Carmelo Anthony Sweepstakes Come Into Focus
There was hardly a breather between LeBron James' "Decision" and the saga that surrounds disgruntled Denver star Carmelo Anthony. Yet after months of speculation about the level of his discontent, it has finally been established that the Nuggets are listening to offers for the three-time, All-Star small forward after he has left their three-year, $65 million extension offer unsigned for months.
This is no free-agent process. It's a potential trade that comes with a long list of moving parts, competing agendas and enough number-crunching to wear out even the best capologists. There is one elementary element of this equation, however, that matters above the rest: the young talent.
According to numerous league sources, the Nuggets' main focus in trade talks is on the quality of the young player being offered who -- as the request goes -- is still playing under his rookie scale contract. First-round draft picks are on the wish list, too, with the Nuggets refusing to go too far backward and looking for that new, younger core in return for Anthony.
With that in mind, we look at a few potential destinations for Anthony and discuss each team's respective willingness to part ways with those prized assets. But first, a quick recap of the fluid situation.
The Nets are reportedly the frontrunners (more on that later). But Anthony's preference is to be traded to New York or Chicago and subsequently sign the same extension he has resisted agreeing to with the Nuggets. Those are hardly the only suitors, though. and to know the youthful assets of each team is to know which ones have the most legitimate chance.
New Jersey Nets
First things first, a league source has told both FanHouse and ESPN.com's Chris Broussard that Anthony won't necessarily re-sign an extension with the Nets. That's a deal-breaker in most cases, if true, including this one.
Ignore that for a moment and look at the rest of the relevant material. There are some real possibilities here.
Depending on the level of leverage the Nuggets hold going forward (which will be based on the quality of the incoming offers), the base request when it comes to the young talent is rookie forward Derrick Favors (the No. 3 pick in the draft out of Georgia Tech) and the greedy demand is the inclusion of third-year center Brook Lopez.
The Nets are reportedly unwilling to include Lopez, more out of fear that his departure would mean Anthony won't sign an extension than any loyalty to Lopez. But that takes away a significant bargaining chip, as the Nuggets have no starting-caliber centers on contract beyond 2011 (Nene can opt out of his contract after the 2010-11 campaign) and Lopez (18.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game last season) could be their anchor down low for years to come.
As for draft picks, the Nets have one first-rounder next year and two in 2012. (H/T for pick info to RealGM.com.)
New York Knicks
This is reportedly Anthony's preferred destination, as it gets him near his hometown (Baltimore), side by side with good friend/Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire and puts his wife/entertainer, La La, in the sort of big market she craves for her career.
None of which matters to the Nuggets.
Any way you look at it, the Knicks -- who seemed to be the apple of LeBron's eye heading into free agency -- look destined for disappointment once again. They have young talent -- from third-year forwards Danilo Gallinari, Anthony Randolph and Wilson Chandler to second-year guard Toney Douglas -- but none are considered future stars by most. Even more importantly, the Knicks gave Houston their 2012 first-round pick (top five protected through 2015) as well as the right to swap 2011 first-rounders (unless it's the No. 1 pick) in the three-team deal with Sacramento in February. That deal, of course, was all about creating the salary cap room they hoped to use on James and a fellow top-tier free agent. Wound, say hello to salt.
The only sliver of hope for the Knicks is if the deal included a third team that could help fill the significant holes in their pitch.
If the Rockets land Anthony, Knicks team president Donnie Walsh might just take his ripped-out heart and ship it to Houston general manager Daryl Morey to put on display at the Toyota Center.
And contrary to reports, it's the 2012 Knicks pick -- and not Rockets shooting guard Kevin Martin -- that is part of the ongoing discussions between Denver and Houston. While it has been reported that Martin is the central figure of Morey's proposal for Anthony, two sources close to the Rockets say that's not the case.
What's more, Martin told FanHouse that Morey called him Wednesday morning to inform that the reports were inaccurate. The Nuggets aren't looking to take on sizable future salaries like Martin's as it is (three years and approximately $36 million remaining), but they have a greater interest in adding to their frontcourt than they do the perimeter and might be enticed to build the deal around forward Luis Scola (five years, $47 million).
The fourth-year player isn't exactly young (he's 30), but he is in the prime of his career and looking better than ever at the FIBA World Championship this summer while playing for Argentina. There is a major catch, though, as Scola can't be traded until December 15 because he signed his contract this summer.
The Rockets have cheap big men with some upside as well, among them second-year forward Jordan Hill (eighth overall pick out of Arizona in 2009 by the Knicks) and rookie forward Patrick Patterson (14th overall pick out of Kentucky).
And with the clock always ticking on the Yao Ming era in which Morey has nothing short of championship visions, the motivation here is plenty high. The Rockets can sweeten the pot with picks, too, as they have the one swap-capable first-round pick for 2011 (also courtesy of the Knicks) and two in 2012.
Just as the Nets must decide how tightly to hold onto Lopez, the Bulls are in the process of checking their grip on center Joakim Noah.
Those internal discussions continue just as Noah's representatives are working on an extension, a clear indicator of the enviable conflict at hand. The Bulls will be good with Noah, but the dramatic upswing in his play last season means he's a Nuggets target.
Chicago would likely include small forward Luol Deng (four years and $51.3 million remaining) and also has young forwards James Johnson and Taj Gibson to offer. If they relent on Noah, they may well be the winners in the Anthony sweepstakes. Draft picks are not a problem in their case, either, as they have one first-round pick in 2011 and two in 2012 (one of which is top-12 protected).
Golden State Warriors
Here's where we begin the "outside chance" portion of the program.
Only soon-to-be owner Joe Lacob knows how far he's willing to go to get Anthony, but this sort of trade could be exactly the sort of move he's looking for to prove to downtrodden Warriors fans that his new regime will be run differently. And according to Marcus Thompson of the Contra Costa Times, Lacob might do an Anthony deal even if he can't get him to commit to an extension.
Lacob and co-owner Peter Guber are taking over for Chris Cohan, the much-maligned former owner whose track record included one Warriors playoff berth since he bought the team in 1995. Lacob has been on a bully pulpit since news of the ownership change broke, explaining to any media member who will listen how he plans to run the organization in the sort of first-class manner he witnessed as a minority owner of the Boston Celtics.
He's vowing to change perceptions of the market, to combine winning on the court with all that's good in the Bay Area and make his team and his region a destination point for players. Yet even with one potential obstacle possibly cleared (that being the no-need-for-an-extension approach), there is another significant one: the Warriors don't want to part ways with Stephen Curry.
League sources say the Nuggets are extremely high on Curry and would demand the second-year guard be included in any deal with the Warriors, but it appears highly unlikely Golden State would cooperate. The more likely scenario is a deal involving veteran guard Monta Ellis ($44 million over the next four seasons) and center Andris Biedrins (four years, $36 million remaining with fourth-year a player option), and that sort of combination certainly doesn't fit with Denver's demands.
Other potential pieces: newly acquired forward David Lee (six years, $80 million left), rookie forward Ekpe Udoh (No. 6 pick in June out of Baylor), and guard Reggie Williams (second-year player and former D-Leaguer who averaged 15.2 points in 24 games last season). The need for the Warriors to join forces with a third team in a deal is even more vital considering they can't offer any first-round draft picks until 2014 (read here for more on why).
One thing Lacob has going for him that Timberwolves general manager David Kahn does not: a clean slate.
Nonetheless, a source close to the Nuggets tells FanHouse that the much-maligned Kahn has indeed inquired about Anthony and may be considering taking a Warriors-esque jump off of this cliff. Anthony would certainly have to be convinced to stick around the Land of 10,000 Lakes beyond this summer, but Kahn has more than enough to satisfy the Nuggets' demands.
The most intriguing young players and picks at his disposal: third-year forwards Kevin Love and Michael Beasley; the rights to Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio; fourth-year swingman Corey Brewer; and two first-round draft picks in 2011 (with significant protections).
Behold the wild card.
No one fits the bill of budding franchise star like forward Blake Griffin, and sources say the Nuggets' brass have quite the love affair with the 6-foot-10 high-flier whose rookie year is finally about to begin. All is not lost even if the Clippers won't let him go.
Veteran Chris Kaman (18.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game last season) could fill the hole down low and doesn't come with too much future money, as he has two seasons left on his deal (combined $23.5 million). Third-year guard Eric Gordon raised his league-wide (heck, worldwide) value with his play in the FIBA World Championship with Team USA.
Rookie forward Al-Farouq Aminu (eighth pick out of Wake Forest) could help with the Nuggets' youth movement, too. The Clippers have two first-round draft picks in 2011 as well (including one with top 10 protections next year but none in 2012) but no first-round picks in 2012. Anthony is said to have his eye on Los Angeles, and the appeal of being in Tinsel Town might be enough (for him and the Mrs.) to help him see past the many past missteps of owner Donald T. Sterling and sign the extension.
Who says the Hornets can't hold onto Chris Paul?
If they land Anthony -- and convince him to stay after the season -- CP3 won't want to go anywhere when he can become a free agent the summer of 2012. The once-frustrated Paul is already singing a different tune than he was a few months ago, but it can't be forgotten how he shared his dream of playing with Anthony and Stoudemire in New York at Anthony's wedding this summer.
According to a source close to the Hornets, they have inquired about Anthony and what it might take to get him. And while New Orleans certainly doesn't t have the assets in terms of star-caliber young talent, they do have All-Star forward David West ($8.2 million this season, player option for $7.5 million next season) or small forward Trevor Ariza (four years and $28 million remaining) -- veterans who could help speed up the recovery process for Denver.
There's quantity and some quality on the young talent front as well, from second-year guard Marcus Thornton (expiring deal worth approximately $762,000) to swingman Quincy Pondexter (26th pick out of the University of Washington).
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