How is it that Carmelo Anthony still hasn’t moved yet?
This has been a leading story in the NBA for the past month or so, but near misses and constant rumors have removed some of the luster from this saga.
Don’t look now, but this story is primed to become headline material once again.
February 24th marks the NBA trade deadline.
Unless the Denver Nuggets truly believe that Carmelo will re-sign (or that they’re best served by simply letting him walk as an expiring contract), they are going to be pushing hard to get something done.
The longer they wait, the worse their leverage becomes, and the lower Carmelo’s price falls.
Despite the fact that Carmelo's agent is still threatening that Anthony will not sign with anyone but New York, it would still behoove nearly any team to inquire at this point.
What is just posturing and what is reality?
Well, the saying goes that you "miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take."
Yes, Carmelo would likely be a rental for many teams in the league. Yet, you never know, he just might find that his new digs end up being better than New York.
Like most other NBA writers in the universe, I have already written about Carmelo’s trade prospects (found here).
With the deadline approaching, I want to follow this story from a slightly different angle: Let’s stop over-analyzing what the consensus front runners (New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles Clippers/Lakers, and Dallas Mavericks) could do.
Instead, let’s look at 10 potential dark-horse deals that could force Denver into second thoughts and sleepless night (this time, in a good way).
Mind you, these deals are purely speculation at this point. However, any of these could plausibly catch Denver’s ear and start legitimate conversation.
San Antonio gets: Carmelo Anthony, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter & Melvin Ely
Denver gets: Richard Jefferson, Gary Neal, James Anderson & Tiago Splitter
Would Carmelo really want New York if he could be the next piece in the Spurs next dynasty?
He might not be Gregg Popovich’s type, but this could be worth a shot.
Undoubtedly, the Spurs would want some sort of nod that this was not a rental, as they're giving up a trio of bright-futured players.
Still, a starting five of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Carmelo Anthony, Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair would solidify the Spurs as the best in West—no questions asked.
Their bench would also still feature George Hill, Matt Bonner and Antonio McDyess, along with the spare, but usable veterans acquired from Denver. It might be sacrificing some sure-thing prospects, but the Spurs would have a clear foundation for the future.
What's more, they've always been good at unearthing role players and they could certainly do it again.
Denver stays in the hunt with Jefferson’s production and Neal’s upside, while also getting two other very intriguing prospects in the process.
This is the type of deal that, if Carmelo signed off on it (and he would be stupid not to), would give the Nuggets a lot to think about.
Atlanta gets: Carmelo Anthony & Al Harrington
Denver gets: Josh Smith & Jamal Crawford
Atlanta’s not getting out of the Eastern Conference alive with this group right now. Shaking things up and taking a run at the top four could be expensive, but anything is worth a shot at this point.
The Hawks get the talent edge in this transaction, but do so by going on the hook for Al Harrington's badly planned deal. Still, he could end up being productive again in such a "tweener"-friendly system.
Carmelo might suddenly realize how well he, Joe Johnson and Al Horford could mesh.
Anthony’s prospects for Eastern Conference contention in Atlanta are nearly as good as they would be in New York (One can make that argument because Anthony and Joe Johnson fit better together than do Anthony and Stoudemire).
The Nuggets get a headlining player to immediately replace Carmelo (and one who would fit marvelously in George Karl's scheme), while also getting first crack at re-signing Jamal Crawford.
While Crawford might be a little duplicitous with JR Smith, this deal could be the precursor for moving Smith and/or Chauncey Billups to clear time for Aaron Afflalo and Ty Lawson. Crawford's ability to play either guard spot off the bench would make him the most logical fit to stay in such a scenario.
Portland gets: Carmelo Anthony, Melvin Ely & Renaldo Balkman
Denver gets: Brandon Roy, Greg Oden & Luke Babbitt
There's certainly a lot of risk and reward in this one.
The Blazers could envision this a long-term option, or simply as 2011's playoff ticket, paired with a diplomatic end to the Roy/Oden eras.
Even if the Blazers would lose Carmelo Anthony next season, they would at least pick up a couple of cheap bodies for their front-line meat grinder.
This would be a hard sell for Carmelo, but playing alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, Nick Batum and Wes Matthews might be an intriguing proposition for the future.
What's more, Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez and Joel Pryzbilla also ensure that this would be a guaranteed playoff team with Anthony on board.
Denver is obviously taking a big chance on damaged goods here. Yet, if Roy and Oden can fully recover, this could end up being one of the best possible returns on Anthony that the Nuggets could find.
Houston gets: Carmelo Anthony & Renaldo Balkman
Denver gets: Yao Ming, Jordan Hill & Chase Budinger
This is probably only a rental scenario, but it makes a lot of sense for both teams.
Houston needs to make the playoffs; they can use Ming’s expiring money now to rent Carmelo Anthony for that push.
Then, if and when Anthony bolts in the summer, they’re back with the same expiring money they would have had available with Ming in the first place.
If Denver is having trouble finding rental prices they like, this might end up being a nice option: they add a couple of depth prospects and get a look at re-signing Ming cheaply next year.
In the worst-case scenario that Ming walks or retires, Denver still winds up with a couple of young pieces for their trouble and removes Balkman's questionable contract in the process.
Basically, both teams are trading expiring contracts but in a swap that meets their respective needs better than simply hanging on to the status quo.
Oklahoma City gets: Carmelo Anthony, Shelden Williams & Renaldo Balkman
Denver gets: Jeff Green, James Harden, Cole Aldrich & Nick Collison
With as much potential as anyone in the league, the Thunder might see Anthony as the final piece needed to reach the top. Carmelo’s experience and offensive punch would be welcome commodities in Oklahoma City.
This also works from a chemistry standpoint since, outside of Kevin Durant, the Thunder really don’t have other players who absolutely need the ball in their hands for long stretches.
The Thunder's bench takes a hit from this deal, but their starting lineup is now potent enough to out-duel anyone in the conference on any given night.
Yes, Anthony and Durant currently play the same small forward spot. However, Durant has played shooting guard in years' past, while Anthony was a power forward on the Olympic squads.
Either way, add those two alongside Russell Westbrook for distributing, plus Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha for defense, and this team is now ready for the Lakers.
Denver gets a haul of prospects that's simply too good to pass up.
Can you imagine what a core of of Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, JR Smith, Gary Forbes, Jeff Green and Cole Aldrich will look like in a year or two?
I'll pay money to watch that team any day.
New Orleans gets: Carmelo Anthony, Renaldo Balkman, Shelden Williams & Melvin Ely
Denver gets: David West, Marcus Thornton, Jason Smith & Trevor Ariza
It's unlikely that the league-owned Hornets would make any sort of big-splash move.
On the other hand, we've all learned by now to never put anything past David Stern, especially when it comes to anything New Orleans related.
There's been a lot of talk about Carmelo and Chris Paul wanting to play together.
Maybe they don't have to land in New York to make that happen.
This is one of the best deals that Denver could wrangle for Anthony—in both the short and long-term.
Yes, I do know that this transaction may be completely ridiculous, as New Orleans probably isn't going to finalize an ownership group in the next few weeks. Yet, it makes too much sense not to mention.
What's more, a sign-and-trade variation on this sort of deal could be especially intriguing if ownership is in place by the offseason.
Washington gets: Carmelo Anthony, Melvin Ely, Anthony Carter & Shelden Williams
Denver gets: Andre Blatche, JaVale McGee, Al Thornton & Kirk Hinrich
Would Carmelo sign off on a deal to one of the league's worst teams?
Maybe. If they write a clause into the contract stating that they will "only play at home."
All joking aside, pairing Anthony with John Wall and Nick Young could be the start of something truly wonderful in DC.
Yes, the team would be a bit of a mess for the rest of this season. The front line would require a lot of rebuilding, despite retaining Rashard Lewis.
However, the Wizards would be capable of putting so many points on the board that their post acquisitions would only need to be adept rebounders and defenders.
Denver would also have quite a few moves to make in conjunction with this one, as their front line would be bloated with assets.
Yet, isn't that what you want when rebuilding?
This is a long shot to be sure, but intriguing enough to inspire a healthy dose of "what if."
Philadelphia gets: Carmelo Anthony & Renaldo Balkman
Denver gets: Andre Iguodala, Maurice Speights & Thaddeus Young
Maybe Philadelphia could talk themselves into renting Carmelo Anthony for a playoff push, but this is probably another scenario where Carmelo would have to be convinced for the long-term.
Yet, can you tell me that playing in New York with Amar'e, Danilo Gallinari and Raymond Felton is really all that much better than suiting up with a younger, deeper core of Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Lou Williams, Evan Turner, Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes?
OK, it's a close call but definitely one that should make Carmelo pause for at least moment.
Legacy-wise, this is also a close call.
People forget it now, but Philadelphia is just as important of an "old school" NBA town as New York.
Raising another banner there would mean nearly as much.
If you're Denver, this is simply too good a deal to pass up: the Nuggets not only replace 85 percent of Carmelo's production with Iggy but also bring in two other players with a lot of upside left to offer.
Chicago gets: Carmelo Anthony
Denver gets: Luol Deng, Taj Gibson & James Johnson
This was not an attractive enough deal for the Nuggets at the beginning of the season, as they felt Joakim Noah should also have been included.
However, this could suddenly become a very intriguing rental price, as both Deng and Gibson would be key contributors for Denver going forward.
The Bulls are one of the few teams with enough legitimate star power and upside to convince Anthony to stay (If it becomes obvious that this is not going to be a rental scenario, then maybe Chicago would be forced to contribute a future first-round pick as well).
A Bulls’ core of Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Carmelo Anthony would rival anything that the East has to offer, without having to purge their reserves beyond recognition.
Chicago would have to sign a couple of D-League bodies to fill out the end of the bench. However, if they could somehow add Anthony to the mix, this would obviously be a problem worth having.
Denver gets: Deron Williams & Mehmet Okur (UT) and Tayshaun Prince & Jason Maxiell (DET)
Utah gets: Nene, Chauncey Billups & future first-round pick (DEN) and Richard Hamilton (DET)
Detroit gets: Kenyon Martin (DEN) and Andrei Kirilenko (UT)
If Denver can do something big at the deadline, maybe the Nuggets just might have a chance at keeping Carmelo after all.
If Deron Williams really wants out of Utah, crossing the Rockies could be a nice change of scenery. Denver would become a legitimate contender, as the Nuggets would easily become the best offensive team in the West.
They might have a little defensive trouble on the front line, having to play Okur alongside Al Harrington and Carmelo for long stretches, but Tayshaun Prince and Jason Maxiell would help to alleviate those problems.
If it doesn’t work out and Anthony still leaves, then Denver has Williams for one more year as a major trade piece or building block, depending on what direction they take.
It certainly is possible that they could lose both Anthony and Williams in the long-term, but it’s absolutely a shot worth taking.
Utah would have a frontcourt rotation that actually works by pairing Nene with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, while retaining CJ Miles at small forward.
Their backcourt wouldn't be as sexy without Deron Williams, but there's no questioning what Chauncey and Rip can do together. What's more, every single member of this core is now lined up perfectly on two and three-year contracts.
Detroit moves players that they've been pushing hard to ditch, while bringing in $34 million in expiring deals. Not bad for a transitioning franchise that's looking to cut costs and start over anyways.