We all knew it would happen, as it does with many unhappy superstars who ask to be traded. The Los Angeles Lakers jumped into the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors on Tuesday, a story that, after the initial shock, didn't really surprise anyone who follows the National Basketball Association.
In a drawn-out, slowly-developed story, the Denver Nuggets have had advanced deals in place with a few teams, most notably the New Jersey Nets, and had Carmelo's assent to signing a contract extension with the New York Knicks before balking at the health of Wilson Chandler, who Denver would receive in that deal.
Amidst all the proposed and near-completed deals, Denver's biggest priority is to shed some of its $83 million in payroll, which is fifth-highest in the league, as it looks to rebuild. Dealing Anthony would alleviate some of that pressure, but under the league's collective bargaining rules, the exchanged salaries of traded players must approximate each other if the involved teams are over the salary cap.
Another big way the Nuggets have pursued salary cap flexibility is by demanding that aging point guard Chauncey Billups be taken in a trade for Anthony. So far, none of the serious proposals have included Billups, who says he wants to remain in Denver for the remainder of the season.
Still, the desire remains for Denver to deal Billups along with Anthony. Obviously, they need to trade Carmelo and get something in return before he bolts in free agency, but shedding Billups' contract would be the icing on the cake.
Using the revolutionary NBA Trade Machine, I have devised a few trade scenarios with the Lakers that include Billups and subsequent reasons why each team would or wouldn't do the deal.
Could the Lakers trade two of their most highly valued players?
Assuming that the rumor is true that the Lakers rejected a straight up Andrew Bynum for Anthony proposal, there is apparently some additional swapping that needs to take place in order to consummate the deal.
In this scenario, Bynum's $13 million, which goes to $15 million next season, and Luke Walton's $5 million for two more seasons after this go to Denver for Anthony, straight up. The salary exchanges match up nicely, with Denver assuming $1.8 million more at face value.
The Lakers could throw in a few million bucks to cover the extra weight taken on by Denver.
Often times, Luke never sheds that shooting shirt from opening tip to final horn.
It's clear from the rumors that they want Bynum and would be willing to give Anthony up for him and no more. Granted that the Lakers won't do that one-for-one, though, Denver's lack of leverage means the Lakers could pile on some salary cap burden of their own.
However, with Walton, the burden isn't too outlandish, and he's got just two years and about $11 million remaining on his deal. Denver could use Walton as a passer out of the post to find shooters J.R. Smith, Billups, and Ty Lawson on the perimeter. He could play at the mid or high post, so as to not disturb what Nene and Kenyon Martin have going on down low.
Depending on their level of desperation just two weeks from the deadline, Denver could pull the trigger on this.
All signs point to the Lakers agreeing to this trade. After all, Walton rarely gets on the court anyway, and is currently one expensive butt taking up one a cushioned chairs on the Laker bench.
Birdman got some new ink this offseason. Could he find himself in a new uniform soon?
Denver says that they have no interest in acquiring Ron Artest from the Lakers, but what if they could dump Andersen's remaining three years and $13.5 mil on the Lakers?
The Lakers take on $1.6 million more in the deal, but slightly dip into the trade exception they get from the earlier trade of Sasha Vujacic to the Nets.
Could Ron-Ron help the Nuggets at all?
Artest is a hypothetical drag on any team that would have to pay his outlandish salary because he brings very little to the table in 2011. He could help Denver defend the West's perimeter scorers (though not nearly as well as he used to), but Denver doesn't want to beat you with defense anyway.
The only way the Nuggets would use this is to pocket the free money and trade Artest sometime in the next two years to shed his salary.
The Lakers, even just a season and a half into the Artest Era, would probably do anything they could to get rid of him. Matt Barnes' presence essentially gives the Lakers a younger, more athletic Artest, so what need is there for Ron anymore?
Receiving the Birdman would replenish some of the depth in the post that they lose with Bynum. His salary is manageable and his activity level on defense would benefit the Lakers a lot. He's not as good of a rebounder as Bynum and certainly not a franchise-type player, but he also doesn't care about offense, which bodes well for Pau Gasol's game.
The $5 million giveaway hurts Jerry Buss' pocket book a little bit, but another deep run into the playoffs would ease his financial pain. Plus he could be rid of the well-behaved but insignificant Artest.
In this scenario, these two would be swapping uniforms and playing big minutes at forward.
Admittedly, this one is a bit far-fetched, but definitively meets both teams' objectives in the trade arena at this point.
Denver assumes about $3.2 extra to their cap, and all in long-term contracts, but it works per NBA trade rules.
This would shake up both teams and make them almost unrecognizable. At least two players going each way would immediately become starters for their new team, and possibly three for Denver.
Bynum and Odom could remain together in defending the paint, it would just be a new color of paint.
There are just too many forwards in this picture's frame for the Nuggets. They would be adding Odom, Bynum, Artest, and Walton to Kenyon Martin, Nene, Renaldo Balkman, Al Harrington, Melvin Ely, Gary Forbes, and Chris Andersen without adding any guards.
Maybe Bynum and Odom come in and start right away, but this creates a need for Denver to make another trade, since none of these guys would be expiring anytime in the next two seasons.
In spite of shedding Anthony and Billups, this is too much of a long-term cost and positional logjam to justify pulling the trigger.
Then again, this team gets more and more desperate to trade Anthony with each passing day.
L.A.: very positive
This would be a huge win for the Lakers. Anthony would presumably sign an extension for around $20 million a year, and Billups has a team option for $14 million next year that the Lakers would certainly not pick up. Plus, they'd be rid of the headache of the Artest, Walton, and Bynum contracts, though at the expense of Odom.
Billups' value isn't exclusively found in his expiring contract. The guy can still play, too. At 6'3" and 202 pounds, he's the type of big guard that Phil Jackson likes to run his triangle. Chauncey can stand on the three-point line, where he's 39% for his career and 44% this season.
This would precipitate a Laker lineup of Fisher (no chance that Billups comes in and displaces Fisher at point), Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes, Carmelo Anthony, and Pau Gasol, with Shannon Brown, Billups, Blake, and a healthy Theo Ratliff off the bench.
The Lakers are thinner up front after this deal, but can capably go out and find a big in the offseason with the flexibility that Billups' expiration affords.
"With the #1 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Denver Nuggets, from the Los Angeles Lakers, select..."
This is the same as the last trade, except without the inclusion of Lamar. Instead, the Lakers would include an unprotected first-round pick down the line somewhere, maybe 2015 or 2016.
Why would the Nuggets do this trade when the last one worked with them getting Odom as well?
Laker fans dread the day when Kobe and Pau have the option to walk away in the summer of 2014.
Don't underestimate the impact that the draft pick could have down the line. Let's say Kobe retires after his contract expires in 2014. The Lakers have zero players under contract past 2014, when Kobe, Pau Gasol, and Steve Blake would come off the books.
After Kobe and Pau are gone, doesn't this team have the look of a bottom dweller? Can you imagine a Laker team being competitive within three to five years of Kobe's departure? I'm not sure I can.
This is why that draft pick in 2015, the Lakers' first season without Kobe and Gasol, could be money in the bank for Denver. The Lakers could conceivably be in the lottery by then.
If Denver were being smart and looking into their future instead of worrying about the next two years, they'd see this as a possibility and value that pick very highly.
Denver: positive, depending on where they think the Lakers will be in five years.
L.A.: positive, never one to plan for the long-term, owner Jerry Buss continues to play for the title now, which is the only option you have in the NBA. Besides, when is the last time a Laker draft pick other than Andrew Bynum contributed a thing to the team's success?
Will Chandler's bum ankle is apparently the only thing holding up a blockbuster Melo deal
Here's the breakdown of what would be a three-team deal involving the Knicks, Nuggets and Minnesota:
Denver gets Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer, and a Minnesota first-round pick
New York gets Anthony
Minnesota gets the expiring contract of Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph from the Knicks
Both Minnesota and Denver reportedly want more in return. Minnesota wants another player from Denver if they are to surrender the first-round pick that is currently included, while Denver, who sheds a ton of salary with this move and acquires a pick, wants one of the Knicks young players, Danilo Gallinari or Landry Fields.
The health of Wilson Chandler seems to be the only thing holding this deal up, as he's been having discomfort in his surgically-repaired ankle recently.
In the days leading up to the deadline when teams are still posturing and holding out for more, this is enough to delay a trade. However, when these teams are within hours of the deadline and they see the urgency of the situation, this deal will most positively go down.
The Knicks really covet Melo and have a chance to dump some dead weight. Minnesota gets some flexibility and a potential star in Randolph. Denver has no other choice.
It doesn't look like anyone wants Carmelo badly enough to take Billups with him.
It seems unlikely that Chauncey will end up anywhere but in a Denver uniform when the February 24 trade deadline passes.
It's not that Chauncey couldn't contribute to a contender's title chances, not that at all. He's won a championship, has a boatload of playoff experience, and provides a steady presence with the ball.
It just seems like the Nuggets aren't adamant enough on a Melo/Billups package, which gives possible trade destinations no motivation to ask for Chauncey. They might take him in a trade, but they're certainly not asking to have him and that hefty contract.
This is why, in the unlikely event that a Lakers-Nuggets deal happens, Chauncey probably won't be involved.