Of all the teams rumored to be in the hunt for superstar small forward Carmelo Anthony there is a dark horse team lurking, and if the Atlanta Hawks decide they are serious about competing with the Miami Heat they have the assets to get it done. But they probably wont, which is why the Hawks are the dark horse in the Carmelo sweepstakes.
While the New Jersey Nets have come the closest to enticing the Denver Nuggets to part with their mercurial franchise player and Carmelo is rumored to prefer the Chicago Bulls or New York Knicks—the Hawks can pull it off.
I believe the Hawks have the potential to offer the most enticing packages of tradable assets to pry away Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets.
Simply put this is a trade that I think would work and should happen, but probably won't because of economics and team politics. But it still could.
The Hawks have the assets that the Nuggets are looking for; young All-Star caliber talent locked up to reasonable long-term contracts, large expiring contracts and first round draft picks.
Here are some examples of how a trade between the Nuggets and Hawks for Carmelo Anthony could work. Salary ramifications were verified using the ESPN NBA Trade Machine.
Trade Scenario No. 1
Hawks receive, SF Carmelo Anthony and C Chris Anderson
Nuggets receive, PF Josh Smith, G Jamal Crawford and 2011 first and second round picks.
Why it works—Hawks get Carmelo, Nuggets get a young star, financial relief and future picks.
Why it doesn’t—The Hawks would be he flirting with luxury tax ramifications, and Chris Anderson’s contract might make them balk.
Trade Scenario No. 2
Hawks receive, SF Carmelo Anthony
Nuggets receive, PF Josh Smith, SF Marvin Williams and 2011 first round pick.
Why it works—Basketball wise, this is the best deal the Nuggets can get from the Hawks.
Why it doesn’t—The Nuggets are in cost cutting mode, and might want financial relief more than talent right now.
Trade Scenario No. 3
Hawks receive, SF Carmelo Anthony, SG Arron Afflalo
Nuggets receive, PF Josh Smith, G Jamal Crawford and 2011 first round and 2011 second round picks.
Why it works—Hawks get Carmelo and no other serious contract, Nuggets get young star, financial relief and future picks.
Why it doesn’t—At the end of the day, the Hawks’ ownership group might not be able to get on the same page.
Now there is a huge aspect to any Carmelo Anthony trade that I have not yet mentioned—he is about to become a free agent.
So any team that trades for him is going to want assurances that he is willing to sign a long-term contract extension with them before they pull the trigger. Of all the teams rumored to be on Carmelo’s list, Atlanta is not one of them.
But, I think the Hawks should make a calculated gamble on Carmelo, so that even if he is not willing to sign an extension they should trade for him anyway. Pairing him with All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson and budding star Al Horford in a city such as Atlanta might be enough to make him reconsider.
And Atlanta is a city just waiting for a superstar it can identify with since Michael Vick, um, left. Atlanta has a population that is over 50 percent black, has a very strong affluent black middle-class, an excellent nightlife, thriving culture and music scene.
So while the Hawks have problems drawing crowds historically because so many people who live in Atlanta did not grow up there, those same fans would flood the Hawks’ arena to watch Carmelo play on a great team.
So the Hawks can offer Carmelo excellent sidekicks who are under long-term contracts, a city in which he can be very comfortable long and short term and a ravenous fan base just waiting to be unleashed.
If that isn’t enough to persuade Carmelo to sign before the Hawks trade for him, it might be enough after they trade for him.
Not to mention that if the Hawks traded for Carmelo without signing him they would still control his Larry Bird Rights, which means under the current CBA they can offer him more money and years than any other team absent a sign and trade.
And the CBA is due to expire, and NBA commissioner David Stern is asking for a reduction in player salaries of up to 40 percent in the new CBA. If Carmelo doesn’t sign his new contract under the current CBA, he might not be able to recoup the money he loses in the process.
But the biggest obstacle to Carmelo Anthony going to the Hawks is not Anthony himself or the difficulty of finding the right combination of players for the trade; it is the Hawks ownership group.
The Hawks organization is still a total mess, and this is a direct result of the convoluted ownership structure.
First off because of organizational division the Hawks are considered to be a cheap franchise. Already rumors have started that they may dump Josh Smith just to be rid of his salary due to the recent massive extension of Joe Johnson.
So why would the Hawks consider adding the massive salary of Carmelo Anthony when they are rumored to be interested in cutting costs? Because you have to spend money to make money.
Financially the trade would be a massive boost to the Hawks bottom line. Forget the massive increase in merchandise profits that come from jersey sales but the Hawks would start to not only sell out their own arena—but opposing arenas as well. Remember road teams get a cut of the gate as well.
And then take into account the money that comes from making deep playoff runs every single year, being given more nationally televised games and way more exposure and discussion on sports radio and ESPN. While the move would put the Hawks in or close to luxury tax land, it would be worth financially.
But the idea of getting the Hawks ownership on board with that concept is one that might be impossible.
All NBA teams have one person who claims the title of owner. Either it is a primary owner, one person who owns a majority or all of the team of the team or a governor who leads a group of investors in a Limited Liability Corporation.
The Hawks don't follow this model, they have nine owners divided into three separate groups. Each one of these groups has a vote, and each vote is considered equal. In order for major financial decisions to be made, such as trading for and signing Carmelo Anthony, would require all the groups to be on the same page.
Now the reason for this insane ownership structure goes back to 2005. That is when the Hawks finalized a sign and trade deal for Joe Johnson. The controlling voice of the organization, or governor of the ownership group, Steve Belkin, rejected this move. The group, furious with him, circumvented him by deposing him of his seat as governor.
Belkin fought back through the courts, and while the Johnson deal inevitably went through the back and forth legal wrangling of the Hawks ownership group has forced them into the current convoluted structure until the courts figure everything out.
So the idea of getting all these guys on board with the idea of bringing in Carmelo Anthony seems to be an almost insurmountable obstacle. More so than Carmelo’s preferences, NBA economics or the problem of finding the right trade combination.
And this is why the Hawks are the dark horse for Carmelo Anthony, they have the assets to get it done but not the organizational stability to pull off something so complicated. While they could do it, odds are they wont.