The Carmelo Anthony saga continues.
Even with the framework for a blockbuster 15-player deal involving the Denver Nuggets, New Jersey Nets and Detroit Pistons all but finalized, nothing appears imminent. Anthony still apparently wants to play for the New York Knicks and won't agree to a contract extension with the Nets. So unless that changes, the deal might as well be dead.
But that doesn't mean the Nuggets will hold on to their superstar. Denver's not good enough to contend this year, even with Anthony on their roster, and it makes no sense to keep him if he's determined to go to New York.
The Knicks, meanwhile, have no reason to trade for Anthony right now and sacrifice team assets (like Eddy Curry's expiring contract) when they know he'll sign there as a free agent anyway, as explained here.
But Anthony does still have value as a trade chip, if only as a two-month rental for a team that wants to make a championship run. There are several teams that could use an unstoppable scorer in their lineup, and the Nuggets would be able to get at least something in return for their franchise player.
So here are five trades involving Carmelo that would make sense for Denver.
All of these have been confirmed by ESPN.com's Trade Machine.
The Dallas Mavericks lost starting small forward Caron Butler for the season with a knee injury, leaving Dallas no choice but to start DeShawn Stevenson, a career 41.5 percent shooter, at the three.
Anthony (career 45.8 percent shooter) would be a huge upgrade over Stevenson and could team up with Dirk Nowitzki to form one of the most unstoppable offensive duos in the NBA. The move would also let defensive specialist Shawn Marion, the de facto back-up small forward, to return to the bench and give Dallas more depth.
Denver gets back two expiring contracts worth over $23 million, and they also get to unload the contract of Al Harrington. The Mavericks don't really need Harrington, who would be a repetitive player with Nowitzki already there, but they could trade him off to a third team for guard help or a center. Dallas would also likely need to throw in a first-round pick or two to sweeten the deal.
This trade works with just Anthony and Kirilenko being involved, but it makes little sense for Denver to trade one expiring contract for another and not get anything of value. So I'm going to give them Hayward, the ninth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft and a player who could potentially replace Carmelo in the starting lineup next season.
The Jazz are playing good basketball already, but how terrifying would they be if they could play Deron Williams, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Anthony all at once? Each of those players is capable of dropping 20 points on any given night, and there isn't a team in the NBA that could match up with their combination of size and scoring.
Harrington could come off the bench for the Jazz and provide some extra scoring, or he could be flipped off to another team. As in the previous scenario, Utah would also have to throw in some draft picks to make it worthwhile for the Nuggets.
This one took some thinking outside of the box, especially because the Trail Blazers are actually behind the Nuggets in the standings, but on the surface it does work.
Batum is a 22-year old small forward from France who is highly regarded around the NBA and is signed through 2012 for less than $2 million a season. He's averaging 11.1 ppg on 44.2 percent shooting for Portland, but he's definitely no Carmelo Anthony.
Oden and Przybilla are both on expiring contracts for a combined $14 million, though it wouldn't be surprising to see the Nuggets try to resign Oden during free agency. Ely, Denver's third-string center, had to be thrown in so Portland could have someone to backup starting center Marcus Camby. Draft picks will also be going Denver's way.
If Portland ever gets Brandon Roy back (a pretty big "if"), then they could definitely do some damage in the Western Conference with Roy, Anthony, LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Miller. All of those guys can shoot from anywhere on the floor.
The Nuggets get to see what Batum can do for a year and a half as their starting small forward and will have the opportunity to extend him in 2012. Denver still gets roughly the same financial relief and they pick up a couple of draft picks, too.
The Magic have been playing much better since rehauling their entire roster by jettisoning Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis and acquiring Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu. They won nine in a row, including victories over San Antonio, Boston, New York and Dallas. Still, that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement.
Richardson can't be traded until February 18 because he's already been involved in a deal this season, but his $14.5 million expiring contract has to be very attractive to the Nuggets. Denver would also acquire Brandon Bass, a promising young power forward who would be under team control through next season for just $4 million. Plus, they get rid of Al Harrington's contract.
Orlando, meanwhile, adds another scorer to a team full of them. Anthony would push Turkoglu to the four and either Arenas, J.J. Reddick or Quentin Richardson would have to fill in for Richardson at shooting guard. A lineup of Jameer Nelson, Arenas (or Reddick), Anthony, Turkoglu and Dwight Howard would be very tough to beat. The Magic would still be able to bring Chris Duhon, Reddick, Richardson and Harrington off the bench.
The Nuggets could choose to substitute Ryan Anderson for Bass if they wanted. But at the very least they get a good big man to take over for Kenyon Martin next season, and they should get a draft pick or two from Orlando as well.
This is probably the most unlikely of the trade scenarios if only because even with Carmelo, the Hawks still may not be good enough to make it out of the Eastern Conference. But let's give it a try anyway.
Atlanta's current starting small forward is Marvin Williams, a good player who was once the second overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. He's averaging 11.0 ppg on a career-high 48.8 percent shooting, but has been out of the lineup recently with a bruised back. Even when healthy though, Williams' skill set doesn't come close to matching Anthony's.
Jamal Crawford is the probable sixth man of the year, but he's on a $10.8 million expiring contract and can be made expendable in the right deal. The Hawks would be able to keep Al Horford at center, Josh Smith at power forward, Anthony at small forward, Joe Johnson at shooting guard and Mike Bibby at point guard. That's as good of a starting five as there is in the NBA, and the bench would still feature Jeff Teague, Zaza Pachulia and Harrington.
One of Maurice Evans, Jason Collins, or Etan Thomas would have to be thrown into this deal to go to Denver to make the salaries match up. Still, the Nuggets would get their starting small forward for the next four seasons at a reasonable cost, and still have tons of salary cap flexibility.