As NBA training camps open, it’s no longer a stubborn rumor that Carmelo Anthony wants out of Denver. Hearsay has become fact, and trade him they must.
Yet the Nuggets seem to be stymied because the players they most desire in return — the likes of Brook Lopez, Joakim Noah and Danilo Gallinari — have been declared to be untouchable by their respective teams.
Several questions, quite naturally, arise from this scrambled situation: Is Carmelo a franchise player? What might be his impact on the several teams in the mix? And what happens to the Nuggets if he stays or if he goes?
How good is 'Melo?
The characteristics of a legitimate franchise player include someone who never takes a game off, is a leader and always wants the ball in clutch situations. In addition, a franchise player will do whatever is necessary to win a game — including, but not limited to, a critical score, rebound, steal or defensive stop, assist and/or the rescue of a loose ball.
Unfortunately, Anthony doesn’t always play hard. Indeed, he usually plays with maximum energy only when he’s involved in direct confrontations with fellow superstars such as Kobe, LeBron and Kevin Durant. Although he’s absolutely capable of playing lock-down defense, 'Melo is rarely moved to do so.
Moreover, he has no leadership capabilities. The Nuggets were totally rudderless until Chauncey Billups came aboard.
Anthony is still a somewhat reluctant and unreliable passer, but he does relish taking clutch shots and tends to make them on a regular basis.
Just because a player is a bountiful point-maker doesn’t necessarily mean that he can be the backbone of a successful ball club. Denver certainly can’t be faulted for trying to make the best deal possible, yet its over-valuing of Anthony has created what appear to be insurmountable obstacles.
Who would Carmelo help most?
There’s no way of knowing what players might change uniforms if/when some arrangement comes to pass, but here’s how Anthony’s presence could impact the teams that are reportedly seeking his services.
NEW JERSEY looked like Carmelo's next home until a proposed four-team trade involving the Nuggets, Bobcats and Jazz fell through. The Nets were at least somewhat attractive to 'Melo if only because the team is expected to move to Brooklyn in three years. Not only is he a native New Yorker, but his wife, La La, desperately wants to live and hopefully work in the media capitol of the world.
On the court, if a trade to New Jersey gets revived, Anthony would certainly be the Nets' go-to scorer and the focus of their entire offense. It’s probable that he’d score more points-per-game in New Jersey than anywhere else. But the Nets would still be a lottery team.
NEW YORK lacks the first-round draft choices that Denver requires, so as much as Anthony wants to be a Knick — and as agreeable as he would be to sign an extension with them — this destination is highly unlikely unless a third team can get involved. However, Anthony would thrive in Mike D’Antoni’s freewheeling, on-your-own offense. The prospect of getting the ball in innumerable isolation situations would make 'Melo ecstatic.
However, since Amar’e Stoudemire also wants to be the lynchpin of the offense, the distribution of ball time and shots could eventually cause trouble.
CHICAGO’s new coach, Tom Thibodeau, emphasizes defense. As such, Noah figures to be a significant force in Thibodeau’s game plan. Adding Anthony while subtracting Noah would mean that Thibodeau would ultimately be the wrong coach for the wrong team. Nor would Anthony be receptive to the discipline that will be central to Thibodeau’s offense.
Yet, in league with Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng (if he isn’t part of any trade), the Bulls would have a fail-safe scorer who would elevate them to the top of the NBA’s second-tier teams.
HOUSTON would benefit the most from 'Melo’s presence. With Luis Scola operating up front in tandem with even a diminished Yao Ming and with Aaron Brooks' zippy drive-and-kicks, Anthony would be relatively unencumbered by double teams. At the other end of the court, Shane Battier, Chuck Hayes and Jared Jeffries would provide more than adequate defense.
However, the lightweight defense and shot-happy offense of Kevin Martin would be a serious impediment to the success of this new roster. Which is why Martin must go if Anthony comes. If Yao can even approximate his past achievements in Houston, then the addition of Anthony would make the Rockets a legitimate threat to dethrone the Lakers.
What about Denver?
Should the Nuggets be unable to make a deal soon, the resulting uncertainty and disgruntlement would result in a ruinous start to their season. The time misspent while trying to make a deal before the February deadline would only prolong the team’s distress.
Should a trade be made before the first ball is officially bounced, then the Nuggets would be an entirely different team. If Kevin Martin is the only accomplished scorer they can obtain, Denver would then rank among the league’s softest ball clubs. Barring any other unforeseen developments, the erratic and irascible J.R. Smith would be their primary scorer. Not a very healing situation for George Karl.
It seems as though the Nuggets are being sensible in demanding a batch of first-round draft picks in exchange for Anthony — if only because, sans 'Melo, the franchise would be forced to initiate a drastic rebuilding process.
Examined from any angle, Anthony’s power play is bad for the Nuggets in the short run but could conceivably have a beneficial outcome in the unforeseeable future.
Still, the sooner they get rid of Anthony, the better for all concerned.