First of all I’d like to wish a Merry Christmas to RMC’s founder and main man Jeremy Wagner for bringing me on board and running THE best Nuggets blog out there-it’s been a great couple of months and I’m looking forward to many more in the future.
I’d also like to say thank you and Happy Holidays to all of our devoted readers here on Roundball Mining Company. Without you guys all this is just words on a page-here’s to a great 2011 for the Nuggets!
But now for the juicy stuff. A week ago today I had the good fortune of attending the Nuggets-T-Wolves game at the Pepsi Center, and for the first time in my 22 years I got to sit courtside at an NBA game (big shout out to John and Liz Fitzgerald for the seats), right next to Mrs. Chauncey Billups nonetheless! I’ve seen hundreds (probably thousands) of games on TV and many up in the nosebleeds, but let me tell you, if you’ve never seen a game from that up close, you get a chance to appreciate professional basketball like never before.
My girlfriend asked me who she should watch out for on the other team, and I said number 42, aka mister Kevin Love. After dropping a 30-30 game earlier this season, I was hoping for another masterful performance on this night (and a Nuggets victory of course), and he (and the game) did not disappoint. K-Love scored a career-high 43 points to go with 17 boards, but the Wolves rally late fell short and the Nuggets won 115-113, a margin that should have been much larger. No Chauncey, Bird, or K-Mart was disappointing but J.R. had a decent offensive game, Afflalo added 17 and Ty, “The Law”-son was the player of the game, dropping 23 points to go along with 9 dimes and 3 steals. As quick as the guy looks on television, triple it from up close. He had his way with first Luke Ridnour, then Johnny Flynn, getting to the hoop with ease.
But alas, not all was merry on this night, as the Nuggets bigs (especially Nene) were in foul trouble the whole game and were dominated down low by Love and Kosta Koufos. Yes, Kosta Koufos.
Yet the Nuggets did just enough to win, and I will again emphasize a point I made in my last post- this can be an above average NBA team without Carmelo Anthony. If they can get a solid return for Melo, a trade should be the way to go. I know you may want to hold onto those number 15 jerseys for as long as possible, but we have to face the reality that Melo will sign with the Knicks this summer (lockout pending) and that getting nothing in return is not an acceptable end result.
Who Should Denver trade Melo to?
Here’s the rub Nuggets fans. Melo wants to go to New York. New Jersey has the pieces to trade for him but doesn’t want a three-month rental. And the contenders that might (Dallas, Orlando) either don’t have the pieces or won’t part with them. So let’s analyze the possible scenarios:
Melo and Renaldo Balkman to Dallas for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and Dallas’ 2011 1st-round pick
Looking at this trade on paper it might be as good as the Nuggets could do. Yes it may require another draft pick from Dallas, and yes Denver would probably have to trade either K-Mart or Birdman in a separate trade to free up the frontcourt logjam, but it could work. Dallas adds Melo to an already solid core of Kidd, Nowitzki, Chandler, Terry and Marion and gets rid of Haywood’s contract and uninspired play (and allows youngsters Ian Mahinmi and Alexis Ajinca to see time at backup center). Denver gets a solid starting three to replace Melo (which keeps J.R. as the super-sixth man), and can move Nene to power forward (where he truly belongs) alongside Haywood in the starting lineup.
Melo and Shelden Williams to Chicago for Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver and 2011 1st-round pick
Korver has to be thrown in to make the salaries work, but also gives Denver a three-point shooter off the bench (Korver is much more efficient from downtown than J.R.) that they could throw into another possible trade with K-Mart or Bird. Obviously Nuggets fans would like to see Joakim Noah wear the powder blue and gold but it’s evident that the Bulls will not part with their young center. In this deal the Nugs would get stuck with Deng’s extremely bloated contract, but also get a decent small forward who can score along with another solid player in Gibson who can play at either the 3 or 4 (and is an upgrade over Forbes off the bench). I’d prefer the Dallas trade over this one, but if Chicago offers this before the deadline, Denver might have to take it (if there are no better offers).
Melo to Philadelphia for Andre Iguodala, Darius Songalia and two first-round picks
Melo to New Jersey for Derrick Favors, Troy Murphy and three first-round picks
This is when things get interesting. If you’re Masai Ujiri, would you rather have Igoudala (who becomes the small forward and team headliner for the foreseeable future), Songalia’s $5 million expiring contract (to go along with Smith [$6 million], Martin [$16 million] and possibly Billups [$13 million team option]) and picks, or the young big man in Favors, Murphy’s $11 million expiring deal, and possibly a third first-rounder? I predict New Jersey (who now has five first-round picks in the next two drafts) will throw a third first-rounder in to sweeten their offer, which may end up being as good as Denver will get. It’s either one of these two options, or take 50¢ on the dollar from the Knicks. Which brings us to this:
Melo and Renaldo Balkman to New York for Wilson Chandler, Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph and Knicks’ 2011 1st-round pick
As each day passes, Nuggets fans get closer and close to this becoming a reality. The Nuggets just don’t have a lot of leverage here (the impending lockout and Melo leaving $65 million on the table being the only reason for Melo to sign an extension) and knowing there’s a 99.9% chance he will bolt to New York this summer, Denver may as well take what they can get from the Knickerbockers. Now, if the Nets can convince Melo to sign an extension with them or the Sixers, Mavs, et al, are interested in a short-term lease then Denver may be able to get a better haul. I just don’t see it happening. Chandler is playing some great ball right now and I see him as a better fit with Denver than Gallinari (who wants to stay in New York); Randolph is getting absolutely no playing time with D’Antoni (surprisingly) and could fill in for Harrington and/or J.R. at the backup forward positions; and Curry’s 500 pound corpse (an exaggeration, but not by much) is clearly a salary dump.
But back to Randolph for a second. If the kid is given a chance, he could pan out to something. Those glimpses of explosiveness he showed at Golden State were not a fluke, and if his mid-range game can stay consistent, he could be a heck of a player. Could be the steal of this trade if given the chance by Coach Karl.
Anyways, hope you all have a great holiday weekend and hopefully the Nugs can pull out a tough road win tonight at the Thunder. Westbrook has been MVP-caliber at the point so far, Durant is on pace to win another scoring title and their role guys (like Collison, Ibaka, Green) do their jobs really well. These two squads always play each other tough and the outcome usually comes down to the wire (who can forget Melo’s game winner in Oklahoma City two years ago). Again, this one could come down to the play of Nene in the post, whose erratic play ranges from All-Star one game to fouling out with a 5 point, 5-rebound line the next (which he did against Minnesota). No Melo tonight, but J.R. should fill the scoring void nicely, and with K-Mart and Chauncey back in the starting lineup, I predict a Nuggets victory with a defensive stop at the finish-here’s hoping that’s not the eggnog talking!