The Nuggets are going to lose Carmelo Anthony. Reading the tea leaves, not to mention all those Internet reports, it’s obvious Melo’s days in Denver are numbered.
At issue now is how to proceed. Barring a sudden change of heart from Melo, Denver trading its franchise cornerstone is the best and only course, especially when the alternative is letting Melo walk for nothing next summer.
Denver is looking to avoid the same fate as Cleveland. The Cavaliers had their hearts ripped out and championship hopes gutted by the whims of free agency. Not getting LeBron’d has put the Nuggets’ reconfigured front office on the offensive.
Internally, trading Anthony had been discussed earlier this summer when it became obvious that Melo wasn’t in any hurry to sign that $65 million extension. Owner-to-be Josh Kroenke tried to personally appeal to Anthony, but Melo wants out.
Plain and simple.
So now it’s up to Kroenke and new general manager Masai Ujiri to find the best deal. The makeup of that deal depends on what the Nuggets want back.
Do the Nuggets need to get an elite talent to build around? Is a package of young players, Draft picks and salary cap relief the way to go? Does Denver want to dump some of its other expiring contracts, like those of Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith?
Melo is owed $17 million this season, so this is going to be a massive transaction regardless of what other pieces are included. Just about any trading partner is going to want assurances that Anthony is going to sign an extension before agreeing to a trade.
That’s where Melo’s new CAA management team of William Wesley and Leon Rose comes into play. They’re the power brokers behind the scenes, “negotiating” with potential suitors to put the parameters of a trade in place. Worldwide Wes is probably going to have more to do with a deal being struck than the GMs involved.
A report from Yahoo! Sports listed the Nets, Clippers, Warriors, Rockets and Bobcats as possible destinations for Anthony. The Knicks have long been rumored as a Melo landing spot. The Magic could use another superstar alongside Dwight Howard. The Mavericks have the assets in place to make a pitch, plus title-hungry owner Mark Cuban.
Anthony is a top-10 player in the league. In the right situation and with the right frame of mind, he could be the final championship piece. Contenders outside of Los Angeles and Miami know as much.
When to do the deal? Well, moving Melo before the season has its advantages. If the Nuggets are going to rebuild, they might as well start as soon as possible. But waiting until the February trade deadline could sweeten the pot for Denver and amp up the bidding, especially among teams looking to close the gap on the Lakers and Heat.
The ball has been in Melo’s hands since this contract standoff began. Now the question is: Can the Nuggets steal it back?