What do we really know about the Carmelo Anthony trade situation?

[Note: Originally Posted 09-30-2010 at 07:23 AM by DenButsu]

Ever since it became increasingly clear that Melo was unlikely to sign the Denver Nuggets offer which would keep him in Denver through 2015 by extending his contract 3 years and $65 million, there have been so many rumors, so many sources, so many reporters, so many articles, tweets and blogs. And what are we left with?

So much murkiness and doubt surrounding Carmelo Anthony’s true thoughts and intentions, the willingness (or lack thereof) of the Nuggets to trade him in order not to let him walk for nothing, and the amount that various teams might be willing to give up for him provided he were traded on the maximum extension of his contract.

So what are we left with now? What do we really know? And what conclusions can we reasonably draw based on that knowledge?

Here I will make an attempt to break it down by degrees of certainty.

The Undeniable Truth (100% certain)

Fact: Melo has not signed the Nuggets extension offer.
Conclusion: This means Melo will no longer be a Nugget next season, because he does not intend to commit himself to the organization. If he did, he would have signed the extension much sooner (as did Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant) and spared himself and his team this painfully long, drawn out drama.

The Virtual Truth (95% certain)

Virtual Fact #1: If the Nuggets don’t trade Melo by the February trade deadline, they will lose him for nothing.
Conclusion: The Nuggets will almost certainly seek to trade Melo by the deadline. The fact of his not having signed the extension making it a foregone conclusion that one way or another he’ll be gone by the start of next season really leaves them with no other viable choice.

Virtual Fact #2: The longer the Nuggets wait to trade Melo, and the closer it gets to the deadline, the less value they’re likely to get for him.
Conclusion: Denver will seek to move Melo sooner rather than later. Unless Melo has a sudden, inspirational change of heart after meeting with George Karl today, then the Nuggets will have basically spent every weapon in their arsenal of persuading him to stay in Denver, all to no avail. Pinning one last, unrealistic hope on time and wins changing Melo’s mind by November or December would be a huge gamble, one that they won’t likely risk once it’s unmistakeably clear he intends to leave despite their best efforts to convince him otherwise. While it may have been worth this last ditch effort, if he hasn’t signed the extension by, say, the end of training camp, then the risk to reward ratio will simply get too bad for pinning hopes on him staying to be a viable strategy any longer.

Virtual Fact #3: The Nuggets will not be able to get any meaningful value back for Melo unless he is extended-and-traded on that 3-year, $65 million offer that locks him down through 2015 because the risk of losing him after one year is too great for any potential trade partner.
Conclusion: The destination and conditions of any Melo trade must meet with his approval, because he’ll need to agree in order to sign the extension. So, obviously, the operative words in virtual facts #1 and #2 above are “seek to trade”. There’s no guarantee that the Nuggets and Melo will necessarily be able to reach a trade compromise that will adequately satisfy both parties.

Okay, that was the easy part, and I think nearly everyone who has been closely following this situation would probably agree that the above is the basic factual framework that the Nuggets, Melo, and potential trade partners are working within now. But beyond this point, things start to get a little murkier.

The Probable Truth (65% certain) (…and featuring my new invention, “Probable Facts”)

Probable Fact #1: There has been one consistent line regarding what the Nuggets would be interested in if they trade Melo: Young talent, draft picks, and expirings. It is probably safe to assume this is more or less true.
Conclusion: If Melo is traded, Denver will pretty much go into rebuilding mode. Although players with costly long term contracts such as Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala have surfaced plenty of times, it seems unlikely that a team looking to position itself for maximum flexibility, good draft positioning, and a payroll well under a salary cap which could harden after next summer’s Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations would ultimately take on players who would keep them only semi-competitive but obstruct a genuine rebuilding process. The reported near-deal with the New Jersey Nets which fell apart just at the onset of training camp appears to be confirmation of this.

Probable Fact #2: It appears likely that Melo wants some combination of three things: a) to play for one of only a very small, select set of teams (with the New York Knicks appearing to top the list), b) to play in a major media market that will facilitate the promotion of the Melo/Lala Industrial Entertainment Complex, and c) to be able to sign the Nuggets extension offer wherever he is traded to in order to cash in on a big maximum salary deal under the current CBA.
Conclusions: There are about a million of them, and all the people with an invested interest in the outcome of this situation (or in other words, Nuggets fans, Knicks fans, Nets fans and Bulls fans) tend to cherry pick the rumors that most favor their desired outcome. But the truth is that nobody really knows what Melo wants, or which factors (team. location, money) he will most highly prioritize in his decision making. Which brings us to…

Unsolved Mysteries (0% certainty)

The Grand Mysteries (having no conclusions, I will simply list them):
-Which is a higher priority for Melo, playing for the Knicks or getting that extension money? At this point, they seem to be mutually exclusive to a certain extent, and this may be one of his most difficult choices.
-Will Melo, or will he not, be willing to be extended-and-traded to the Nets? If so, this quickly emerges as his most likely destination, since it would satisfy all of the Nuggets’ trade goals, and go very far (though not all the way to the Knicks) in meeting Melo’s as well.
-Where, for Melo, does winning fit in to all of this? If Melo is insistent on going to a team which can compete soon, could it bring Chicago and Houston back into the trade destination fold?
-How much sway over Melo’s decision making do his wife and agents hold?

Of course, I don’t know how this ends. Nobody does.

But given what we know (and in spite of what we don’t know), if I were a gambling man, I’d put my money on the Nets as Melo’s destination. He gets the extension and the big payoff that go along with it, he and Lala get their big media market, he gets (in two years) to play in Brooklyn (his birthplace and Lala’s hometown), and meanwhile the Nuggets get the trade pieces they seek for a rebuild.

But even if it’s not the Nets, I’d put even more money on him being traded away from the Denver Nuggets and to a new team before New Year’s Day, if not the tipoff of the regular season on October 26th. Given the pressure on the Nuggets organization not to lose him for nothing, and also to trade him while offers remain competitive, this seems practically unavoidable.

But yes, putting my money where my mouth is, I will predict: Melo to the Nets by the start of the regular season.

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