Magic vs. Nuggets: Another opponent, another possible Melo destination... (7pm MST)

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The Nuggets picked the wrong time in their schedule to lose three out of four games.  Next up?  Two home games against two of the NBA's best: Orlando on Tuesday followed by San Antonio on Thursday.

Among the teams sometimes mentioned in the "places Carmelo Anthony might wind up as a three-month rental" are the Orlando Magic.  From Orlando's perspective, Melo-to-the-Magic makes sense.  On the cusp of being an NBA Finals contender for the third consecutive season, the Magic would be a great fit for #15.  He could play alongside the NBA's best center in Dwight Howard, have the freedom to mix it up inside as outside shooters like Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Quentin Richardson and Mickael Pietrus spread floor and leave the dirty work on the defensive end to Howard, Marcin Gortat and Brandon Bass.

Moreover, the Magic believes it has the goods to attract free agents.  Void of any real culture sans Disney World, Orlando nevertheless has been a popular destination for NBA players.  They like the weather, they like the family-friendly atmosphere, they like the gargantuan houses that can be bought for a fraction of what similar product costs in other big NBA cities, they like Florida's favorable tax rates (as in no income tax) and they like the hands-off, no pressure local media.  Yup, Orlando is a pretty fun place for NBA players to be...hence why Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill opted to sign there and Tim Duncan almost (almost!) departed the Spurs to become a Magic player many years ago. 

Those who have speculated about Melo possibly ending up in Orlando believe a Melo/Howard pairing would be the first two pieces in a puzzle that would eventually include Chris Paul, too.  A Florida rivalry would then commence in earnest, pitting Melo/Howard/Paul against Miami's LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

While I wouldn't write off the Magic as being a possible location for Melo, much of this is wishful thinking.  True, the Magic have somewhat of a package to offer Denver: Vince Carter's expiring contract plus future picks and a throw-in player of the Nuggets choosing.  But any pick coming out of Orlando will be late in the first round and thus mostly meaningless and the Magic have nothing in the form of young prospects that might appeal to Denver.  Frankly, we'd probably rather take Landry Fields, Wilson Chandler, Eddy Curry's expiring corpse and a meaningless first rounder from the Knicks over a package just involving Carter.  

Were the Nuggets and Magic to deal for Melo, I'd like to see Chris Andersen thrown in for Gortat.  Or, the Nuggets and Magic could get really creative and include Chauncey Billups in the deal for the Magic's Gortat plus Jameer Nelson, as suggested by the Orlando Sentinel's Brian Schmitz last month.

The bottom line is that Orlando - like Atlanta and Dallas - remains a likely candidate for a Melo rental at the trade deadline.  Unfortunately for Denver, as every "Melo will only sign with New York" rumor - true or false - surfaces, the Nuggets trade leverage diminishes bit by bit.

Speaking of diminishing, the once-hot Magic have cooled off considerably since winning six-straight games recently (sound familiar, Nuggets fans?).  Over their last five games, all but one on the road, the Magic have lost four, including four straight defeats.  Their lone victory in five games came against the lowly Clippers on Sunday night.  During this recent spate of losses, the Magic have forgotten how to score: in three of their losses they scored less than 86 points.

Scoring against the Nuggets doesn't seem to be a problem for anyone as the Nuggets haven't given up less than 100 points since December 1st.  And the Nuggets last two games have been particularly generous for their opponent's offense (the Raptors scored 116 and the Knicks went off for 129).  Look for the Magic, who will have had two days in Denver to acclimate to the altitude, to shake off their recent struggles and engage in a shootout.  Whether or not that entices Melo to play there someday is a different matter altogether.

SCOUTING THE MAGIC...

Magic Non-Stiffs

-Dwight Howard: The Magic's superstar center spent some time this past offseason with the legendary Hakeem Olajuwon and not surprisingly has come into the 2010-11 season with some new offensive moves.  This of course begs the obvious question: what exactly does Magic assistant coach Patrick Ewing do all day?

-Jameer Nelson: The would-be Nugget is having one of his best all-around seasons as a pro, averaging a career-high 7.2 apg to go along with 15.0 ppg.

-Brandon Bass: Once regarded as a free agent disappointment, the still-overpaid Bass is rewarding Magic coach Stan Van Gundy's increased minutes with career-high production across the board.

Magic Stiffs

-Rashard Lewis: What's worse?  That Lewis is having his worst season in 12 years or that the Magic are obligated to pay him almost $24 million two seasons from now?

-Quentin Richardson: "Q" ran his mouth off about the Heat all summer and has backed up his trash talk with a career-low 7.3 ppg on 38.5% "shooting" from the field.

-J.J. Redick: Redick has one job to do: make open three's.  Unfortunately for Redick and the Magic, opposing teams are all too happy to give Redick open three's because he's only capable of making 31.6% of them (a career low).

FINAL THOUGHT

Orlando, Dallas and Atlanta are appealing places to play for many NBA players.  The Nuggets should use that fact to lure one of these teams into making a bona fide, pre-trade deadline pitch for Melo.  The more teams vying for Melo's services, the better of a deal the Nuggets might get.

Opposition's Take: Orlando Pinstriped Post

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