Denver's payroll # is $84M, which I believe is third highest in the league next to Orlando and LA. A payroll that size comes with something like $15M of luxury tax. They'll be paying $100M if all stays the same. You can stomach that salary with a contending team and a superstar that is selling out the arena every night.
Even the most optimistic person would not assume that Denver will be a contender in '10-'11. In a trade, they won't get equal value and they won't have the star attraction anymore. If they make Melo play out part or all of the season it will be a circus and you have to assume the W/L record will reflect that.
That makes Denver a fringe playoff team at best, which means that they are about $40M in payroll higher than other fringe playoff teams ($60M-$70M is a typical range).
Granted, there is light at the end of the tunnel with huge payroll flexibility next summer. But that doesn't help this year. Which is why I expect Denver to focus less on acquiring expiring contracts and more on taking back less salary in a trade. To take back less, they have to deal with a team under the cap. There are only a few: Sacramento, OK City, Minnesota, Clips, Toronto, and Cavs. There are also some teams out there with trade exceptions that can do the trick.
Melo won't get traded to these teams, but they'll have to involve them so that they can send salary their way. However, to entice a cheap team to take on a higher payroll, you have to throw young talent or picks at them.
If Denver can take back $6-7M less in salary, they'll save $12-14M this year. I think that will be a critical focus of the trade, but unfortunately that means that they'll have to send some of the young talent or picks to this 3rd team. This is different than a focus on getting expiring contracts.
Anyway, my point is that a direct trade seems unlikely and I'm going to guess that we won't simply trade for a big expiring contract and young player like most trade scenarios have been saying.
How about this one?:
We take back about $4M less in salary. That's probably not a big enough payroll reduction, but otherwise it seems like a favorable trade for all involved.