Carmelo Anthony, the Denver Nuggets star forward, is going to be playing somewhere else next year.
There's no question about that. If he wanted to stay in Denver he would have signed their extension offer long ago and put all this drama to rest.
The problem is that Anthony doesn't seem all that enthused about playing for New Jersey, and he basically holds all the power as no team would be in their right mind to give up the bounty required to attain 'Melo without the guarantee of him signing an extension.
At different points this season, and stretching back to this summer, the Nets have had multi-team deals in place only to see them fall apart.
Most recently, the Nets, Nuggets and Detroit Pistons had a 15-player deal in the works that was headlined by Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton going to New Jersey, Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and multiple first-round picks going to Denver and Troy Murphy's expiring contract going to Detroit.
There would obviously have been other players involved, but those were the most notable.
Like all the others, that deal fell through and the Nuggets are now threatening to trade Anthony to the Knicks if New Jersey does not keep trade talks out of the press.
For their part, the Nets called the Nuggets front office "inexperienced" and talks are now at a standstill.
Denver is clearly frustrated with New Jersey for leaking information and allowing this to become such a distraction to the teams, but to sell off your best player to a team with a lesser offer just to spite the Nets doesn't make much sense.
To be honest, that does reek of a management team in Denver that is not well-seasoned. General Manager Masai Ujiri is in his first year on the job after all.
The Nets are also getting exasperated with Denver's repeated act of becoming gun shy as soon as a deal appears imminent.
Okay, now that all the back story is out of the way, let's consider the Nets' options here.
There is no way of ignoring the fact that getting Anthony would instantly boost the team. He's a top-five talent in the league, and those guys don't grow on trees.
At what cost is it worth getting a player of his caliber, though?
The deal with Detroit makes sense right now, but would it lead to long-term success?
Billups is 34 years old and on the downside of his career, no matter how much he thinks is left in the tank, and Hamilton will be turning 33 in about a month.
Hamilton's game relies on him exhausting his defender by constantly running through screens, eventually giving him more room to knock down his patented mid-range jump shot.
He has even said in the past that he works extra hard on his conditioning, knowing that if he's tired at the end of a game the guy guarding him is completely spent.
At some point all the wear on his body is going to take its toll and prevent him from doing that. It's probably even started already, since his PPG and shooting percentages have dropped off in recent years.
Sure he's on a bad team, but he's also getting old.
Anthony is in his prime, so would it really benefit him to be surrounded by guys whose careers are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel?
Wouldn't that simply make the Nets the Denver Nuggets 2.0?
Here's another idea for the New Jersey, soon to be Brooklyn, Nets. Build your team the old fashioned way. Do it through the draft.
That's not to say that they shouldn't try to get quality players through trades and free agency, but they need to build their core with younger guys.
They have a good nucleus in Harris and Brook Lopez.
Harris may not be an elite-level point guard, but he's very good. He's been stuck on bad New Jersey teams for the past three years, and is still averaging a career-high seven APG this season.
He also just put up a 15-assist game playing alongside Travis Outlaw, Stephen Graham and Quinton Ross. The guy is good.
Much has been made of Lopez's perceived soft play and lack of rebounding this year, and rightfully so as a 7'0" center should be getting more boards.
What has been downplayed, though, is that Lopez was unable to work out for much of the summer while battling mononucleosis, which caused him to lose a significant amount of weight.
It also cost him a chance to play with Team USA, and there's not a single player who went through that experience and did not greatly benefit from it.
The team also has solid role players in Kris Humphries, who has been a revelation this year, Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar.
Although they are currently nursing injuries, sharpshooter Anthony Morrow and rookie Damion James are good players, and the team was playing much better when they were healthy.
We also cannot overlook Derrick Favors.
The rookie's overall numbers are not great, but that is largely due to his inability to stay on the court due to foul trouble—hardly a rare problem for first-year players.
When Favors has been able to play at least 25 minutes, he's averaging 12 PPG and seven RPG to go along with a 61 percent field-goal percentage.
He can run the floor and finish at the rim and is playing well on defense for a rookie. His shooting stroke is also technically sound, which is an indicator that he could end up being a solid shooter.
To sum all that up for you, the Nets have some good pieces in place in terms of player personnel and also have a good coaching staff, led by Avery Johnson.
General manager Billy King has referenced the Oklahoma City Thunder as a team he views as a model organization.
If that's the case, he should just give up on trying to get Anthony and set his team up for success the way OKC did.
That means making good draft selections and allowing the team to find its way in its own time.
New Jersey has five first-round draft picks in the next two years, as well as some extra second-rounders.
Surely they could find some good players with those picks, or trade up to get a lock stud.
The team's biggest hole is at small forward, where Outlaw has become dead weight. James won over the coaching staff with his effort and work ethic, but it's unknown if he'll be a long-term solution at the position.
He could just be a very good role player, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Small forwards who will likely be available in the 2011 draft include Harrison Barnes, Terrence Jones, Derrick Williams and Chris Singleton.
Barnes has certainly underwhelmed so far, but few doubt his potential. Jones is nearly averaging a 20-10 season right now, Williams leads the country in player efficiency rating while knocking down shots at a 66 percent rate and threes at a 70 percent clip, and Singleton is widely regarded as the best defender in college basketball.
Johnson is a defensive-minded coach who would probably love Singleton.
Depending on how some other teams finish this year, the Nets could have three first-round picks this summer. They could land two of the aforementioned players at small forward if none of them have clearly separated themselves, could trade up if necessary or completely fill out their roster with the right selections.
There are also guys like Duke's Nolan Smith who are projected to go in the second round, where they could be real steals.
Since 2007, Oklahoma City has gotten Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden through the draft.
During that time, they also traded for or signed Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic, Thabo Sefolosha and Eric Maynor. Green, Krstic and Sefolosha are now starters and Maynor has been solid off the bench.
With all the picks the Nets have in the upcoming years, there's no reason to believe they could not do something similar, provided they take the right guys.
There are also a number of good players who will become free agents over the next few offseasons. If the Nets play their cards right, they should be able to sign some of them.
To add to the possible similarities, the Thunder really took off once they left Seattle and moved to Oklahoma City.
Perhaps the same type of success will ensue for the Nets when they move to Brooklyn in 2012.
It would be hard to turn down a player like Carmelo Anthony. The splashy move is not always the best one, however, and it really does not appear he wants to play for the Nets.
Why sell the farm for a guy who will be unhappy?
It might take longer and be more painful, but making smart draft picks and free agent signings of lesser-known players is starting to look like the best way to go.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!