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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Melo Drama

As Carmelo's World Turns will return after these messages....

It's good to be me! 1
The NBA trade deadline of February 24 is fast approaching. As it nears, expect to hear more and more and more and MORE of one name: that of Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony. In my short time as a blogger, I have learned that there are three kinds of readers: sports junkies (like me), casual fans (who I believe comprise a plurality of Hat Trick readers), and people who are newer to some (or all) sports and trying to enlighten themselves (especially women). Side note (and my advertisers won't like this): my advice to people in the latter group: RUN!!! You get sucked in for LIFE!!!

Casual fans may wonder, "what is the big deal? He's just ONE basketball player!" The big deal is that he is one of the top 5 players in the league and will add enormous value to the talent assets of any team overnight. Any team that is close to contending will be contending. Any team with no shot now has, at least, a long shot. Any team at the front of the line would be able to run away from the pack altogether.

Rather than give my in-depth analysis of all of the constantly changing moving parts in the Carmelo trade, which is no more useful than an umbrella in a light drizzle during the summer (doesn't cover you from much and you may be better off without it), The Hat Trick can better serve you by looking ahead to what the league will look like, this year and beyond, after the possible Carmelo trade scenarios.

Scenario #1 - NOTHING

Nothing from nothing leaves nothing. Should nothing happen by next Thursday, everyone loses, except, perhaps Carmelo. The Nuggets will get into the Western Conference playoffs as a low seed and likely be cleaned out in six games or less. Melo and (lovely wife) Lala will pack their stuff and head East. NO MORE MELO!
Jigga might have to wear that jersey on the court if the Nets don't get some starpower soon! 4

Anthony will likely play for the New York Knicks (the Brooklyn Nets are a longshot) in 2012, assuming the NBA can get a handle on its labor situation. The East will become hyper-competitive between the Knicks, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, and Chicago Bulls. Everyone else in the East will be effectively rendered a sparring partner. Denver would get nothing in exchange for its star of the last decade. The East will have a strong, legitimate contender in the Finals for years to come. Jay-Z will continue to be the featured attraction at Nets games. He may have to perform at halftime to keep people coming to the games.

Carmelo's wife, LaLa Vasquez.... Alright this has nothing to do with the subject, but at least I didn't find an excuse to "force" you fellas to look at Jenn Sterger again. I'm sure that would have disappointed you.

Scenario #2 - Carmelo resigns with the Nuggets.

This is not all that far fetched. Carmelo wants in New York more than he wants out of Denver. Melo's worst case scenario would be to sign a 3 year, $63 million extension, which the Nuggets have left on the table for months.


I would like to pause for a moment to reflect on the good fortune some people have in life. My worst case scenario, professionally, would be losing my real job and moving in with my parents. Some folks would be on the street. There are some people making high six figure salaries who have had to work for less than half of that because of the recent recession. Carmelo's worst case scenario is to limp into the Nuggets front office, hat-in-hand, and sign a contract guaranteeing him $21 million per year in salary for the next three years. How could he look at himself in the mirror after that abject humiliation?!?
Melo is so money and doesn't even know it, even though he swims in it. 3
Ahem...Carmelo may sign the extension because, with the uncertainty of the future collective bargaining agreement, the Nuggets (or any team) may not be able to offer him as much money. The NBA has hinted of financial problems for months. This signals, to me, a more challenging contract structure for star players or a lower salary cap. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. By 2015, when the three year extension would be expired, Melo will be just over 30, with plenty of $20+ million seasons in front of him.

Should that happen, the Nuggets would likely continue as a contender for the Northwest division title for the next three years, along with the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder. Come 2015, Melo would take his talents to the Big Apple, triggering a power shift similar to that described in Scenario 3.

Scenario 3 - Melo to the Knicks

To the casual observer, this has appeared to be the most likely scenario all season. The Knicks want Carmelo Anthony (and guard Chauncey Billups and Bullups' expiring contract) badly. Well, in this world you have to give something to get something. Carmelo appears as frustrated as the rest of the basketball world with the Knicks stubborn refusal to let go of role players to complete this trade.

HELLO!!!! You become an overnight contender with Anthony added to a team with Amare Stoudemire. Who cares about backup center Eddie Curry and other guys who keep the bench nice and toasty. DO YOU WANNA WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP OR NOT?

The Nuggets stand to be the biggest loser in any trade, so I do not fault them for expecting a little value, like expiring contracts (like that of Curry and others) and a first round draft pick. The Knicks are trying to drive a hard bargain because they believe they have the leverage in free agency. However, the aforementioned uncertainty of the NBA's labor agreement may erode some of that leverage, making Scenario 2 more possible.

Should the Knicks turn the corner from "Stubborn Street" to "Trade Parkway" the Knicks go from a much improved team, all but locked into the 5th or 6th seed but with a bad defense and no realistic shot of coming out of the East in 2011, to an overnight contender, with as much of a chance of going to the finals as the Heat, Celtics, Magic, or Bulls. Melo would all but certainly be offered a max contract and make the Knicks perpetual contenders in the East for several years to come.

The Nuggets would go into rebuilding mode and, taking an educated guess, be replaced by the emerging Los Angeles Clippers, with the core of Blake Griffin, Eric Bledsoe, and Baron Davis, as one of the nine teams that make a run in the West each season for the next several years.

Scenario 4 - Melo to the Lakers

This appears very unlikely, as the Lakers have made it very clear that center Andrew Bynum, in whom the Nuggets are interested, is going nowhere and that Bynum is a vital part of the Lakers' future, in spite of Bynum's chronic injury problems during his young career. I think this is the correct move for the Lake Show, which can ill afford to give up any inside presence during the playoffs. Still, The Lakers could offer draft picks, other expiring contracts, and cash to land Melo for the remainder of this season. Oatmeal is better than no meal for the Nuggets.

Should this scenario play out...well...we may watch the playoffs for entertainment purposes, but they can just hand the Lakers their third consecutive championship after the ink dries on the deal. There have been questions about whether or not Anthony and Kobe Bryant could coexist on the same team. I think that would be a legitimate long run concern. But in a temporary situation with a championship ring at stake, I think the stars (who are friends) can take the "I" out of "team" for four months, considering the reward.

Can you imagine how many wheels in those collective heads were spinning that summer? 5
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