Free agency is basically over so teams looking to improve must resort to the trading block. That’s why our A Walk Around The Block series will take a look at different aspects of the trading block, from players likely to move and teams that might make moves to reasons why these trades may happen and some fun trade proposals of our own. We start with Carmelo.
Last November, with the Nuggets starting the season on a tear behind Melo’s scoring, there were talks of him joining the games elite, that Lebron/Kobe/Wade like stratosphere. Even the phrase”MVP” was being thrown around on occasion. Premature and idiotic as those talks were – and indeed, months December through April did well to silence them – one can’t deny that as far as marketing and reputation go, Anthony is a full-blown superstar.
Of course, whether he actually is on that level is another question. The “is Melo an elite player?” debate was widely discussed throughout the blogosphere over the past few weeks. (We miss you, NBA. Please grab this stupid summer thing by the nose and banish it forever). Statistical master wizard (it’s when you’re too masterful to be just a wizard, but too wizardy to be just a master) Tom Haberstroh pointed out over at ESPN Insider that Melo’s greatest skill – scoring the basketball – is overblown because of his less-than-stellar efficiency at doing so.
“Let’s first talk about Anthony’s shot volume. It’s not exactly a secret that ‘Melo likes to shoot the rock, but his propensity to launch shots may raise some eyebrows. This past season, no player in the NBA took more shots per minute than Anthony — not Kobe, not LeBron, not even scoring champ Kevin Durant.
It may seem obvious that a player worthy of 20 shots per game would have a healthy conversion rate. But in Anthony’s case, that’s far from the truth. Anthony, in reality, had a below-average field goal percentage (.458) this past season — and his career percentage (.459) is no different. (The league average is .463.)
The sharp readers out there will point out that traditional field goal percentage doesn’t reflect Anthony’s shooting ability, since he launches a healthy dose of 3-pointers, which obviously count more on the scoreboard. That’s true. But if you’ve been paying attention, you know Anthony is not a good shooter from beyond the arc, so that doesn’t help his case. As a career .308 percent 3-point shooter, his shot from downtown ranks far below the norm (the average small forward shot .349 last season; Melo shot .316) and any progress he seemingly made in 2008-09, when he shot a career-high .371, disappeared. Even if we incorporate the added point bonus of a 3-pointer, the Syracuse product’s shooting percentages are, at best, average.”
The should-be-writing-much-more-often Nick Flynt then added a twist of his own, dispelling the notion that Melo is such a deadly scorer by virtue of his jumpshot:
“While I was researching this information, it came to my attention that Carmelo is known as a jumpshooter (and credited with being very good from mid-range). I assumed this to be true, mostly from anecdotal evidence. According to hoopdata.com, Carmelo Anthony actually had the 2nd most attempts at the rim of any player last season (outdone only by rookie Tyreke Evans). This is the guy known to not have the “same drive as D-Wade,” as well as being called soft, and he gets to the rim more than anyone in the league (other than one great rookie) and is one of the best rebounders at his position.
The mid-range shooter moniker isn’t totally incorrect, however, as he shot the most attempts at 16-23 feet of all swingmen (same parameters as used earlier), making just above league average at 40%. He also shot the 4th most attempts from 10-15 feet of swingmen with those same parameters.”
Finally, the one and only Zach Harper chose to analyze Melo’s game like only he can, somehow simultaneously comparing him to Kevin Durant and to dance club trilogy Step Up:
“Aside from a PER, offensive rating and win shares, the numbers are pretty even all across the board. Durant’s TS% is also much higher than Carmelo’s but considering Durant just put together a historic season at the free throw line, I don’t think you can really use that against Anthony all that much. Win shares and offensive rating are fairly damning but I still don’t believe that it disproves Carmelo being an elite player in this league.
Look to the fourth quarter of the last three seasons and you’ll see that Anthony has been far superior to Durant in clutch scoring. Yes, Durant is still so young and doing all of this at the equivalent of being a NBA toddler but it doesn’t change the fact that Carmelo bests him in a very important area despite taking a backseat to the current popular opinion of who is better between the two.”
All three make very valid points. Melo’s value as a player comes from scoring the ball first, second and third. He is an above-average rebounder for his position, a below-average defender, and an around-average ball handler and creator, depending on the night.
But he is indeed an elite scorer.
Despite the unimpressive efficiency numbers and the undeniably accurate label of a “volume shooter,” Melo possesses offensive versatility that very few players have, from driving to shooting to posting up. And with the game on the line, and that big of an arsenal, there are very few other players, if any at all, that you would like shooting the rock.
Will He Be Traded? Should He Be Traded?
If recent reports are to be believed, Anthony – long hesitant to sign a 3-year, $65 million extension that is reportedly his for the taking – wants out of Denver. If this is the case, both sides have motivation to deal him before this year’s trade deadline rather than waiting for next summer when Melo will be a free agent. And indeed, the reports indicate that both Anthony and the Nuggets have come to terms with the fact that Melo will not be a Nugget by the time the 2010-11 season ends.
From Anthony’s perspective, the motivation is financial: though he is set to become a free agent at season’s end, the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations could restrict the amount of money he could make on the open market. The Nuggets’ extension offer provides Melo with maximum cash – but then, of course, he is forced to stay in Denver. Therefore, the ideal situation for him would be to sign the extension, handpick his destination (reportedly New York, but come on, we’ve heard this too many times before), and get traded there.
As for the Nuggets, it’s the famous “we’d rather trade him over losing him for nothing” strategy that the Cavs, Raptors and Suns chose to neglect this summer (although trade exceptions are pretty valuable, so I guess that’s more than nothing). If Melo is set on leaving, then deluding yourself with visions of grandeur and contention is a waste of time – might as well get the rebuilding going now.
All of which means that, at this point, Melo seems gone.
Of course, one must still determine…
The Asking Price
Anthony’s situation is intriguing because of his impending free agency: if his contract is coming off the books anyhow, trading him for straight up cap relief is moot. This means that the Nuggets could go one of three ways (or any combination of them).
1. Uber Cap Relief
As in, you give us expiring contracts, we’ll give you Melo and our long term contracts. This seems quite unlikely, since Denver has only 4 players under contract past 2011-2012, and only two of them (Al Harrington, Chris Andersen) make more than 3 million a year (the other two are Ty Lawson and Renaldo Balkman). So unless the Nuggets are really desperate to unload their mid-level exception signings from the past two summers, I doubt they go this way.
2. We’re Still Trying to Contend
Move Melo, bring in another elite swingman instead, and keep on going. Again, unlikely, because you can’t get a player as good as Melo this way, and with the Nuggets having enough frontcourt/craziness holes as is, bringing in a player who isn’t as good as Melo but who would expect the same role will probably mean implosion.
3. Bring Me Your Young, Your Draft Picks
I would assume that the Nuggets believe that option three is better than option two, which is better than option one. Young assets are probably the key here – no deal will get done without them unless it’s a no-brainer. Cap space takes a back seat to getting serviceable players, but if such players don’t arrive, I wouldn’t be surprised if Andersen/Harrington get moved, seeing how they have no value to a rebuilding squad. Of course, this is how we expect them to act – they may just go along as if nothing happened and try to contend.
The wild card here, though, is Chauncey Billups.
Chauncey’s contract has only two more years on it – $13 million this year, and $14 million next year. With only $3.7 million of next year guaranteed, dumping Chauncey seems pointless. But with a strong point guard prospect waiting in the wings in Lawson and the Nuggets in luxury tax territory, losing that extra Chauncey cash might be just alluring enough for a salary dump that exceeds just Melo. I predict that we see a full-fledged salary dump if — and only if — Billups leaves the Mile High City along with his All-Star teammate.
Reports are citing New York and Orlando as those atop Melo’s wish list (where have I seen those two teams on the top of a wish list before?). The Knicks have very little to offer beyond the promise of Danilo Gallinari and Anthony Randolph, however, and the only players Orlando has on the roster who don’t posses bloated contracts (either money-wise or length-wise) are Jameer Nelson, Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson and Daniel Orton. I’d assume the first two are unavailable and the last two aren’t enough to haul in Melo on their own. Besides, predicting what everybody else is predicting is no fun at all.
If not New York or Orlando, who else could be in the running?
It has to be at least a Playoff team, and preferably a contender. Otherwise Melo might not re-sign, and they risk trading good assets for nothing. They also have to have a somewhat stable financial foundation if they’re taking him on after he signs a 3-year, $65 million extension considering he is a player who can’t win you a title on your own. And learning from the Miami experience, one presumes Anthony would rather go to a team with another young star who he can be buddies with.
That being said, let’s throw out some hypotheticals of our own, ranging from “the least crazy” to “Ron Artest.”
(Disclaimer: In no way do I think any of these deals will happen. I’m just having fun. If you can’t deal with that, stop reading now.)
Trade #1 – The Rockets trade Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger, Kevin Martin and two first round picks (Knicks in ’11, Knicks in ’12) for Carmelo Anthony
This is the “of course we can compete now!” trade for Denver, which sadly, may be very very likely. Martin comes in to replace most of Melo’s scoring, and while he can’t compete with the sheer volume Melo offers, he can contribute his points more effectively. Budinger fills in at the 3, either in front, behind or next to Al Harrington (both seem to be very good off the bench). Afflalo retains the role of defensive stopper, which is why the Nuggets probably don’t compromise for similar stoppers like Shane Battier or Courtney Lee, and insist on Martin. Jordan Hill and the Knicks’ picks are for the future, though if Denver is persistent, they might get Patrick Patterson instead of Hill (I doubt Morey gives up both).
As for Houston, you suddenly have a dynamic offensive unit, with Aaron Brooks, Melo, Luis Scola, and hopefully a healthy Yao Ming. You still have your defenders in Lee, Battier, Kyle Lowry and Chuck Hayes. You have either Patterson or Hill developing in the front court. In short, you have compromised some (but not much) depth and some future assets to upgrade from Kevin Martin to Carmelo Anthony.
Hypothetical Daryl Morey runs Barter Town.
Trade #2 – The Trailblazers trade Rudy Fernandez, Greg Oden, Nicolas Batum, Joel Pryzbilla and Jeff Pendegraph for Carmelo Anthony and Chris Andersen
The more I think about this, the more I like it.
Denver gets a prospect searching for a new home in Rudy Fernandez, a potential defensive star in Nicolas Batum and cap relief by exchanging Pryzbilla’s expiring contract for Andersen’s deal. Pendegraph is filler and anything he gives will be gravy.
Of course, the big thing here is Oden. I’m still a believer in the power of Gregorious – the “BUST” cries conveniently ignore just how good he was when healthy last year. Maybe a change of scenery can do him good. Even though every indication shows that Portland has been nothing but wonderful in treating Oden, maybe losing that pressure of proving he wasn’t the wrong draft pick will do him good.
This leaves Denver with a core of Billups/Lawson/Afflalo/JR Smith/Rudy/Batum/Kenyon/Nene/Oden. A core that combines financial flexibility with unlimited defensive potential (Afflalo and Batum in the wings with Oden down low? Gulp). Oden is a risk, but I don’t think any other deal approaches this upside.
As for Portland – Andre Miller, Brandon Roy, Melo, Lamarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby. Yeah. I know. Even if this is too much 2005 Nuggets for you (Miller and Camby aren’t any younger), this is a no-brainer.
Trade #3 – The Hornets trade Marcus Thornton, Quincy Pondexter, Peja Stojakovic and Craig Brackins for Carmelo Anthony and Chris Andersen
As much as I hate conspiracy theories, this summer has taught us that they sometimes have credence. As such, I am including this scenario solely because of the Anthony/Paul connection. This Miami super team will probably affect the league more than we realize, with All-Stars choosing to play together over staying on separate sides of the road. Since the rumors insist that Paul and Anthony want to play together, and the Hornets possess both Peja Stojakovic’s huge expiring contract and all the leverage over the squad Paul plays for next year, Melo might just end up playing in teal.
But this is still extremely unlikely from Denver’s part, because they get so little. As I mentioned earlier, cap relief for Anthony doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, and even getting rid of the Birdman does nothing to change the fact that Thornton, Pondexter and Brackins are probably not asset-y enough to get it done, beastly as Thornton may be. Maybe adding Trevor Ariza when he’s eligible to be moved again will cut it, though I still doubt Denver would bite.
Finally, the craziest deal I could think of …
Trade #4 – The Bobcats trade Erick Dampier and DJ Augustin to the Nuggets; the Suns trade Jared Dudley, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark to the Nuggets; the Nuggets trade Chauncey Billups to the Bobcats; and the Nuggets trade Carmelo Anthony and Al Harrington to the Suns
This gets a little complicated, so let’s brake it down:
Why the Bobcats Do It
Because the Bobcats have always been win now, Chauncey Billups has always been a Larry Brown guy while DJ Augustin is not, and they were going to waive Dampier anyway. This makes Charlotte much better in the short term – pretty much a Playoff lock – which is all that matters to them.
Why the Suns Do It
Because this is Steve Nash’s last shot. And as much as they love Dudley and Richardson, Melo was made for run and gun. He could finally shoot over 50% from the field with Nash giving him the ball, and he could be devastating as Nash’s new pick-and-roll guy. Melo and Turkoglu will man the two forward spots, Hill and Childress will play the 2 and the remaining minutes at the 3, and this is a scary, scary team.
Why the Nuggets Do It
Because this is how they clear the deck. Dampier is immediately waivable, Kenyon Martin, Jason Richardson and JR Smith leave after the season, probably Nene as well, and you are left with Lawson/Afflalo/Dudley/Clark as your core. If you can dump Harrington or Andersen, all the better. The biggest mistake teams make is not knowing when to call quits. With Billups and Martin aging, the Nuggets have nothing to offer in the short term without Melo. Might as well realize it.
Why Melo Does It
He gets to play with an amazing point guard in a rapidly growing city, and he eventually becomes the man when Nash retires. In the meantime, he gets to contend with a team that might be the funnest ever, competing only with every other Nash-led Suns squad. And really, what more can you ask for?
Not happening … but, ya know … it would be fun if it did.
Chances are, Melo gets traded. We hear rumors like these all the time – heck, the ridiculous Chris Paul rumors are still amongst us – but this time, Melo has all the leverage, which usually ends in the player getting what he wants.
But the Nuggets have the time to hold out for a good offer. And by good, I don’t mean, “we might make the Playoffs anyway.” I mean, “we might be good again in a few years.” Because that’s the right way. In the meantime, all we can do is hope he doesn’t go to the Knicks.
Just for comedy’s sake.
It’s what keeps me alive.