salary savings over the final few months as well as over $11 million in luxury tax payments.  No other trade I have heard or read about would save Denver so much short term money.

Even so, this trade is rife with inadequacies and I cannot imagine the Nuggets hamstringing themselves for the future in exchange for some short sighted savings.  Wilson Chandler has turned himself into a nice player, but if he is the headliner in a trade that sends Carmelo to New York the Nuggets will be in big trouble.  The drop off this season may not be overly dramatic.  In fact, I could see a team of Billups, Afflalo, Chandler, Kenyon, Nene and the solid bench remaining a playoff team.  However, as I pointed out above there is no young player who could potentially become the next franchise player, let alone even a good second banana on a contending team in the trade.

Second of all, Chandler is slated to be a restricted free agent whenever the next free agent period is.  With the Nuggets looking to rebuild, I am not sure the best thing for the franchise is shelling out a new long term deal to Chandler.  The best case scenario is to complete a sign and trade for him.  The question is what could Denver receive in return?  I find it difficult foreseeing the Nuggets acquiring a significant asset in exchange for Chandler.

Next, it may sound exciting to have the rights to a first round pick from a team run by David Kahn.  The issue is the Wolves already owe their 2012 first round pick to the Clippers thus the Wolves could not send the Nuggets their 2011 or their 2013 first round picks.  That does not mean Minnesota could not give the Nuggets a first rounder in June.

The Wolves do own the rights to two future first round picks that could be substituted for their own thanks to the dumping of Al Jefferson.  Minnesota will receive Utah’s first rounder in the 2011 draft unless the Jazz somehow fail to qualify for the playoffs.  As of today’s standings that would be the 19th pick.  Not all first round picks are created equal and Utah’s selection is far from an enticing asset.

Minnesota could also convey a future first round pick from Memphis although it is heavily protected through 2015 ranging from lottery protected in 2011 to top nine protected in 2015 at which point the draft pick would go away in favor of a cash payment.  With Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol heading into free agency after this season I can easily see a scenario where Memphis is a bottom nine team over the next four seasons.  Even if Memphis manages to play well enough they win enough games where the pick is transferred it is going to be at best a late lottery pick.  With the Wolves getting Utah’s 2011 pick, I believe it would allow them to trade their own 2011 first rounder although I cannot envision even the infamous Kahn giving away what will likely be a top three pick for Anthony Randolph.

My penultimate issue with the rumored trade is the fact Denver does not dump any of their long term contracts.  Not even Renaldo Balkman’s tiny contract is included let alone Al Harrington or Chris Andersen’s deals.  The only assets the Knicks would be sacrificing to acquire Melo are Chandler, who is replaced by Melo, Randolph, who does not play, and their future cap space which they would gladly spend on Melo anyway.  I do not think having the Knicks toss in anther expiring contract, such as Keleena Azibuike, while taking back Harrington is too much to ask.

The final aspect of this trade that I dislike is the most talented player involved apart from Melo ends up in Minnesota.  From the start I have said the player I would demand from the Knicks in any Melo trade is Anthony Randolph.  His rising star has faded a bit as he has been chained to the bench in New York and his value has certainly decreased.  Do not let that fool you, he is the kind of potential star player Denver should be looking to acquire.  Randolph is still only 21, can rebound, block shots and has proven he can be an effective scorer when given the chance.  I have no idea why he is not playing in New York.  Whatever the reason is I would not let him go to another team in exchange for a draft pick of questionable value.

There is a strong movement afoot that the Knicks carry all the cards at this point.  I disagree with that assessment.  Denver still has the power of putting Melo in the position where he might lose a bundle of money by opting out of his deal after the season.  Also, as Chad Ford pointed out the Knicks are not going to be in position to sign Melo to a max contract (Insider):

Even if the team were to renounce key players Chandler and Shawne Williams, along with Curry, Kelenna Azubuike and Roger Mason, they would have only $12.5 million or so in cap space (assuming no changes in the league’s salary cap). With Melo set to earn $18.5 million next year, that would be a huge pay cut.

Ford then points out the Knicks could free up near max money by trading Timofey Mozgov and Ronny Turiaf.  The real kicker is New York would have to do all of that to offer Melo a max deal under the current salary cap.  There is no way on God’s green earth the new CBA will have a salary cap number anywhere near the current amount.  In order for the Knicks to be in position to give Melo a big payday, they would probably have to completely gut their team.

This is certainly not a secret to anyone involved and that is where Denver can derive their leverage.  Carmelo has been open about his reluctance to miss out on his extension and if the price of playing in New York is to lose his guaranteed $83 million over the next four years to sign a contract for possibly half that much with the Knicks, you have to wonder if he is willing to pay it.

I firmly believe the Nets will come back to the table one last time prior to the deadline.  Even if they do not, the difference between the worst case scenario of losing Melo for nothing and the three way trade we discussed earlier in this post is almost microscopic.  The additions of the soon to be free agent Chandler, a mid first round pick and Corey Brewer are not the pieces you use to rebuild a franchise.

The added bonus of keeping Carmelo is it would allow Denver to focus on basketball for the first time all season.  I agree with George Karl’s assessment that this is the best team he has had in Denver, at least from a talent standpoint.  I would love to see how good they could be without the distractions and rumors holding them back.

If the best deal the Knicks are going to offer is the current one on the table, the Nuggets should tell the Donnie Walsh to get off the phone and pray he is not replaced by Isiah Thomas this summer.  With the Knicks need to shed salary in order to sign Melo as a free agent Denver can get the same deal, if not a better one, in a sign and trade after the season.  Then Denver fans can finally see how badly Melo wants out of town.  Maybe there is a franchise player tag added in the new CBA or maybe, just maybe Melo relents and chooses the big payday in Denver over his “dream” to play in New York.

Whatever happens, there will be plenty more ink and pixels devoted to this ongoing quagmire until we are all put out of our misery.

  • Frontrange

    Clearly a salary dump and we would know who to blame for this mess if this goes down.

    Point of clarification, I believe MN (having first round picks this year) could trade a “best of pick” if they wanted to. I can’t see why they would trade a possible top 3 pick for Anthony Randolph, but since they have Utah’s pick and their own if it is top ten . . they could give Denver the choice of their picks. I have seen that down before.

  • Truitt

    Why would new jersey get back into trade talks( which they voluntarily left) when it would appear that Denver is considering to take a deal which is much less valuable than the one nyk are offering? Denver has no leverage..

    I will admit that I was in the group over the summer that thought a better deal would appear closer to the trade deadline, (at least we would know which temas were headed for the lottery and could possibly get a lottery pick) but I was wrong. If we had traded melo before the season started we could have probably gotten gallo, maybe even Chandler and picks. Considering all the rumors that were out saying that melo only wanted to play for nyk, it was dumb to wait until that became obvious and we lost our leverage.

    Getting Chandler and Brewer is not as bad as it sounds. Brewer may suck on offense but he is an elite defender and doesn’t turn the ball. He will be good off the bench. Chandler can’t score 30 a game like melo, but he can score 15-25 in the flow of the offense, he is almost as good at rebounding as Carmelo and plays better d than Carmelo. So we lose that iconic Player who can take over the fourth but the bench gets deeper and we get better on d. Not equal value, but not as bad as itcould be…

    What should be noted is that now JR, Afflalo, Brewer, and Chandler will all be either restricted or unrestricted FAs after this season, so there will be no excuses for anyone not playing hard as the rest ofthe season (if this trade goes through) will be a try out for 2012 season.

    Personally, I think Denver should try to get that knicks 2014 1st rounder as well because I think that is about as sweet as it will get for us. I also think that given the way that Portland, Memphis, and Phoenix have been playing that this new team can still make the playoffs if they can gel quickly.

    Call me an optimist, but I can wait till this deal happens and everyone can move on.

  • linda wolf

    You have no idea why Randolph isn’t playing under D’Antoni? How about why his family was brought up to the Bay area to try and pressure Don Nelson into playing him more? Nellie used him 22 stubborn error filled minutes a game and was roundly hooted by AR fans for not playing him more. He has talent yes, but may be one of those guys who think they are better than they are (see Al Harrington) and as a result never learn the things they need to to achieve their promise. So far, two good coaches later, AR is still that guy.

  • Pipeline

    Full disclosure: I’m a Wolves fan. Which means I read a lot of pieces like this where somebody makes some Kahn jokes then spends the rest of the piece talking (implicitly, at least) about why it’s such a good move by Kahn. After all, he’s got all these different draft picks to move as a result of dealing Al Jefferson (a “steal” for Utah, unless you happen to actually be a Utah fan), and he’s coming away with Anthony Randolph if this deal actually comes to fruition.

    Take a closer look at Kahn’s actual record. You’d swap out Curry for Flynn today if you could, but overall he’s done a very good job of straightening the cap situation, acquiring picks, and stocking the roster with young talent acquired on the cheap.

  • Pipeline

    Even with a Marbury-type family I think the Wolves are still better off taking a shot on Randolph’s talent, front line athleticism, and reasonable contract at age 22 than they are taking a shot with lottery pick #22 in 2011.

  • David

    I’m a diehard Nuggets fan, and I would love for Denver to get a high-potential asset in return for Anthony. But I just don’t think it’s going to happen. My guess is that the Nuggets brass is starting to realize that if they don’t lower their standards, they’re going to get punk’d just like Cleveland did, and wind up empty handed. Despite what you say, I believe that Melo and New York have all the leverage here. As long as he doesn’t sign that extension and continues to insist that he wants to play for the Knicks, the Nuggets are just out of luck, I’m afraid.

  • Shaun

    So I am a laker fan and like every other day there is some rumor coming from ESPN about the lakers but this one looks like it could be good for denver and LA.

    What do you guys think about a Bynum-Melo Swap?

    Bynum is much better than any other guy your going to get from NY plus he is under contract for 4-5 years and you get to play Nene at PF with Kenyon being your other PF off the bench very much like odom comes off for us.

    • Frontrange

      I have been a big fan of this gamble for awhile although in order to take back Bynum’s injury risk, I would expect a tax of Brown and some salary dumping (Harrington or Birdman) back to LA.

      Melo / Balkman / Birdman for Bynum / Brown / Trade Exemption / Shitting 1st round pick . . .

    • Andy

      A Billups-Bynum swap actually makes better sense for both teams. We could be helping LA win the title this year but Bynum could pay off huge dividends for us in the future if he stays healthy. Add an impact player before the deadline (e.g. Mo Williams) and the Nuggets could be contenders again…maybe even enough to show Melo he would be crazy to leave.

  • k

    Jeremy, you have really taken on the persona of the nuggets this year. I just never know when you are going to show up and perform. Just when I get used to the substitute performances and start preparing for the future. You score 50 pts and I don’t know if I should be excited or depressed. But I would think a healthy bynum would be a best case scenario for the nuggets. Favors may never turn out to be good. A front line of bynum/nene with a backcourt of lawson/afflalo will be competitive. Just might make the lakers too hard to get by with kobe/melo/gasol/odom. …..and billups would do nothing to help the lakers. Rondo, r. Westbrook and others would dominate him. He definately would not give them an advantage over those 2 guys who will probably be standing in the way on the way to the title. I couldn’t imagine the lakers giving up bynum for an aging shootfirst pg. But that’s just me

  • Alex

    Speaking of the Bynum for Melo talks, Bynum is better than anyone else the Nuggets could get from Carmelo where he would actually sign his extension. I would hope that we could get back Barnes or Brown’s expiring for Birdman’s contract also. Birdman would have a hard time getting minutes if we had Bynum, and as much as it stinks to say, we may need some Harrington scoring at the 3 with Melo gone, even if his is the worst contract right now.

  • http://www.nobloodnofoul.com Jason

    Denver’s leverage in the Melo situation is small, but it’s significant. Here it is: If Melo opts out and becomes a free agent, where will he go?

    The only teams projected to have cap space aren’t on his list of preferred destinations. Therefore, he’ll need Denver to work a sign-and-trade…which means NY is going to have to deal with Denver at some point.

    As far as Bynum for Melo, I like that deal much better than the rumored Chandler + 1 pick for Melo deal that’s being discussed. If nothing else, Bynum can be flipped to a team that’s desperate for size (Houston, Detroit, etc.). If Denver turned right around and traded Bynum by himself, they would end up with more than NY is offering for Melo.

  • David

    Jason, I suppose it depends on whether the Nuggets are more worried about getting nothing in return than Melo is worried about not getting that extension money. I’m inclined to think that the Nuggets will blink first, mainly because they just can’t afford to end up like Cleveland last summer.

    As for the Melo-Bynum deal, I think it would be great for the Nuggets. While I do have some concerns about Bynum’s health, it’s their best option at this point. Like someone pointed out, this would allow Nene to slide into the power-forward spot with Bynum starting at center (although Kenyon Martin will likely be gone next year, and therefore wouldn’t be the Nuggets’ version of Lamar Odom).

    Having said that, I’d be shocked if the Lakers pulled the trigger on this trade. Adding Melo to the mix will mess with their chemistry too much, in my opinion. More likely is that the Nuggets realize the Lakers will never take the bait, and are just using these discussions as leverage for another potential deal.

    Hopefully this will get resolved shortly, as I think everyone is tired of wondering what’s going to happen here. What seems certain to me is that Melo won’t be a Nugget after the trade deadline. Right?

  • Allahbuild

    Well now, Hellooo denver fans, remember ME? I’m the guy who told you in Aug 2010, when Melo did not sign the extention, He was coming to NY. YOU guys (at that time) said “why would denver trade Melo to the Knicks? they don’t have anybody we want!” I said THEN, if you guys don’t work on a Deal with US NOW, come the trade deadline you will get Fu$$ed! YOU arrogant, stubborn, greedy assholes! You tried to make a deal with NJ, when I said Melo is coming HOME! remember that? But NOOO, you guys said WE HAVE ALL THE LEVERAGE! Now you all sound like New Arrivals to to the showers on RIKERS ISLAND(that’s our Notorious Jail) Your all Licking you Wounds. “Chandler’s not that bad”, “Gallo’s young”, “Felton is playing well”. You all sound like assfu$$ed Pussy’s. I told you then, Melo want’s to come home, make a good trade,(with us) and get what you can. At that time it could have been, Chandler,Gallo,Fields,Curry’s expiring contract, and YES, a number one pick or ANTHONY RANDOLPH. WOW!!! Proof of your arrogance and greed! Real Nugget fans, Now, Know This To Be True. 7 days now remain, before YOU GET NOTHING! for one of the Best NBA PLAYERS IN CURRENT BASKETBALL HISTORY. Now we will give you Chandler(we can’t sign him and Melo anyway!) Felton(one yr left on his contract,to be replaced NEXT YEAR WITH CP3 anyway) as per Amare, Melo and CP3’s toast at Carmelo’s Wedding) Sound familiar? Curry’s expiring contract (part of the VERY FIRST,Knicks to Denver offer) and if you Rockheads don’t act fast, Randolph or a first rounder,will soon be off the table. You guy’s are PATHETIC, that’s the difference between NY and Denver, When WE know what time it is, WE PULL THE TRIGGER (in EVERY respect, FEEL ME?) I’m going to tell you rockheads ONE MORE TIME, TRADE MELO HOME,NOW! Before you find yourself COMPETING WITH CLEVELAND AND TORONTO, for the WORST RECORD IN THE WEST, YOUR ALREADY SLIPPING TO 7TH PLACE. It’s FUN watching stupid greedy managements in DENVER, trying to out-hustle NEW YORK, SUCKERS!! If you don’t know how we get down, you better ask NJ. See you in the playoffs? MAYBE! PEACE.