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6.5 Hours to Midnight

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Mark Stein at ESPN.com has attempted to do something that is sorely needed in the Iverson situation:  distill the current contenders.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure he got it right.

He sees four teams seriously in the race currently, in this order:
  1)    Denver
  2)    Minnesota
  3)    Boston
  4)    Miami

He mentions 5 other teams.  He downplays the chances of Indiana and the Lakers (we shouldn't even be talking about the Lakers - it makes no sense, and the only reason it's on the radar is because Phil likes to yank people around).  He discounts the Warriors and Kings because of AI's supposed aversion to NorCal (seems hard to believe he'd prefer Denver or the Twin Cities to the Bay Area from a quality of life standpoint, but whatev).  And he discounts the Clippers because MDSr's contract extension supposedly means that Livingston is really, really untouchable, not just untouchable like yesterday.

But wait a minute...

Here are the reasons he gives for dubbing Denver the frontrunner:

1. They've got two first-round picks in June to offer, potentially giving Philly three firsts in a draft that already has scouts salivating.

The Clippers have two first-round picks in June.  The Nuggets have their own pick, and the Mavs pick.  The Clippers have their own and a top-10 protected pick from Minnesota.  TODAY, the Clippers picks would be significantly better:  19 and 20, compared to 21   and 27.  The Clippers also have the rights to European pros MBFGC and Guillermo Diaz.  Advantage: Clippers.

2. They've got a small handful of contracts that expire either this season or next season to coincide with Chris Webber's deal playing out in '07-08.

The Clippers have this as well, with $5M expiring in '07 for the F-DECs and either $7M or $14M (depending on Corey's player option) expiring in '08.  The Nuggets can offer $8M expiring in '07, and another $8M in '08, if they're willing to include Najera and Boykins.  The slight edge goes to Denver on this one.
3. They're in the West, which is obviously where Philly would prefer to send A.I.
Duh.

Like myself, he sees no reason that Portland would want to play Denver's reindeer games and take on Nene in exchange for sending Magloire to Philly.

So using this logic, he has concluded that Denver is the front runner and the Clippers are out of the picture.  The only reason he gives for eliminating the Clippers is that they won't include Livingston, but he fails to discuss who they will include.  I'm sure Philly would love to have Carmelo for AI, and I'm equally sure Denver views him as untouchable - it doesn't eliminate them from the game.  

As for Minnesota, I believe the old saying goes that if "Wishes were horses, AI and KG would be together."  Jon Barry and everyone else really, really, really, pretty please, wants AI and KG to team up.  But guess what?  It ain't HAPPENING.  Minnesota has Randy Foye and NOTHING.  There's no way this deal can get done.

Boston certainly has a chance.  They have a lot of young assets, although they do not have a lot of expiring contracts.  If Ainge gets creative, he might be able to swing a three-way trade where he swaps some of his young-uns for expiring contracts, and sends those to Philly with some other kids.  

Miami?  That's insane.  AI doesn't want to be THIRD FIDDLE in South Beach, and Pat Riley is too old for that kind of grief anyway.

If this is truly the current situation, then the Clippers definitely have a chance here if they pursue it aggressively.

6.5 hours to midnight.