Mercifully, the Clippers stopped surfacing seriously in Carmelo Anthony trade talks a while ago. There was the obligatory LaLa wants to be in Hollywood angle for awhile, and then it died down. The suggestion a couple of days ago that the Clippers could secure Anthony if they were willing to include Blake Griffin in the deal made me snort my milk through my nose (and I was eating Grape Nuts at the time, so ouch).
The talk instead has been centering on New Jersey, and it seems to be reaching a boiling point. According to reports, the Nets have put together an offer the the Nuggets are absolutely jumping at, with the biggest remaining hurdle being Carmelo's willingness to sign an extension. In other words, if Carmelo truly wants out of Denver, it's up to him at this point.
And why wouldn't the Nuggets be anxious to complete this deal? With a couple of other teams involved, here's the proposed swap. New Jersey gets Anthony, and maybe D.J. Augustine from Charlotte, Charlotte gets Devin Harris New Jersey, Utah gets Boris Diaw from Charlotte and maybe former Clipper Quinton Ross from New Jersey, and Denver gets Anderi Kirilenko from Utah, and Derrick Favors and a couple of first round picks from New Jersey.
The Nuggets-centric view of the trade boils down to this:
- Kirilenko (in the final year of a max deal, i.e. that equals max salary relief);
- Favors, the third pick in this year's draft;
- The Nets' 2011 first round pick;
- The Warriors' 2012 first round pick, top 7 protected.
Just so we're clear, this is in exchange for a guy who will be a free agent next year and has made it pretty clear that he's not staying in Denver by ignoring the lucrative three year extension the Nuggets have already offered. So would you rather have nothing, or three consecutive lottery picks? Um, gee. That's a toughie.
Compare and contrast that haul for Anthony to what the Grizzlies got from the Lakers in exchange for Pau Gasol. Fortunately for Memphis, Marc Gasol turned out to be a player, but that was a surprise. Everything else was end of the first round picks, which let's face, the Lakers rarely keep anyway.
Could the Clippers compete with that offer? Golly, I sure hope not. Obviously, Favors hasn't played an NBA game yet, but he was the third pick in the draft, so you'd certainly have to be talking about Gordon or Griffin to be in the conversation. Aminu doesn't get you in the door. They're also giving up Devin Harris, a 27 year old All Star, so you'd have to include Kaman as the equivalent (and New Jersey's inclusion of other teams just illustrates that although Denver doesn't really need a point guard, Harris is a tradeable asset that got Denver what they want, i.e. salary relief). And then you'd have to give up not one but two picks over the next two years. (Happily, since one of LAC's three picks will already go to OKC, in fact they could not actually make that offer because of the Stepien rule.)
The crazy thing is, as great of a deal as this is for Denver, it's actually not a bad deal for New Jersey. How can that be? Well, stay with me here. If the ultimate goal is to win an NBA championship, it's a terrible decision for New Jersey - they certainly won't win one in the four years (this plus the three year extension) of this Melo deal, and then he's 30 and looking for even more money). I don't think Carmelo Anthony is a player who is going to win a ring more or less by himself, as evidenced by his six first round exits in seven NBA seasons so far. So trading away a good point guard in Harris, plus three consecutive lottery picks, will hamstring the franchise for a long, long time. BUT, with new owner Mikhail Prokhorov taking over, and a new home on the horizon, the Nets need a new start. Anthony will bring excitement and probably a level of competitiveness at the beginning of this new era. And assuming that Prokhorov is willing to operate above the luxury tax (he's so loaded that it's chump change to him), Anthony's salary won't be quite the anchor on the Nets as it would be on a more fiscally conservative franchise (like say, oh I dunno, the LA Clippers). Prokhorov won't hesitate to give Brook Lopez his max deal in 2012, all the while signing free agents to the mid level every year as well.
It's also interesting to look at this from Carmelo Anthony's perspective. How badly does he (a) want out of Denver and (b) want that extension before the new labor agreement? Because he's walking into what figures to be a complete disaster. You're talking about a team that won 12 games last season, and only a late season surge got them to that point and saved them the ignominy of having the worst regular season record of all time. Now take that team, and remove their starting point guard, second leading scorer and leading assist man. And take away the lottery pick they earned with that terrible record. And take away the lottery pick they'll likely earn with the terrible record they'll have this season. And take away the lottery pick they're owed in 2012 from the Warriors. So it's a 12 win team that got worse and has little opportunity to get better the normal way, through the draft. (They would still have their own 2012 pick.) THAT'S the team Carmelo Anthony would be joining. I guess I'm saying, LaLa had better REALLY like Brooklyn.
Happily for me, with LAC mostly out of the picture, I've never really had to deal with the idea of Carmelo the Clipper. Because while Melo is clearly one of the transcendant scorers in basketball, he also happens to be one of my least favorite players. He's never committed himself to defense and rebounding the way he should, contenting himself to be just a scorer. Scorers are great and all... but he should be so much more, and is certainly getting paid to be more. After a couple of summers with Mike Krzyzewski and Team USA in 2007 and 2008, I thought that perhaps Melo was finally getting it. His rebound rate in 2007 and 2008 jumped up to levels more befitting his size, and his seemed to apply himself on the defensive end as well. But he backslid last season to the same, dare I say lazy player that he'd always been before. And lest you accuse me of bias (which I no doubt have), Jeremy of Roundball Mining Company saw more or less the same thing.
It doesn't help that Carmelo remains incredibly immature, and has had some of his more untimely tantrums against the Clippers. I'll never forget the game he got a technical and was ejected, where the T was crucial in allowing the Clippers to complete a comeback from a 20 point halftime deficit. He also got tossed from a playoff game against the Clippers that year. Perhaps most galling to me is his tendency to deflect responsibility for his behavior. The Stop Snitching thing, the backpack marijuana incident, the car marijuana incident, the Twitter threat.... He's always in the middle of questionable activities, and he's always blaming someone else. It's one thing to act in an immature fashion - but at least have the decency to own your immaturity.
So I would have had a tough time rooting for Carmelo the Clipper. Now that we see the steep price to be paid (a price that would be much more constraining in LA, where Sterling is definitely NOT going to venture above the luxury tax threshold), I won't have to deal with that particular dilemma. Another bullet dodged.
As I'm wrapping up this post, I see this Tweet that Anthony has approved the extension. Looks like this is happening people.