Thinking outside the box can be hard...
Carmelo Anthony has not tried very hard to hide his cards, even as he pretends not to show his hand.
It's not as if anyone else has been able to keep a secret, either.
Obviously, you all know by now that the New Jersey Nets have remained on the hunt for Anthony, pursuing yet another potential mega-deal with the Nuggets and Detroit Pistons, now hinging on Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Troy Murphy, and Richard Hamilton.
Of course, you also then know that Carmelo has not so sneakily made it known that he prefers New York, thereby leaving the Knicks with whatever combination of Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Tony Douglas, and Eddy Curry the Nuggets would be forced to settle for.
Just like Carmelo, you also know that this dream has a ticking clock.
Carmelo could easily just continue to wait and walk away from Denver at the end of the season, but thereby risks losing out on whatever millions a new collective bargaining agreement will vaporize.
He's claimed this is about wins, but it strangely sounds more about fame.
What you may not have had time to ponder, (where, sadly I have), is the fact that neither the new versions of Jersey nor York are really Carmelo's best potential destination.
Instead, if he's interested in foregoing the temporary fame of putting up his usual numbers for also-rans, maybe he could ponder the eternal notoriety that comes from winning a title with one of these alternatives.
From the Nuggets' perspective, they've been held by this Vince Carter-like performance (or lack thereof) for long enough. They've got to make a move now and either get back in Playoff contention, or start the rebuilding process immediately.
What if they could do both?
Here are a couple of "outside the box" ideas for both Carmelo's legacy and the Nuggets' sanity:
How 'bout dunking WITH Blake, instead of the alternative?
Denver gets: DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ryan Gomes, Randy Foye, Willie Warren
Los Angeles gets: Carmelo Anthony
This idea has already been thrown out there by a few people, including writers like Bill Simmons.
While I'm not a Griffin-induced hallucinating Clippers fan, (like Bill), I have to admit that there is some merit in this idea for both teams.
Obviously, this would signal the end of rebuilding in a clear "contend now" sort of way for the Clippers. However far-fetched that would seem, it appears Blake Griffin's meteoric ascendancy is already making that a reality.
Trading in spare parts, while keeping a core of Griffin, Chris Kaman, Eric Gordon, and Baron Davis would give the Clippers enough cannons to make up for their suddenly short bench.
The West would certainly have a new sheriff in town, but this might be too much of a long-shot for the Clippers and too much of a shared spotlight for Anthony.
For the Nuggets, this is quite a haul of young, very reasonably priced prospects in the likes of Jordan, Bledsoe, Aminu, and Warren.
Foye and Gomes are both usable rotation players that could easily be packaged to other teams, along with a plethora of new Nugget trade options.
On the other hand, this also means Denver has four more players than roster spots, thereby forcing them to either buy out, release, or side-trade a lot of spare parts.
Still, if they're trying to rebuild, here's the incentive to blow up the mountain.
The Highlight Factory could use another scoring machine...
Atlanta gets: Carmelo Anthony, Nene Hilario, Tony Allen
Memphis gets: Jamal Crawford, Zaza Pachulia, future first rounder from Atlanta
Denver gets: Josh Smith, OJ Mayo, Hasheem Thabeet
The Hawks currently appear to be just another perennial 50-win team that's not contending for anything.
Isn't that what Carmelo is wanting to get out of?
On the other hand, Anthony is obviously trying to find someone else to share the burden with. Thus, partially his desire to team with Amar'e Stoudemire in New York, instead of with basically no one in New Jersey.
Suddenly, Anthony would get to play with another multi-faceted star whose game is also flawed to the point of limiting solo potential. Joe Johnson would be short-sighted not to feel the same way.
What's more, this Hawks team would be able to move Al Horford to his natural position at the four with Nene giving them half a chance against the Shaqs, Howards, and Noahs of the East.
Atlanta would be limited to Mo Evans, Marvin Williams, and Jeff Teague off their bench, but are they really going anywhere right now as is?
Memphis is probably hoping for better deals in return for Mayo, but Crawford would give them instant offense for this year from a guy who actually won't mind coming off the bench. What's more, Crawford is an expiring contract, giving the Grizzlies some options.
Finally, this quietly ships out Thabeet, while providing both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph with a physical backup who's actually ready to play.
The Nuggets would be able to rebuild on the fly with the multi-talented Josh Smith and OJ Mayo, thereby freeing them to trade away any combination of Kenyon Martin's and JR Smith's expiring contracts in conjunction with getting out from either Chauncey Billups' or Al Harrington's longer deals.
This is flexibility and firepower for Denver, which lets them go in a number of directions, while keeping an exciting product on the floor.
Los Angeles gets: Carmelo Anthony
Denver gets: Andrew Bynum, Shannon Brown
Here's another LA story that sounds awfully familiar.
Yes, this was a proposed picture a few years back, but it might be time to revisit the script.
LA is playing decent basketball, but treading water right now by their usual standards. Teams like San Antonio have quietly upped the pace and the wins out West, while the Eastern contenders look more than capable of hanging with the Lakers.
The Lakers need a shot in the arm, and neither Steve Blake nor Matt Barnes have done the trick.
Teams looking to repeat have typically needed some late reinforcements from guys in order to reach the top again. Incoming players, be they stars or key role players are hungry for a title, and oftentimes break the apathy of those just "doing it again."
Think about it: The Rockets had Clyde Drexler, the Bulls had Brian Williams, the Pistons had Rasheed Wallace (though, that was the first time around), and the Lakers brought in Ron Artest.
Now, it's probably time to shake things up again, if for no other reason than to create a new challenge and fresh rewards.
Trading Bynum would allow the Lakers to move Odom back to the sixth man role, Gasol back to the five, Artest at the four, and to run with Carmelo and Bryant spreading the floor. I would even start Blake to facilitate a pace that could match the Spurs, but with even greater firepower.
Does Carmelo really think he'd be winning a title sooner with New Jersey or New York?
For Denver, this gives them a chance to figure out whether Bynum and Brown really are the upcoming stars they've sometimes appeared to be.
What's more, these are short-term deals. Along with Martin's expiring contract, there would be plenty of flexibility for shipping out Billups, Harrington, and Nene, while building around Bynum, Brown, Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, and JR Smith.
"Do you think we could share this ball?"
Dallas gets: Carmelo Anthony, Beno Udrih
Sacramento gets: Nene Hilario, Al Harrington, Alexis Ajinca, JR Smith
Denver gets: Caron Butler, Rodrique Beaubois, Sam Dalembert, Carl Landry, JJ Barea, DeShawn Stevenson
Let's end this with a bang.
With Caron Butler's ill-timed injury, Dallas' season is on the brink of descending back to competent mediocricy.
Mark Cuban has never been one to shy away from blockbuster deals, and now would be the time to go all in for the last of Dirk's prime.
Yes, this costs Beaubois' potential along with key rotation guys like Barea and Stevenson. However, it's not like those guys or Butler's expiring money are going to do any good if this all ends in another early Playoff exit.
The Mavericks would get far more wattage from Butler's former role by plugging in Carmelo alongside Dirk and Tyson Chandler. Plus, the Mavericks would finally have another down-the-stretch weapon to pair with Nowitzki.
They've certainly needed that more than once in the last decade, haven't they?
Somebody like Dominque Jones would have to man Stevenson's 5th wheel spot, but aggressive defense and shooting are replaceable commodities.
Udrih is not a great contract, but he's a more than competent backup for Jason Kidd. What's more, the bench would still have Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, and Brendan Haywood. That's enough depth to go wherever the Mavericks are aiming.
The starting lineup becomes markedly better, while the rotation becomes more focused, but just as deep? What's not to like about that?
For Sacramento, this gives them a rediculously explosive backcourt by pairing JR Smith with Tyreke Evans. They also also get Nene to seriously upgrade their center spot, while opening up even more front line minutes for DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson.
Al Harrington's contract is also another questionable one, but he provides them with the bench scoring they have clearly lacked.
The Kings hereby ship out pieces they were already trying to move, while improving their athleticism and ability to compete.
For Denver, this is roughly $33 million in EXPIRING contracts that also happen to be of such quality that they could all be re-signed after a half season of proving their contribution.
Don't forget that the Nuggets would also have $21 million in expiring contracts already on their roster.
The Nuggets could keep all or none of these pieces, but this sets them up to contend AND rebuild quicker than could otherwise be conceived.
If Carmelo and the Nuggets can both win, then that's the definition of a good deal.