It is fairly common knowledge by now that Carmelo Anthony would like to continue his NBA career elsewhere.
After reaching the playoffs in each of his seven high-scoring seasons with the Denver Nuggets, Anthony now believes that the grass will be greener somewhere else—New York, New Jersey or Chicago to be specific.
There is a school of thought that insists on believing that Anthony can still be convinced to remain with the Nuggets. This school draws a parallel between Anthony and Chris Paul, in that they see both players as wanting to see the direction the team is heading before making a commitment.
This idea loses credibility when you look at the realistic directions in which the Nuggets can actually head.
Kenyon Martin, Arron Afflalo, J.R. Smith all come off the books at the end of the season. Chauncey Billups' contract includes a $3.7 million buyout this summer. Nene's contract is a $11.6 million team option. Assistant coaches Tim Grgurich and Jamahl Mosley, both close to Anthony, are gone. George Karl is in the final year of his deal. Front-office execs Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman were let go.
Clearly an unstable franchise at the moment, with only two real paths from which to choose.
The Nuggets, in an effort to show Anthony that they are committed to keeping the current window open, could extend the deals of Martin and Smith. This is highly risky, as the Nuggets would then be stuck with two players they didn't want when Anthony leaves anyway.
The other pitch they could make to Anthony is for him to be patient while they blow things up a bit and rebuilt the team around him. This obviously won't be terribly appealing to Carmelo.
No, there is really nothing that Denver can do or say that can realistically sway Carmelo Anthony. If the offer of a short extension with maximum dollars, especially given the uncertainty of the labor situation this coming summer, doesn't influence Carmelo to sign, then nothing will.
Carmelo Anthony will not be a Denver Nugget next season. That is as close to a fact as you can get in this situation. Even his former college coach knows it.
"He wants a place he can win," Boeheim told the New York Daily News recently. "And I hope he can do that. He's in the prime of his career. He'd be a great foundation to build a franchise on."
The Denver brass have made it pretty clear what they hope to get back in a trade for their star forward. They want a young player with star potential. They would also like one or more high first-round draft picks, and a decent veteran with an expiring contract.
The Knicks, Anthony's top choice, has not, and probably can not, put together an attractive enough package. Anthony's second choice, the Chicago Bulls, refuse to include Joakim Noah in any trade with the Nuggets. The Nuggets wisely consider that to be a deal breaker.
It is highly unlikely Anthony agrees to a trade to Philadelphia or the Clippers, two other rumored destinations.
Any deal is obviously contingent upon Anthony agreeing to extend his contract. No team would be willing to meet the Nuggets' asking price for a one-season rental.
There was a highly publicized, four-team deal floating around last month that had the Nuggets receiving power forward Derrick Favors, the third pick in the 2010 draft, from the Nets and Andrei Kirilenko from the Jazz, as well as the Nets' protected (1-7) first-rounder in 2012.
Despite reports that Anthony blessed the deal, the Nuggets backed out of the negotiations. It is distinctly possible that the Nuggets' management duo of Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri were over their heads in attempting to work out such a complex, and important, deal.
The Nuggets have recently hired salary cap whiz Pete D'Alessandro, potentially speeding up the process of finding a suitable trade for Carmelo Anthony.
The Nuggets will continue to shop Anthony, but might be waiting until after December 15. That is the first day that free agents signed this summer can be included in deals.
So what would constitute a fair deal for the Nuggets?
It is important the Nuggets are realistic in their demands. The team is at a critical juncture, and losing Carmelo without compensation will cripple this team for years to come. Anthony is doing the right thing in giving the Nuggets ample time to move him, so the team simply cannot blow this.
The previously reported four-team deal needs to be revived. It is more than fair compensation for a player determined to walk at season's end.
The Nuggets have almost no leverage in this situation. Carmelo holds almost all the cards. If he is silly enough to want to play for the Nets, the Nuggets would be extremely wise to grab the Nets' offer and begin the process of rebuilding their team.
The New Jersey Nets are the only team with a realistic shot at trading for Anthony. The longer this process drags on, the more the New York Knicks can just sit back and wait for Carmelo to come to them as a free-agent.
There is no way Denver can get equal value for Carmelo. None. With that as a known, the Nuggets have to come to grips with the fact that they are going to have to blow up the team and start over. They need to hope Favors can blossom into a star. They need to trade Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith, preferably for more draft picks. A painful season or two would get them a chance at even more talent through the draft.
The Nuggets lucked into Carmelo in the first place. He gave them seven playoff seasons. The time is now for them to hoard draft picks and hope to luck into another franchise player. Maybe even someone with a more well-rounded game.