The Denver Nuggets open training camp September 28th, and I’m not sure if there’s one person on the planet that knows where Carmelo Anthony will be on this date. Every day, new information is released and the only thing anyone can seem to agree on is that Denver isn’t in 'Melo’s future.
The Nuggets offered Anthony a three-year, $65 million extension in June that he has yet to sign and, unless a Mile High miracle occurs, will never sign.
The writing has been on the wall ever since the Nuggets dropped game four of their opening round playoff series versus the Jazz to go down three games to one. After the 117-106 loss in Utah, Anthony had some choice words concerning his supporting cast.
“At the end of the day, I need some help.” Anthony said. “I’m not sitting here pointing fingers or nothing. As a unit we’ve got to do this together. I can’t do this by myself.”
Anthony wanted help then' he wants it even more now.
When Chris Bosh and LeBron James took their talents to South Beach to form a “Superteam," other ring-less stars began to ponder ways of teaming up and taking the carpool lane to a title.
At Carmelo’s wedding in July, attendee Chris Paul gave an interesting toast that finished with the words, “We’ll form our own big three." The toast referred to Paul and Anthony teaming up with Amare’ Stoudemire, who was also in attendance, as teammates in New York.
The Nuggets can afford to make Anthony the league’s second highest paid player behind Kobe Bryant, but they can’t afford to get “LeBroned” and lose him for nothing.
Anthony, who will be a free agent after this season, is rumored to have New York and Chicago at No. 1 and No. 1A on his list for potential trade destinations. This is important because the Nuggets must keep 'Melo happy in a trade if they want to get anything significant back for their superstar small forward.
Carmelo must agree to a contract extension with whatever team trades for him or else Denver cannot deal him.
The key for the Nuggets is not simply finding a suitor that Anthony will sign with long-term, but one that offers the Nuggets a package of three specific elements. The Nuggets are determined to acquire a young marketable superstar, preferably two expiring contracts, and a future first round draft choice for Anthony’s services.
The New Jersey Nets right now are the only team in the league that seem willing to meet Denver’s demands. The Nets have supposedly offered the third overall pick of this year’s draft, Derrick Favors, along with a future first round draft pick and the expiring contracts of Kris Humphries and Troy Murphy in a package.
This deal would give the Nuggets a marketable young player with huge upside in Favors, to go along with two expiring contracts the Nuggets desperately need in order to clear cap space. The Nuggets enter the 2010-11 NBA season $22 million over the $58 million salary cap, and the acquisition of two expiring contracts coupled with the subtraction of Anthony’s contract would fix this problem in a hurry.
New Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov would love nothing more than to have 'Melo on his side as he attempts to battle the mighty Knicks for publicity in the New York area. Anthony, who was born in Brooklyn, would be everything Prokhorov could wish for as a marketing tool when the Nets move to Brooklyn in 2012.
The big question is will the move to Brooklyn be enough for Carmelo to sign an extension with the Nets? Carmelo rejected a trade to New Jersey before the trade deadline in February, and I am not sure things have changed enough in New Jersey for Anthony to commit the prime of his career to a franchise he rejected just seven months earlier.
Trailing the Nets in the Carmelo sweepstakes are Chicago, New York, and Houston.
The Nuggets seem intent on unloading Anthony out of the Western Conference and sending him east which doesn’t bode well for the Rockets. Also, the marketable young player the Nuggets would want from the Rockets would be Kevin Martin, and Houston isn’t making their high scoring guard part of the discussion.
Chicago has the young talent and future draft picks the Nuggets would want for Anthony, but sources say that center Joakim Noah must be included in any such package. The Bulls say they are holding on to Noah because they think the 25-year-old big man will shine playing next to newly acquired forward Carlos Boozer. The Bulls have reportedly put together a package of Taj Gibson, Luol Deng, and one future first round pick which should hardly dampen Denver’s dealing appetite.
That leaves us with the Knicks. The Knicks have the expiring contract of Eddy Curry to go along with 22-year-old forward Danilo Gallinari, but sources say the Nuggets would want Anthony Randolph along with Gallinari in a deal as well. The Knicks say they will only give up one of these players along with Curry and a first round pick that won’t come until 2014. This means you can pretty much count 'Melo’s No. 1 choice out as a destination for the near future.
The Nuggets are determined to deal Anthony and deal him as soon as possible. First off, Denver doesn’t want to create that awkward situation that would most certainly occur if Carmelo went into the season as a lame duck Nugget. Second, the Nuggets cannot wait around until the trade deadline in February when other clubs will know the Nuggets are desperate to deal their superstar. Denver has a much better chance of receiving their desired package in the coming days or weeks than they would scrambling to avoid being “Lebroned” before the deadline and end up with nothing. Many GM’s around the league believe Anthony will be dealt before training camp for this reason.
All in all, Carmelo Anthony’s days in Denver are numbered. The Nuggets saw what happened to the Raptors and the Cavs this offseason and are determined not to be left empty-handed. Knicks fans will not get their wish of signing Anthony when he becomes a free agent this summer and will have to use their available max contract on someone else.
Carmelo wants what LeBron James and Chris Bosh had this summer, next summer. By making his displeasure with the organization known early, he has let new Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri know he must rid Denver of its superstar now or be left in the cold at season’s end. Ujiri was an executive in Toronto last season and refuses to let what happened in Toronto this summer happen in Denver next summer. Carmelo obviously has a say in the trade discussions since he will be the one deciding on signing an extension, but even 'Melo doesn’t want to spend another year in Denver.
I see Carmelo sucking it up and spending the next couple of years in Newark as the Nets prepare for the move to Brooklyn in 2012. Carmelo’s from Brooklyn, his new wife is from Brooklyn, and 'Melo gets a chance to escape Denver to team up with young stars Devin Harris and Brook Lopez and play for an owner that wants to make the Nets a global phenomenon.
If the move to New Jersey doesn’t happen, expect a long, stress-filled year in Denver for Carmelo and the entire Nuggets organization.