It's been an exciting first month and a half to the basketball season, even outside of South Beach. With rumors of big threes in New York and New Jersey abound, it only seems natural that Carmelo Anthony will be a part of one of them, somewhere.
But while a max extension seemed to be a prerequisite for any 'Melo transaction from the start, lately the rumor mill links Anthony with several contenders who might be willing to "rent" him for a title run.
The Dallas Mavericks are rumored to be one such team, but at 23-5, it seems like the Mavericks might be just fine on their own.
With Dirk Nowitzki producing at an MVP-level, Tyson Chandler locking down the paint like no Maverick center before him and Jasons Kidd and Terry, Shawn Marion and Caron Butler filling out a deep supporting cast, the Mavs have looked fantastic so far.
They've defeated every contender except for the Lakers and are on pace for the best season in franchise history.
More importantly, despite two solid, starting caliber players at shooting guard, small forward and center, the Mavericks are clicking on and off the court.
So should they try and acquire Anthony, who would without question be a legit superstar to pair next to Dirk?
Since Carmelo's preference seems to be for the New York Knicks, the Mavericks would probably not get an extension out of Carmelo, they would have him for the January through (hopefully) June run that could end in a title.
After all, with the fragile Celtics, Lakers and Spurs and a Heat team that is having trouble surpassing the sum of their parts, the 2011 title is fairly wide open.
The Mavericks' assets are as follows: Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, Caron Butler's expiring $10.8 million, Chandler's $12.6 million and DeShawn Stevenson's $4.1 million.
Chandler is untradeable, in that he seems to be the sole reason for the Mavericks' defensive transformation.
Rodrigue Beaubois, despite being absent for the Mavs' hot start, is the future of the team, and while they would most likely to be willing to trade him for a freshly-extended Carmelo, he's not worth a six-month rental.
Dominique Jones, the rookie assigned to the D-League has a similar role planned for the organization's future, so he is most likely not available.
That leaves Butler and Stevenson, who could be paired with some of the Mavericks' trade exceptions to snag Anthony, and say, Chris Andersen (who is owed about $4 million per year for the next four years, giving the Nuggets some long term relief) to make the numbers work.
Butler would be replaced in the lineup by Anthony, and it would likely be Marion's crunchtime minutes that are given to Anthony as well. While Marion is a capable defender and an active player, I think it's safe to say that anything he can do, 'Melo can do better.
Jason Kidd, Rodrigue Beaubois (maybe Jones until he gets healthy), Anthony, Nowitzki and Chandler is about as formidable a lineup as you'll find in the NBA these days. They're smart, they can defend and there's plenty of scoring punch from all over the floor.
But is it a better fit?
Carmelo is a high-usage player, just like Dirk. While I don't think Dirk is the type to complain about a lack of touches, the offense is best suited to get him the ball wherever and whenever he wants it.
We've already seen with the Iverson/Anthony pairing that Carmelo doesn't do so hot when paired with another high usage player. Dirk is much more efficient than Iverson, but the "I take a shot, you take a shot" approach isn't exactly ideal, especially when both players make their primary contributions by scoring.
But, the biggest problem for the Mavericks this season has been their offensive struggles, especially when Dirk is off his game. Terry, as brilliant as he's been for stretches this season, especially in the forth quarter, has lost my trust completely when it comes to the playoffs.
He seems to go cold just as the weather warms up, and we've all seen that story before.
Anthony's size and range would make teams hesitate when double-teaming Dirk, and teams with a swingman as their primary perimeter defender would have a tough choice to make.
A small ball lineup with Dirk at the center and Carmelo at the four could be quite difficult to handle as well, especially with Kidd running the fast break. Both can kill you all the way from the paint to the three-point arc, making defenders have to cover a whole lot of room, and that's not counting the shooters the Mavs can surround those two with.
But Butler, for all his early struggles, is really starting to find his place on the Mavericks. He's playing some of the best defense of his career and providing a great compliment to Marion's finesse game with his own physical game.
The question really comes down to this: Do the Mavericks go all-in to win the title this year?
That's been tossed around lately, even with the Jason Kidd trade, but here he is, three years later playing with the Mavs, chasing a title.
But it's true now, with Carmelo's window literally closed after the season's end. Do they tamper with the chemistry that's gotten them 25 wins before Christmas and put a second superstar next to Dirk?
No, they shouldn't.
They shouldn't make a single move.
Butler and Haywood are fully integrated in this Maverick team, and though their roles are surely different than they imagined at the beginning of the season, it's a winning formula.
Chandler has helped to fix their biggest flaw, and with Haywood coming off the bench, they've got the deepest team at the center position.
Butler is proving that he can create his own shot off the dribble, and though he tends to fall in love with his jumper, he's proving proficient enough to become a threat in the halfcourt offense.
Anthony brings with him too much baggage, the very least of which is a loudly ticking clock. This isn't a Mavs team that has put up with pressure all that well, and 'Melo might add just enough of it to make it too much.
If it was anything else but a franchise-best start for the Mavericks, there might be more of a question. And though regular seasons have always been followed by disappointment, the Mavericks have never played more playoff-friendly basketball either. So we'll just wait and see.