Regardless of whether or not you think the Nuggets have to trade Carmelo Anthony, you have to give Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke credit for getting two suitors to bid against each other. The next question is: which trade package do we like the most?
Ujiri and the younger Kroenke have taken a lot of criticism here and elsewhere for how they've handled the entire Melodrama. But while I think it's fair to criticize them for taking too long to get a deal done, and even though neither proposed Melo trade is "fair value" for the Nuggets' lone superstar, it's a hell of a haul compared to what the Cavaliers and Raptors got in return for LeBron James and Chris Bosh, respectively. That, of course, would be nothing.
From the very beginning of the Melodrama, I felt that the Nuggets would have leverage IF they could get more than one team to bid for Melo's services. And with the NBA's February 24th trade deadline fast approaching, Ujiri and Kroenke have been able to, somehow, get both the Knicks and the Nets to gut their rosters in order to obtain Melo.
Comparing the two proposed deals, the Nets' offer of multiple first round picks plus rookie Derrick Favors and point guard Devin Harris is more favorable to the Nuggets than the Knicks' package of Eddy Curry's expiring contract, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Danilo Gallinari/Landry Fields/Timofey Mozgov (should the Nuggets be able to pick one of those three). The Nets deal - as my friend and Blazers season ticket holder Dan texted me Friday - would be the Nuggets' "Herschel Walker Moment", referring to the 1989 NFL trade that sent Walker from the Cowboys to the Vikings for five players and six draft picks. That single trade enabled the Cowboys to stockpile the salary flexibility and young talent needed to dominate the early-to-mid 1990s in the NFL.
But no matter how appealing the Nets' package may seem, all signs are pointing to Melo becoming a Knick and not a Net (although I love how Ujiri and Kroenke somehow got the Nets to agree to being the consolation prize in all this should the Knicks not step up their offer). And if Melo does indeed become a Knick, we as fans should be asking who we'd want in trade for Melo and Chauncey Billups. It's assumed that any Knick deal will include Chandler and Felton coming to Denver for Melo and Billups. But the third player in the deal - Gallinari, Fields or Mozgov - remains a wild card choice as of me writing this, even though most reports say it will be Gallinari.
Of those three Knick players, I'd prefer to have Mozgov or Fields over Gallinari.
Only in his third season and not yet 23 years-old, Gallinari is by no means a "known entity". But he has played 157 NBA games, enough to know that he's a streaky-as-hell shooter and a horrible defender. I love Gallo's size (I saw him in Las Vegas for summer league two years ago and the dude is a legitimate 6'10"...he's huge!) and shooting touch, but I believe he has benefited tremendously from Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni's system and am concerned he'll be heartbroken if he's shipped to Denver. Remember, Gallo's father and D'Antoni played professional basketball together in Italy and Gallo could feel isolated and lonely in Denver...and those things affect players more than you think.
Fields and Mozgov, on the other hand, are all about upside. Listed as a guard/forward combo, Fields is averaging an impressive 7.1 rpg and shooting a remarkable 51.9% from the field for a rookie. Haven't not seen him play in person, however, I can't vouch for his height. He's listed at 6'7" but he looks more like 6'5" on TV (and most of these guys are compulsive liars when it comes to their listed height anyway). And again, is Fields the real deal or just a beneficiary of D'Antoni's frenetic pace?
Mozgov, meanwhile, is a total Stiff...BUT...you can't coach height and he's big. Really, really, really big. Mozgov also appears to have a great nose for where the ball is going. The only problem is that he doesn't know what to do when he gets his hands on it (kind of like Shelden Williams). By adding Mozgov, however, the Nuggets could start a more traditional lineup rather than continue to play small ball with a collection of swing players.
So would you prefer to have a lineup of Felton at point guard, Arron Afflalo at shooting guard, Nene at center, Chandler at small forward and Gallinari at power forward? Or a lineup of Felton/Afflalo/Chandler and then Mozgov at center which moves Nene to power forward? Or a lineup of Felton/Afflalo/Chandler/Kenyon Martin/Nene with Fields as the sixth man off the bench? All combinations have their pros and cons.
Either way, the Nuggets seem destined to fare better than the Cavaliers and Raptors did in the wake of LeBron and Bosh's departures last summer. For that, Ujiri and Kroenke deserve some props. But we'll save our congratulatory remarks for when we see how they handle the pending contract issues surrounding Nene, Afflalo and head coach George Karl...all of whom need to be re-signed.
For by taking so long to handle the Melo situation, Ujiri and Kroenke may have cost themselves the trust of the rest of the team, the coaches...and many fans.
SAVE THE DATE: THE CARMELO ANTHONY GOING AWAY PARTY
Join your fellow Stiffs to celebrate the seven-plus years we had with Carmelo Anthony and wish him the best as he moves on to New York/New Jersey. For our next "Stiffs Night Out", we'll celebrate The Melo Era THIS Friday at Jake's Food & Spirits while watching the Nuggets take on the Blazers in Portland. The festivities will begin at 7:30pm and the game begins at 8:30pm MST. We have also set up a Facebook Event if you'd like to RSVP there.
Kiszla: Nuggets' cheap trick - The Denver Post
Like my co-writer Jeff Morton here at Denver Stiffs, the Post's Mark Kiszla blames Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke's impending frugality as the primary reason for Melo leaving Denver.
Roundball Mining Company - The Blame Game: Stan Kroenke’s Money Edition
A terrific column by our colleague Charlie over at Roundball takes a completely different stance on the Melodrama than what Jeff and Kiz are suggesting. This was my favorite line:
...the idea that poor Melo loves the Nuggets and has been cruelly pushed away by a tyrannical penny-pinching owner is nothing but a convenient excuse for those who can’t come to grips with reality.
Thomas’ influence grows within Knicks - NBA - Yahoo! Sports
Adrian Wojnarowski reports that even from a Florida college campus, Isiah Thomas continues to tug at the puppet strings of Knicks owner James Dolan. Hmmmm...I seem to remember someone around here predicting that Isiah would come back to ruin the Knicks after Melo goes there.
Report: New York Knicks draw line in sand on Carmelo Anthony talks - ESPN New York
The New York Knicks have made their pitch for Carmelo Anthony, and that's as far as they're going to go, according to a report in Newsday.
Signs Pointing Stronger to Carmelo Anthony Joining Knicks -- NBA FanHouse
Chris Tomasson - writing from All-Star weekend - has his money on Melo heading to the Knicks.
Despite Carmelo Anthony meeting with Nets, Knicks remain the favorties to trade with Nuggets
Frank Isola writes that Mikhail Prokhorov finally got his big sit-down with Carmelo Anthony Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles, but it may not be enough to prevent James Dolan from acquiring Melo. Anthony, according to a source, would consider the extension but only if the Nuggets can't work out a deal with the Knicks, who remain his top priority.