Golden Nuggets: The Denver Nuggbockers...?

The Carmelo Anthony Era is over for the Denver Nuggets. Chauncey Billups has now been traded twice by his hometown team. And the Nuggets have some new, young faces in Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov that will be putting on the powder blue and yellow. I was in the minority when Denver traded Allen Iverson for Billups and I'll probably be in the minority now ... I like this deal.

The Trade:

Nuggets receive:
Raymond Felton
Wilson Chandler
Danilo Gallinari
Timofey Mozgov
The Knicks'2014 1st Round Pick
The Warriors' 2012 2nd Round Pick
The Warriors' 2013 2nd Round Pick
$3 million cash

Knicks receive:
Carmelo Anthony
Chauncey Billups
Anthony Carter
Shelden Williams
Renaldo Balkman
Corey Brewer

Timberwolves receive:
Eddy Curry
Anthony Randolph

 

First and foremost ... great job by Chris Dempsey and Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post for not getting caught up in reporting from anonymous sources and jumping the gun during this process. The local boys broke this story and the one time they came out with breaking news was when it actually happened. You have to love the old school reporting by our Nuggets beat writers.

I remember back in 2003 that I had to work during the NBA Draft. The Nuggets had the 3rd pick that year and I was hoping there was a way that Carmelo Anthony would fall to Denver. I didn't think the Detroit Pistons would pass on the Syracuse star, but I knew I wanted to watch that draft. So I did what you used to do back before a lot of people had Tivo or DVRs that could record programs. I gave my mom a blank VHS tape and asked her to record the draft for me so that when I got home I could see who the Nuggets drafted "live". I stayed away from finding out who Denver picked and raced home to pop the tape into the VCR (remember those) and see who the Nuggets landed.

To my delight, our future trading partner, Joe Dumars selected Darko Milicic with the No. 2 pick and that left the college freshman with the cornrowed hair and million dollar smile on the board for my Nuggets. The only other time I can remember Denver drafting the player I wanted them to, was when the Nuggets selected Fab-Five member and Michigan guard Jalen Rose with the 13th overall pick of the 1994 draft.

Since the '94 draft I had to suffer through the 1998 draft when Denver passed on North Carolina standout and dunking sensation Vince Carter to select Raef LaFrentz with the 3rd overall pick. Nevermind that LaFrentz wasn't Carter, he wasn't even the best player on his college team. That honor belonged to the 10th pick of the '98 draft ... Paul Pierce from Kansas. And in 2002 we can all shutter at the memory of the Nuggets selecting Nikoloz Tskitishvili with the 5th overall pick instead of taking the kid from UCONN who played excellent for the Huskies that season ... Caron Butler.

The Nuggets were coming off a season in which they didn't play excellent basketball. The only thing they did well during the 2002-03 season was lose ... to the tune of 65 games. I stomached a lot of that losing alongside my buddy Rory. We watched a lot of games in Fort Collins and did so in the hopes that Denver would lose them all so that they would stand a chance to draft LeBron James. We were hoping for the #1 pick, but the ping-pong balls never fall the Nuggets way and Denver woundup with the 3rd pick. Luckily, a freshman emerged in Syracuse by the name of Carmelo Anthony and by the time the NCAA tournament was over, everyone knew him by his nickname: Melo.

I remember being so happy that Denver was able to draft Melo. It meant that perhaps the Nuggets had a legitimate superstar on their hands and I couldn't wait to see him play with our athletic power forward from Brazil, Nene. I was also extremely happy with the moves made by the front office to shed a bunch of payroll and thought the Nuggets had a great chance to add an exciting point guard from the Golden State Warriors. While Denver didn't sign Gilbert Arenas, but they did nab the other point guard, and Doug Moe favorite, Earl Boykins from the Warriors and they signed Andre Miller away from the Los Angeles Clippers.

The day after the draft I retrieved the newspaper from the driveway and kept the clipping of Melo wearing his Nuggets hat on stage at the draft in his fancy suit. Basketball was back in the Mile-High City.  

They say times flies when you're having fun. It seems like that draft was just yesterday. We went through a lot of growing pains with Melo along the way. The mary-jane in the backpack, the brawl at Madison Square Garden and the DUI. We saw a kid grow into a man symbolized when he cut off his trademark cornrows. And we saw Melo win a lot of basketball games with the Nuggets in dramtic fashion. And at 26 years-old he still has a lot of good basketball left in him, but he wont be playing for our Nuggets anymore.

Part of me always feared Melo would leave the Nuggets at some point. It's hard not to sound bitter, but there has also always been a part of me (that has grown louder as the years have gone by) that feared Melo couldn't take the Nuggets where they needed to go. 

Anthony is always at his best with the basketball in his hands, but he also can be his own worst enemy with the ball. Melo is arguably the best scorer in the league today. He's also not wired to kill himself on the defensive end. I always thought the Nuggets needed to surround Melo with lots of talent in order to get the best out of him and to hide some of his lacking traits.

The Nuggets made their best move of the Melo-Era when they shipped Iverson out of town for Billups. The day that trade happened I was interning at KDVR Fox-31 in Denver and watched as the sports reporters furiously exchanged texts, emails and phone calls trying to figure out when the trade they had been hearing rumors about was going to go down. It was a crazy day and a fun one to see from a little bit of a behind the scenes angle. I remember the media crushing Denver for that trade and praising the Pistons. I called my friend Rich to talk about the trade and to my surprise we were both really happy about it and thought the Nuggets finally acquired the player they needed to run the team and give the ship the Captain it sorely needed.

In many ways Billups was more of a coach in Denver than he was a player. But he was also one hell of a player in the brief time he was in Denver (for the second time). As fans we bark quite a bit for players to show loyalty and to stick things out with the teams that draft them. Lots of people wanted to see Melo sign the extension with the Nuggets and called him out for being disloyal. And then this deal goes down and the Nuggets front office ships out Billups without hesitation. Never forget that basketball is a business and it's a rare thing when you see loyalty from either side. I understand why Billups was included in the deal with the Knicks, but that doesn't mean I like it.

I'm also sad to see Renaldo 'The Crime Stopper' Balkman, Shelden Williams and Anthony Carter go. When guys are on the team you follow you find faults with them, but like a family you grow to count on them to be around. I hope that Williams and Balkman can get some playing time with the Knicks that they were not seeing in Denver. A.C., for all the grief he takes, has been an excellent teammate and always willing to talk to the media.

This trade wont fully sink in for me until I see the team play tonight without the players mentioned above and it really will sink in Thursday night and Friday night when the new faces arrive in Denver.

I don't know what new faces we'll see in Denver by Thursday, but word right now is that the Nuggets will not be dealing Gallo or Mozgov, but could Felton or Chandler be on the move? We'll find out very soon. There were also Tweets that Nene could be moved and J.R. Smith as well and what if a contender wants to add K-Mart's defensive presence? Then there were Tweets saying Nene and J.R. will likely not be moved before the deadline. It's a crazy time to be a Nuggets fan right now.

The faces we know the Nuggets acquired are Gallo, Mozgov, Chandler and Felton. All of those guys have played big roles for the 28-26 Knicks this season. When rumors of the deal were floating around I broke down the potential players coming to Denver, but didn't even know about Felton or Mozgov at that time. The Nuggets received a pretty big haul from the Knicks and let's break down the incoming players.

From my article "Who do you want?" I broke down Gallo and Chandler as follows:

Wilson Chandler - New York Knicks
Age:
23, turns 24 on May 10, 2011
Weight: 225 lbs Height: 6'8''
Key stats: 16.4 ppg, 6 rpg, 1.34 bpg, 35% 3pt shooting
Contract after the season: If gets qualifying offer of $3M will be a Restricted Free-Agent. If no Q.O. will become Unrestricted Free-Agent
Nate's analysis: Some folks would say Chandler's numbers are skewed because of head coach Mike D'Antoni's offensive system, the same way Shawn Marion's were or other players with the Suns and Knicks. When Marion left Phoenix his numbers declined, but he was 28 years-old when he left the Suns and isn't the young buck that Chandler is. Chandler doesn't just hang out near the three-point line like Raja Bell did in Phoenix. He can score from anywhere on the floor and he can get out on the fast-break. Wilson is an above average rebounder for his position, blocks quite a few shots and is a good defender. Chandler could step right in for Melo at SF and replace some of his numbers. I'm going to be in the minority here, but I believe Chandler will continue to grow as a player and could become a very good all-around player in the league ... perhaps a borderline all-star. The issue of dealing for Chandler is the uncertainty of Denver's ability to re-sign him because of his asking price (Granger type money) and his desire to be a Nugget.

Danilo Gallinari - New York Knicks
Age:
22, turns 23 on August 8, 2011
Weight: 225 lbs Height: 6'10''
Key stats: 16 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 42% FG%, 36% 3pt shooting, 6.0 free-throw attempts per game
Contract after the season: 1-year and $4.1 million and a qualifying after the 2011-12 season of $5.5M to become a Restricted Free-Agent
Nate's analysis: I mentioned this in the FanShot Melo/Bynum thread today, but when I first started watching Gallo I was less than impressed. I traded texts with my colleague Jeff Morton early in the season about my worries that Gallo looked lost on the court at times and how he didn't seem to meet a shot he didn't like. But as the season has progressed and as I've watched more-and-more Knicks games, I like a little more of what I see from the Italian. He isn't afraid to take the big shot, he has shown he can get to the rim in a herky-jerky style similar to Dirk Nowitzki (but with more athleticism) and he gets to the foul line (and once there he shoots 88%). He isn't the best defender around, but he puts in the effort on defense and as his familiarity with the game grows ... so will his defense. My fear with Gallo is that he's comfortable and feels at home with the Knicks and in New York. The stadium announcer says his name in a special way after he sinks a bucket and I fear his motivation might dip if he's not in a good situation mentally. It's tough to admit, but going from New York to Denver from a basketball standpoint isn't ideal.

Raymond Felton (a North Carolina product)
Age:
26, turns 27 on June 26, 2011
Weight: 205 lbs Height: 6'1''
Key stats: 17.1 ppg, 9.0 apg, 42% FG%, 32% 3pt shooting, 86% F.T.
Contract after the season: 1-year and $7.5 million
Nate's analysis: Felton sort of reminds me of a mix of Billups and Ty Lawson. He plays the game with pretty high IQ, but he likes to run and is a creative passer. He was asked to score more in New York and that is what he did and he also got his teammates involved in tune to 9 assists per game. He's of average height for a point guard and has the bulk on his body to be able to finish in traffic and absord some contact along the way. He's not a deadly sniper from three-point land like Billups, but he can hit the outside shot and has a nice pull up jumper as well. Billups ran a slow paced offense and will Felton and Lawson leading the Nuggets attack we should see a high-paced Nuggets team that might need coach George Karl to either push or ask to ease up at different times of the game. Felton is a North Carolina guy as well, and he played for Larry Brown in Charlotte (where he was heavily coached and asked to run an offense). Karl and Lawson both should have a pre-exsisting relationship with Felton and that should help his transition. I hope Denver hangs on to Felton because I think he could be a great fit to run this team.

Timofey Mozgov
Age:
24, turns 25 on July 16, 2011
Weight: 250 lbs Height: 7'1''
Key stats: 4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.7 blocks, 46% FG%, 2.2 fouls per game
Contract after the season: 2-years and $5.2 million
Nate's analysis: Lots of times in trades there are throw-in guys. Well, with all the rumors we have heard about Mozgov ... we should be excited he was included. He's not as young as I imagined. He'll be 25 years-old this summer, but he's still four years younger than Nene. Just imagine how much of a different player Nene was four years ago and with more NBA coaching, Mozgov should have folks in Denver drooling at his potential. Don't believe me? Think he'll be just another Stiff who will be known more for having Blake Griffin dunk over him than for anything else in the NBA? Well ... maybe, but the kid also has some highlights of his own. Check out this block he made on Derrick Rose when Russia faced the USA ... watch how Mozgov really attacks the basketball and elevates perfectly. How about trailing Paul Pierce from about mid-court and then swatting his layup attempt? And here is a mix of some of his highlights. Kid is young, he's 7'1'' and has potential. As much as Derrick Favors? Well, Favors has done nothing to prove he has more upside than Mozgov so far. The Russian is athletic and I've been dying to see Denver get an athletic big. Now if Nene can teach him some post moves ... lookout! We also need to protect Mozgov from Mikhail Prokhorov ... KEEP THE MOZ IN DENVER!

 

Do I love this trade? Well, Anthony was going to leave Denver. The Nuggets got absolutely the best deal possible considering the circumstances. Had Melo signed the extension this past summer and then demanded out, the Nuggets could have chosen the free-agent-to-be's destination. But the Nuggets were limited in what they could do and Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke should be applauded for the deal they were able to pull off with the Knicks ... probably with a hockey assist from the New Jersey Nets and Prokhorov.

The absolute best-case scenario for the players coming to Denver:

This is my total homer view ...

Chandler could be a Scottie Pippen type of guy. Not the Hall-of-Famer Pippen is, but the jack of all trades for sure as an offensive weapon, a rebounder, a slasher, a distance shooter and a defensive player that can use his length to bother shorter forwards/guards, but still big enough to handle guys like ... Melo.  

Felton is durable like Andre Miller, can score like Billups and has the vision and speed to play in an uptempo offense.

Gallo could be the closest thing to Dirk Nowitzki that the NBA has in a young player. He loves to shoot from the outside, can rebound, gives a nice effort on defense, is a slasher, unafraid to take big shots at big moments and is nearly automatic at the foul line and can get himself to the charity stripe with his drives to the bucket (you just wish they were a little more frequent and consistent).

Mozgov might be able to play his way into the starting lineup and should be the man that allows the Nuggets to slide Nene over to power forward and push K-Mart to the bench in a reserve role (although probably not this season as Karl will depend on his veterans for a playoff run). Mozgov can also be what Chris Andersen was early in his Birdman career. He's a shot blocker and a dunker who is still learning to play the game.

Playing at Madison Square Garden is a special thing that all NBA players love. These old Knicks and new Nuggets benefitted from a resurgent team, but make no mistake that they were the reason the Knicks were giving their fans hope this season.

Hope is something that Nuggets fans have depended on for years. Never has our team appeared in the NBA Finals. One era is over, but as history has shown us ... another will rise.

 

And finally some links:

Carmelo Anthony traded to New York Knicks in blockbuster deal - Chris Dempsey and Benjamin Hochman, Denver Post
How the original story broke down the trade and changed Nuggets Nation forever.

Knicks, Nuggets agree to Melo trade - Ken Berger, CBS Sports.com
Berger does a nice job breaking down the trade and looking into the future of the Knicks and Nuggets.

Knicks, 'Melo get their wishes with blockbuster deal - David Aldridge, NBA.com
Always respected reporter Aldridge shares his thoughts on the deal.

Nuggets coach George Karl glad Carmelo Anthony trade drama is over - Lindsay Jones, Denver Post
Some great video of Karl talking about the trade and future of the team. He says Lawson will probably be his starting point guard with Felton in town ... sounded weird to me.

Renaldo Balkman, yfrog
The Crime Stopper wasted little time posting a picture to his Twitter account of his old NY jersey. Crime Stopper wasn't really needed in Denver ... we all know he'll have plenty of mean streets to clean up in New York. Best of luck to Balkman in getting off the bench now that he's back with the Knicks. He could be the thrown in player that pays off big for NYC.

 

NBA General:

NBPA Proposes Lottery Teams Get Two First-Round Draft Picks - Alex Sonty, Chicago Now.com
Yes, you read that correctly ... now go read the why.

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