The Nuggets risk losing Melo for nothing, but still stand pat. Why?

[Note: Originally Posted 11-27-2010 at 04:16 AM by DenButsu]

The 2010-11 NBA season is nearly a month old, and every passing week takes the calendar a step closer to the February trade deadline. Conventional wisdom among fans and pundits holds that trade offers for Carmelo Anthony will become increasingly bad as the deadline approaches due to teams being able to force Denver to trade Melo on the cheap rather than lose him for nothing.

So why haven’t the Nuggets traded him yet? Why haven’t they cashed in on some kind of deal that at least salvages some kind of value for their franchise player?

In answering this question, we can only speculate, since what’s on the record from all sides is basically designed to put a happy face on the situation.

But all signs point to the first part of the answer being that general manager Masai Ujiri, owner Josh Kroenke, and head coach George Karl are still holding out hope that he’ll change his mind.

Here is my best guess as to some of what they’re thinking (and I am mostly guessing here, although some of it has been reported as rumor):

-Why be in a hurry to trade a top 10 player when there’s still even a remote chance of retaining him? Since in any plausible trade scenario the value they get back will be considerably less than Melo’s value, the risk of losing him under any conditions is much greater than any of the various lesser risks of some trade packages being worse than others.

-There is still plenty of time before the trade deadline, and they probably feel that this gives them some breathing room in terms of still being able to make a move or two that could convince Melo to stick around, but…

-…we haven’t reached Dec. 15th yet, when free agents signed in 2010 can be traded, which in turn should loosen up the Nuggets’ options for making a trade or two that can demonstrate to Melo they’re serious about building a better team around him (either immediately or in the near future).

-Melo is having a career season thus far. (Charles and Kenny are on crack if they think he’s not playing hard). We can’t know, of course, if he can continue playing at as high a level as he has in his first 15 or so games, but if he does this will easily become the best all-around season he’s ever played. Which communicates two things to the FO, I’m guessing: 1) At least in the short term, at least so far, Melo hasn’t totally given up on this team; he’s doing his best to lead and carry it. And 2) If traded via the extension offer, and if there are multiple teams he’s willing to play for, quality offers will be there waiting for the Nuggets when the time comes. He’s simply too valuable a player to pass up if the getting’s good.

-It’s still unclear how all the factors that Melo wants balance out in his mind. He probably wants to play for a team other than Denver, his first choice is probably the Knicks, but he’s probably also at least partially open to other teams (first and foremost Chicago, but perhaps NJ and others, especially potential contenders) in big markets. He probably also wants that contract extension even if he’s traded, so that he can cash in on that bigtime salary under current CBA conditions (rollback gossip notwithstanding). And he can’t make that happen unilaterally — he needs the Nuggets to facilitate that via working together with him to find a trade agreement they can feel is mutually fair, respectful, and beneficial (or maybe “least harmful” in the case of the Nuggets).

-With the bright shining exception of not having signed the extension with Denver, Melo is still being very professional and operating in good faith with respect to the team, his teammates, the fans, etc. There’s absolutely no indication that he’ll doing anything like the Iverson meltdown before he got traded to Denver that would drive his trade value down. If he’s (silently) “demanding” to be traded, in terms of his basketball performance, his demeanor before the press and the fans, and (according to them) his interaction with the FO and coaching staff, he isn’t pressuring them to do anything too soon or very drastic. He’s not forcing the situation. So why, in turn, unnecessarily force a trade when not really under pressure to do so? I think they’re basically waiting to see how things play out on the basketball court, while staying busy on the phones looking for possible ways to make Melo happy, keeping an eye on key dates and the temperature in the locker room, and hoping for a break in the weather.

People change. They change their minds. I think it’s very much wishful thinking on the FO’s part to think that Melo can be persuaded to stay. And personally, I think they dropped the ball by not pushing through the deal with New Jersey for Derrick Favors, draft picks, and cap relief. But at the same time I can understand the logic (even if i don’t agree with it) of waiting until they’re absolutely 100% sure4 Melo’s ship has sailed before cutting him loose.

NAnd somewhat ironically Melo himself has probably decreased the FO’s likelihood of trading him anytime soon by playing so great. In spite of many of us Nuggets fans not really wanting to have any love for Melo anymore, he’s making it really damn hard for us not to. He is the franchise, and has been for so long. As far as the Nuggets organization is concerned (and they may be right – hell, I have to admit that watching him play this season, I’ve softened my strong opposition to their not trading him before the season started), he’s worth every effort taken to try to keep him, even if that proves a little more costly in the end.

I hope they’re right, but it really is a risky game they’re playing.


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