There are few certainties with the Melo situation, but here's one: If he's still reluctant to stay in Denver long-term by the February trade deadline, he's outta there. The Nuggets just bore witness to the Cavaliers and Raptors being stripped bare this past summer, and they want no part of that.
They're getting something for their franchise superstar, and it's going to be more than future draft picks.
Now, as the Nets-Bobcats-Jazz-Nuggets deal was being batted around last week, a few dark horses emerged in the Melo race, including the Philadelphia 76ers. The Nuggets are reported to be extremely fond of Andre Iguodala, with his name repeatedly coming up in trade talks regarding Melo.
The only problem is: Melo isn't so hot on Philly.
According to a recent report from the Philadelphia Daily News, Anthony would not sign a contract extension in Philadelphia. Given that he's currently on the last year of his current contract, you'd have to think that might become a sticking point for Philly before signing on the dotted line.
There haven't been any concrete reports about what the Sixers would be offering Denver for Anthony, but the Nuggets have insisted on some combination of young talent and draft picks in exchange for their superstar. Seeing as a straight Melo-for-Iggy swap wouldn't work under current CBA rules, Philly would likely have to throw in another ancillary player and future draft considerations to land Anthony.
If Anthony would agree to an extension in Philly, I'm guessing you'd be hard-pressed to find a Philly fan who wouldn't be willing to explore a trade based around Melo and Iggy. Throw in Thaddeus Young, throw in Lou Williams, throw in draft picks, we won't care; we'll have a superstar like we haven't had since the early-2000s version of Allen Iverson.
Melo may not be a top-five player in the NBA, and may be jacking up shots at a surprisingly low efficiency rate, but he's still a guy that brings any team instant credibility. With Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday by his side, the Sixers would suddenly be favorites for one of the Eastern Conference's final few playoff spots.
But what happens for Philly if Melo won't accept an extension? Should they still consider the deal?
According to the most recent reports, Melo's unwillingness to sign an extension is a trade non-starter in Philly's eyes. That doesn't necessarily make it the right call, though.
Let's briefly explore both sides of the argument.
Why the Sixers Should Trade Iggy for Melo
If the Sixers end up trading for Melo without an extension, they'd have to be able to stomach the possibility of losing Anthony for nothing at the end of the year.
In effect, they'd have to be willing to trade Iguodala for a one-year return and nothing more.
Most teams wouldn't be so hot on trading away their No. 1 player for a one-year rental, especially if those teams had absolutely zero championship aspirations in the coming season.
Then again, we can't forget that Melo's departure would free up nearly $20 million in cap space for Philly—cap space that won't otherwise exist if the Sixers decide to keep Iguodala instead.
While the free agent class of 2011 doesn't boast the A-list superstars that 2010's summer of LeBron did, a main course of Yao Ming along with a side of Tony Parker isn't a bad place to start.
Then, consider that the players in the draft class of 2007 will become restricted free agents at the end of this year if they don't sign extensions by October 31. That means guys like Joakim Noah and Jeff Green could be hitting the auction block (assuming the NBA isn't locked out), with a team like the Sixers suddenly looking to replace a superstar in Anthony with his nearly $20 million of cap space burning a hole in their pockets.
And keep in mind, free agency in 2011 won't start until the owners and players' union hammers out a new CBA.
The owners don't want to keep paying players absurd amounts of guaranteed money. Contracts are virtually guaranteed to shrink under the next CBA. And the Sixers would have money to pounce.
Suddenly, the Sixers have serious potential in this situation. Either:
A. Melo comes to Philly, loves it, inks an extension, and becomes the biggest Philly superstar since Iverson; or
B. Melo comes to Philly, rocks the city for a year, leaves, opens cap space, and the Sixers can overspend like drunks.
If you're of the opinion that the Evan Turner/Iguodala combo will never succeed, or that a championship team can't be paying a second (or third?) banana $14 million/year, then there's a truly legitimate argument for jettisoning Iggy. Given his dominant defensive performances with Team USA this summer, Iguodala's trade stock may never be higher.
Why the Sixers Should Only Trade for Melo If He'll Sign
This seems pretty logical, right? A team gives up its best player (Iguodala) and, in return, would expect more than a year of services from the player it traded for (Anthony)?
If Melo would willingly sign an extension, this deal quickly shifts to the "no-brainer" side. But, seeing as there are absolutely zero indications that he'll do so, we're left with the above question.
And the answer is yes, the Sixers should expect more out of an Iguodala trade than one year out of Anthony.
It's the same reason I wanted to tear out my hair when Iggy's name started floating in Tracy McGrady trade rumors this past season: You don't trade away your best player for an expiring contract/cap space.
Would the Cavaliers have wanted to trade LeBron James to Houston for T-Mac this past year, had they known that LBJ was planning on leaving? I'm gonna guess no.
The same should apply for the Sixers. If they're convinced that Iguodala and Turner could never mesh, they should be shopping Iggy on the open market and seeing what other offers they could find.
By readily accepting a deal for Carmelo, they'd essentially be committing themselves to a yearlong sales pitch on why Melo should sign with the Sixers long-term.
The only problem is, their message may already be falling upon deaf ears. In which case, they'll have given up Iguodala, their best player, for one year of Carmelo Anthony. That's a tough sales pitch to anyone involved with the team.
The bottom line is that the Sixers can't be expected to trade Iguodala, draft picks, and other young players for Anthony if he won't sign an extension. No franchise would mortgage their future like that for one year, especially when they're not in championship contention.
If the Nuggets insist on receiving multiple first-round draft picks despite Melo refusing an extension in Philly, that should be a non-starter for the Sixers.
But if the Sixers could somehow coerce the Nuggets into taking Iguodala and another player (Lou Williams?) for an extension-less Melo, Philadelphia would have to consider the deal.
The potential for accelerating the rebuilding process by ditching Iggy's contract is too great to ignore. Having nearly $20 million freed up by Melo in 2011 (plus Kapono's $6 million), Andres Nocioni's $7.5 million/year contract expiring in 2012, and the albatross that is Elton Brand's $16 million/year contract ending in 2013, the Sixers would have plenty of flexibility in the coming seasons to continue building around Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner.