Trading Carmelo Anthony to the hated Lakers in exchange for Andrew Bynum wouldn't be as bad as the 30 cents-on-the-dollar deal rumored to be in the works between the Nuggets and the Knicks.
When ESPN's Chris Broussard reports that a trade is in the works, fans should pay attention...and get nervous. Because unlike his colleagues at ESPN and elsewhere in the NBA media-sphere, Broussard uses real sources and is usually right. If not for ESPN's shameful (alleged) insistence on disallowing Broussard from reporting LeBron James' "Decision" before "The Decision" aired for ratings purposes, we'd have all known that LeBron was going to be a Heat long before that televised debacle. Because it was only Broussard and Stephen A. Smith who had the LeBron-to-Miami story down from the start.
Now Broussard is reporting (and note that I don't put "reporting" in quotes like I do when referring to Chris Sheridan, Ken Berger and Adrian Wojnaworski who are often more wrong than they are right and seem to play fast and loose with their "sources") that a Nuggets-Knicks-Timberwolves deal is in the works that will send Melo to New York - not Minnesota, shockingly - while the Knicks' Anthony Randolph and Eddy Curry's expiring corpse go to Minnesota and the Nuggets receive the Knicks' Wilson Chandler, the Wolves' Corey Brewer and a Wolves' first round pick in return.
As of this writing it's unclear exactly which first round pick is coming Denver's way - is it Minnesota's own 2011 pick, someone else's they own or a future Minnesota first rounder? But it's hard to imagine Randolph commanding Minnesota's 2011 first round pick which is all but guaranteed to be a top-five selection thanks to their awful record.
So while it's hard to thoroughly judge this deal without knowing exactly which first round pick is involved, the quality of this trade pales in comparison to what the Nuggets were hoping to get out of the Nets in exchange for the best player to wear a Nuggets uniform since Alex English wore the rainbow jersey in 1990. And while it might be the best deal the Nuggets can get if the Knicks are their lone trading partner, it's by no means a good deal for Denver. Brewer shoots the ball about as well as Yakhouba Diawara and would soon find himself on my list of "Nuggets 'shooting' guards who can't shoot" alongside DerMarr Johnson, Dahntay Jones, Diawara and others. And the jury is out on whether or not Chandler - a free-agent-to-be (sort of) with a qualifying offer that kicks in this summer - is just thriving in Knicks' head coach Mike D'Antoni's system or if he'd be a big-time producer in any system.
If the rumors are true that New York is Melo's only desired destination, then the Knicks have the Nuggets over a barrel and it will be tough for the Nuggets to do much better in trade. (I'd personally rather see the Nuggets deal with the Knicks one-on-one and try to unload Al Harrington and Renaldo Balkman in a deal and get Landry Fields or even Randolph somehow.)
But perhaps the Nuggets could still get themselves into a bidding war for Melo's services, and the only way to pull this off would be to engage the hated Lakers in trading Melo for center Andrew Bynum. Because while Melo may dream of being in a New York state of mind sooner than later, donning the purple and gold alongside Kobe Bryant, while Melo's wife LaLa can hang out with her BFF Kim Kardashian, must have ample appeal to #15.
This wouldn't the first time Denver Stiffs has floated a possible Melo-for-Bynum deal, as my colleague Nate Timmons proposed such a deal in his "Trading Melo is not an option" column on July 23rd, 2010 (way to be ahead of the curve on this one, Nate!). And several Lakers bloggers have suggested such a deal for months now. Moreover, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has been publicly pontificating about making a deal before the February 24th trade deadline, given that his two-time defending champions are 7.5 games behind the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs, haven't been able to beat the Spurs, Mavericks, Heat or Celtics so far this season, have been on the wrong side of losses to bad teams and Kobe's health may continue to deteriorate.
From the Nuggets perspective, a Melo-for-Bynum deal is a no-brainer compared to the spare parts being offered by the Knicks and Wolves. While sending Melo to the Lakers would ensure the continuation of the Lakers dynasty for years to come, make Nuggets/Lakers games beyond painful to watch and make Melo even more hated in Denver than Kobe currently is, a Nuggets' lineup of Bynum at center, Nene at power forward (his natural position), Chauncey Billups at point guard, Arron Afflalo at shooting guard and J.R. Smith at small forward backed up by Harrington, Ty Lawson, Kenyon Martin, Gary Forbes and Chris Andersen is still a damn good team. In fact, record-wise a post-Melo team with Bynum at center probably ends up in the same playoff position as the current team with Melo given all the distractions surrounding it.
In terms of matching salaries to get a deal done, a Melo-for-Bynum deal is very workable. I'd like to see Balkman thrown in (since Nuggets head coach George Karl would rather play four-on-five than let Balkman into a game) and perhaps the Lakers could throw in former Nugget Steve Blake or backup guard Shannon Brown from their side to make the dollars relatively even. Or, as suggested by Denver Stiffs reader "ACEIII", the two teams could get really creative and involve players neither team wants on their respective rosters such Ron Artest and Al Harrington.
Regardless of all the players involved in such a deal, from the Lakers perspective a Melo-for-Bynum deal comes with a lot more questions than it does for Denver. First off, despite proclaiming to be "close" to Melo, Kobe may not be willing to cede even a morsel of his authority (and shots) to another shoot-first superstar. Kobe and fellow Lakers superstar Pau Gasol work great together because Gasol is content - and frankly happier - to be a #2 guy on the team, whereas Melo has always been a #1 guy. Secondly, size wins out in the Western Conference and the Lakers frontline of Gasol, Bynum and Lamar Odom is as imposing as they come...especially when the likes of San Antonio, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Utah and New Orleans will be standing in their way at some point in the postseason as will Boston in the NBA Finals. And finally, Bynum - despite taking a step back this season with his on-court production - doesn't turn 24 until the start of next season (if there is a next season). Given that 7'0", 285-pound centers with agility don't grow on trees, it's tough to justify trading the 23-year-old Bynum...even for a top 10-to-15 NBA player like Melo.
All that said, the prospect of bringing Melo to Los Angeles has to be intriguing to Kupchak, Kobe and Lakers owner Jerry Buss. At 32 years old and 1,269 games played, Kobe remains a physical marvel and one of the NBA's three best players. And despite Kobe's shoddy shooting performance in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, I'd rather have Kobe on my team than LeBron to finish off a playoff series right now. But even Kobe can't defeat Father Time and Melo could satisfy the Lakers desperate need for star power while Kobe fades gracefully into the sunset of his remarkable career. If coached properly (and who can argue with Phil Jackson's record?), a Lakers squad with Melo and Kobe together plus Gasol and Lamar Odom could mean a third straight championship...and then a fourth...and even a fifth. I'd take that "Big Four" over Miami's "Big Three" any day of the week. They could be that good.
I have no idea where Melo and his agent stands in terms of Los Angeles being a possible destination and the Lakers would certainly have justifiable concerns over bringing Melo into their championship mix. But such questions and concerns shouldn't prevent Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri from picking up the phone and calling Kupchak. At the very least, the threat of dealing with the Lakers would net the Nuggets a better trade from the Knicks than Chandler, Brewer and a first rounder.
Because if Ujiri is forced to deal exclusively with the Knicks, the "Leverage" I thought the Nuggets might have when the Melodrama began last summer has all but evaporated.