Carmelo Anthony: Winners and Losers of Rumored Nuggets-Nets-Pistons Deal
I know, I know. You're getting tired of the rumors already, including mine.
At this point, you just want something to actually happen so we can come to some kind of conclusion in the Carmelo Anthony saga. I agree with you. The speculation is getting old. Can we just have a resolution already?
The problem is, the Denver Nuggets don't care. Reports have indicated that they're currently holding up the deal in an effort to make it just a bit sweeter for themselves. And, honestly, who can really blame them? They're losing one of the most marketable superstars in the NBA, the guy who's been the face of the franchise for eight years.
So, bear with us just a little longer, dear reader, while we're forced to sift through the rumors some more. In the meantime, though, here's some analysis of the blockbuster deal that is almost, almost, reality, but still not quite just yet.
First: The Details
Before analyzing the deal, here's a quick recap of the current status.
Talks between Denver and the New Jersey Nets heated up over the weekend, reaching a head on Sunday night when details emerged of a potential deal that was all but finalized, which also involved the Detroit Pistons.
The gist of it is that Carmelo, along with Chauncey Billups, would go from Denver to New Jersey. Richard Hamilton would also make his way to the Garden State, from Detroit. He was added to the deal when Anthony's camp suggested that the Nets acquire him as well, as a pre-condition to Anthony signing an extension with the team.
In exchange, the Nets would send most of their current roster, save Brook Lopez, west. Most prominently Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and Anthony Morrow would join the Nuggets, along with a couple of future first rounders. Troy Murphy and others would join the Pistons.
There is also still the chance of a fourth team getting involved, as Denver also wants to rid itself of Al Harrington's 5 year, $33 million contract, and is looking for a taker. Apparently, the Nets don't want him, and this is holding up consummation of the deal.
Got all that? Really? No you don't. Go read it again. Now do you have it? Ok, moving on.
Winner: Denver Nuggets
Yes, you read that right. The Nuggets come out a winner if the reported deal shakes down as expected.
Look, kudos to them for facing the sobering reality. No matter how much they wanted him to stay, Carmelo wanted out and was not going to budge. He wasn't going to sign a contract extension with them, that's just a fact.
So, instead of crying about it and watching him leave this coming summer as a free agent and getting nothing in return, they're doing something about it. They saw what happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers and are using it as a cautionary tale.
They're getting a number of good young players, plus a stockpile of draft picks so that they can rebuild. In his exodus, Anthony is helping the Nuggets far more than he ever did on the court.
Throughout Anthony's tenure there, he led them out of the first round just once. Now they'll pick up the pieces and have a good shot at contending again in short order.
Loser: Detroit Pistons
They're not an overwhelming loser in this scenario, but they're like the classmate that you didn't really want to invite to the party but they overheard you inviting someone else, so you had to ask them, too.
They don't get much in the deal, other than freedom from Rip Hamilton's contract, under which he's still owed $21.5 million in the coming years. But in exchange for that, they lose the face of their own franchise.
Sure, he's having his least productive season since his rookie year with Washington and he turns 33 on Valentine's Day (awww). But as the longest tenured member of the club (Ben Wallace left and came back, so he doesn't count), and one of the few remaining holdovers from the title winners of 2004, he's still the heart and soul of this Pistons team.
This will simply be the last nail in the coffin for the Pistons as we remember them.
Winner: New Jersey Nets
The Nets certainly hit their target with this move.
First-year head coach Avery Johnson's club instantly regains vast amounts of credibility by acquiring Anthony. He's a bona fide superstar who gives them a serious infusion of star power and media appeal, and even with giving up half their existing roster to get him, he makes them better.
Now, how much better is certainly still a matter of debate. With Anthony, Billups, Hamilton and Lopez as their nucleus, they become a competitive team in the East, no doubt. But do they truly become a contending team?
Billups and Hamilton are good complimentary pieces and have pre-existing chemistry with each other from their days as Pistons teammates. But, while still effective, they're both past their primes, and how much they have left in the tank remains to be seen. Lopez, meanwhile, for all his size and potential, has yet to truly show that he's more than a nice stat compiler.
Furthermore, the money inevitably committed to extending Anthony, and already committed to guys like Hamilton, does serve as a bit of a roadblock to further tinkering down the road.
Despite these nagging doubts, though, the fact is that the Nets become better and more marketable with this move. They are relevant once again and, in the 21st century NBA, there's not much a franchise wants beyond that, other than a championship.
Loser: New York Knicks
The New York Knicks have been in a similar boat as the Nets for a while. Underperforming, in need of some injection of new energy to revitalize the franchise.
They missed out in the LeBron James sweepstakes last summer, of course, but they landed co-plan B's Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton, and the duo have paired with holdovers Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari to give fans on Broadway a glimmer of hope that they haven't had in a while. The team currently stands at 21-15, and is in second place in the Atlantic Division.
Nevertheless, most fans realize that they still need another star to truly ascend back into the ranks of legitimate contenders and compete with the likes of the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. That star could have been Anthony. As soon as LeBron uttered "South Beach," most Knicks fans immediately focused on Anthony as their rebound crush.
The problem is, they don't have (or aren't willing to part with) the pieces that would be required to pry him from Denver in a trade. They're forced to hope that he doesn't sign an extension and actually becomes available on the open market as a free agent next summer. If he's available, the Knicks are the odds-on-favorite to land him.
But with a trade, that hope is snuffed. He'll sign an extension with the Nets, and the Knicks will have to turn to plan ... uh ... D?
Winner: Chris Paul
Whichever way the current Anthony situation officially shakes down, Chris Paul stands to come away a winner as well.
Any Anthony trade, and subsequent contract extension, will serve to give Paul that much more leverage as he navigates a similar situation in New Orleans. He's already expressed his trepidation about committing his future to an organization whose own future is anything but clear.
Paul was rumored to have requested a trade over the summer, and though he seems to have backed off that demand for now (at least publicly), the franchise still finds itself in a quagmire. Who will own the team? Will they stay in New Orleans? And, most importantly for Paul, will they be good enough to compete in the always difficult Western Conference?
They started the season 11-1 and things looked rosy. But they've been middling since, and if their play doesn't rebound, look for rumors to flare again. Obviously, any team would love to add Paul, the best young point guard in the league, so he has leverage to force the New Orleans Hornets' hand if he so chooses.
And he can use the Carmelo saga as a blueprint.
Loser: Devin Harris
Devin Harris may just find himself expendable not just from the team that's trading him away, but by the team that's acquiring him, as well.
The Nuggets already have promising second-year point guard Ty Lawson and, with Chauncey Billups no longer blocking his progress, will probably want to give him every chance to ascend into their point guard of the future. That fact doesn't bode well for Harris, who is talented, but is five years older than Lawson, and who has probably shown what he's capable of.
This could lead the Nuggets to seek to flip Harris to another team in a secondary deal if they can get another one done before the trading deadline. It may work out well for Harris in the end, who one way or another will probably find himself as the starting point guard on a contending team. But still, having things this uncertain and up in the air can't be fun for anyone.
Winner: The Atlantic Division
The Association's eastern seaboard is getting interesting again.
After years as a bit of an afterthought division (so there's Boston and ... and ...), the Atlantic matters once again. In addition to the traditional powerhouse Celtics, the Knicks seem rejuvenated this season and ready to make some waves, and with Anthony in tow, the Nets will have to be taken seriously as well.
That's three teams just over 200 miles apart, all with marquee players, fighting it out with each other a dozen times a year. It hearkens back to the days of the late 90's, when the Knicks and Heat were always two of the top teams in the league, and their battles from those years were always events.
The league has to be happy about this, as well. The northeast is still the media and population epicenter of this country, so having its key markets be successful is always a key ingredient in the NBA's plans.
Loser: Western Conference Competitive Balance
Yeah, I've already listed the Nuggets as actually a winner in this game, but still.
Even coming away with the bounty that they'll score, it still takes time to build a contender. It takes time for each of the pieces to fit and gel. So congratulations, Los Angeles Lakers! You've lost one threat (small as it may have been).
The Lakers are again rolling along this season, with a 27-11 record and leading the Pacific Division. Not that regular season record really means anything for this team anymore. Having coaxed Phil Jackson to stick around, and still boasting the same talented and experienced nucleus of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and company, the Lakers are built to win in the playoffs.
Sure, there are still other good teams in the West, namely the San Antonio Spurs. But in simply standing by while other pieces move out of their way, the two-time defending champs have just enhanced their chances of another three-peat.
In the end, of course, Melo himself is the biggest winner in this deal.
He primarily gets what he's wanted all along: to continue his career in the New York market. He also gets what will surely be the richest contract extension he can sign, as well as getting to actually have a personal say in dictating the makeup of the team he's joining.
Think about that for a second. Anthony wields so much power in this potential deal, that the Nets are actually letting him specifically tell them what other players he wants to play with, and they're going out and getting those players.
Even if those players are a bit over the hill with large, guaranteed contracts that will handicap the Nets flexibility in the coming years.
Nevermind that nagging issue right now, though. For now, Nets fans and Melo fans, rejoice! You're (all but) happily married. Hope the honeymoon lasts.