This is the dilemma for the Nuggets: Keep Carmelo Anthony and try to win now, potentially setting the franchise back for years by getting nothing for him when he walks at the end of the season, or trade him soon before the asset depreciates and bury a season of tremendous promise.
The answer would be simple if the Nuggets knew an NBA Championship would be waiting for them at the end of the year, but with no Nostradamus in front office they’re forced to hedge their bets (although it should be noted the vast consensus is they are not a championship team).
Knowing Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin are coming and Al Harrington is not yet 100 percent works in your favor. JR Smith hasn’t played to his potential either. Not to mention not wanting to waste the time and effort put into building a team around the talented Anthony.
But the fear of losing a top 10 NBA talent, in turn forcing the franchise to rebuild with no parts in return, is a scary vision. Knowing this, and Anthony’s resistance to sign a new deal with Nuggets, the smoke signals from Denver suggest their most valuable player’s departure.
This much we know: Anthony has no plans to stay with Denver despite what could be in the team’s future, a grimacing and unfortunate conclusion for the Mile High City’s fortunes, not only to kissing a season goodbye, but losing one of the most talented wing players for what amounts to scrums by comparison or a pile of uncertainty. Right now, we are still unsure how this is going to shake out, but with a potential boom waiting we can make some educated guesses:
1. A Few Sticks of Dynamite
Not to downplay the trade of Anthony—certainly trading Melo would be more than a few sticks of dynamite to the fans of Denver—but we’re talking in terms of competitiveness and rebuilding.
And not wanting to completely start over the Nuggets look to get some more seasoned, but still young, talent in return. They also retain and pursue some of their assets this summer instead of a total fire sale. In this case a team like Chicago is a possibility. Of course, the snag is the Bulls insistence to not give up Joakim Noah who would be a must adhering to rumors. However, Anthony could cause the Bulls to rethink, seeing a player that could push them over the top as they lustfully stare at the playoffs and the grand prize.
In this case the Nuggets’ offense would take a hit, but would have improved defense to build off of.
2. A Plastic Explosive
More powerful than a few sticks of dynamite, the Nuggets bring out bigger explosives parting ways with a few players in addition to Anthony placing a sharper focus on rebuilding.
The rumor is the Nuggets management is high on Andre Iguodala who wants out of the city of brotherly love. Some odd combination of a three-team deal could put Iggy in a Denver uniform while sending Anthony to a team that has the parts to keep Philadelphia and Denver content with a deal. In this case Anthony could suit many teams. Maybe, the New York Knicks could still get involved in an odd four-team trade even, but in that scenario we’d likely see so many players and picks change hands it would cause a bigger explosion.
3. The Nuclear Bomb
After trading their best player, the Nuggets decide to start over. In addition to trading Anthony, the Nuggets jettison Kenyon Martin, JR Smith (whom they’ve tried to trade in the past), Chris Andersen, and maybe Chauncey Billups. Fans in the Denver wince at the thought of a total rebuilding effort.
However, the Nuggets boast Ty Lawson, whom they are very fond of, in a new campaign full of promises despite the growing pains of a young team. With nearly $40 Million in payroll cleared in addition to Anthony the Nuggets are able to build through the draft and pluck key free agents to groom young players while restoring minor competitiveness.
In this case the Nuggets look to get the best young talent and high draft picks they can in return for Anthony creating competition and a base to work from. The pains of 50-60 loss seasons may incur, but unlike the Cavs, who last summer saw LeBron depart for Miami, they will not be hamstrung by long-term contracts of other players brought in to supplement their star.
In this case look for New Jersey, who had previously talked with the Nuggets about exchanging draft picks and a mix that includes Derrick Favors, Kris Humphries, and Troy Murphy. The Nets are an option in other scenarios clearly, but this venture is most likely to be filled by the Nets.
What the Nuggets Will Do
Due to the business sense it is unlikely a near total roster turnover is going to happen even though it may be in the franchise's best long-term interest. A trade with the Nets is still the most likely scenario at this point even without the accompanied fire sale.
However, new possibilities arise everyday. Yahoo! Sports even reported yesterday the Nuggets are interested in the Trail Blazers Nicolas Batum.
What is clear is the Nuggets should make a deal quickly, but holding out until the trade deadline could happen if they don't find a deal to their liking or if they feel a team may find themselves, in their opinion, a Carmelo Anthony short of an NBA Championship or confident they could sign him to a long-term deal.
In my opinion an outside deal not previously discussed is still very much in the cards, but remember all it takes is one team to give in.