Denver Stiffs readers are nothing if not creative. Since the news broke recently that the New Jersey Nets are the frontrunners in a possible trade for Carmelo Anthony, we’ve seen a number of Melo-to-the-Nets trade scenarios that require a closer look…

Before diving into all this, I’m going to (gasp!) somewhat defend the national and local reporters/columnists who have been on top of the Carmelo Anthony story for the last six or so weeks. While many Nuggets fans have been turned off by the “reporting” that’s been taking place in regards to Melo’s future, I think the likes of Sam Amick, Ken Berger, Marc Stein and others deserve some credit for not buying into the Melo-might-stay-in-Denver angle…a proposition that I’ve believed to be unlikely for some time now, much to the consternation of many Nuggets fans and this blog’s most regular/loyal readers.

While Nuggets fans – me included – are justifiably annoyed and frustrated over what the definition of a "source" is these days, I don't believe the aforementioned reporters are making things up from thin air.  We're hearing too many "sourced" rumors from too many different "sources" for all of their collective stories to be considered fraudulent.  And as of this evening, ESPN's Chris Broussard – who broke the LeBron James-to-Miami story a few months ago – is joining the chorus of insiders reporting that Melo wants out of Denver.

And whether you believe any of these guys or not, it's not that hard to connect the dots on this story and surmise where Melo is going – heck, even a blogger like me can do it.   

Here's how I'm seeing things at present:

Carmelo Anthony wants three things (in the following order): 1) Play for a team/city of his choice, 2) Get the maximum amount of guaranteed money before the NBA's collective bargaining agreement is rewritten, and 3) Play for a ready-made contender.

The Nuggets want three things (in the following order): 1) A solid young prospect (or two) plus at least one top-tier player, 2) Draft picks and future cap space, and 3) Remain somewhat competitive in a Western Conference that isn't what it was two years ago.

The receiving team wants two things (in the following order): 1) Carmelo Anthony (to put asses in the seats), and 2) Avoid mortgaging the entire roster (hence why the Nets refuse to include Brook Lopez in any deal) to get Melo so that after Melo arrives, the team is a championship contender within three seasons, Melo's prime as a player.

Anthony's representation wants one thing: for Melo to get maximum dollars combining salary plus endorsements.

In order for all four parties to come to terms here, all roads lead to Brooklyn (by way of Newark for the next two years) and you don’t need to eavesdrop on conversations among Melo’s friends to figure that out, as many East Coast media guys have been doing. Simply put, the Nets have the right combination of young prospects, top-tier players, high-priced contracts and future draft picks to deal with the Nuggets directly and/or involve a third team to acquire the best Nugget since Alex English graced the McNichols Arena hardwood.

Being exhausted by this story myself, I admittedly haven't explored the various trading options with the Nets that work under the NBA's salary cap and trading rules.  But, most thankfully, the great readers of this blog have.  So let's dissect each of the proposed Melo-to-the-Nets trades that have surfaced here recently and decide which one we like best.

Denver Stiffs reader “soloking” suggested trading Melo along with J.R. Smith and Renaldo Balkman for Devin Harris, Troy Murphy, Derrick Favors and Terrence Williams:

Summary: If the Nuggets were to take back Harris (an All-Star caliber point guard when healthy) and part with Smith, Chauncey Billups would have to move to the two-guard spot and the Nuggets would be sorely hurting with outside shooting. But getting Murphy – a great rebounder and a decent outside shooter – on a one-year loaner deal plus prospects like Favors and Williams, combined with Harris, would be intriguing to say the least. If this deal were to go down, I could foresee a starting five of Harris and Billups in the backcourt, Al Harrington, Nene and Murphy in the front court with Favors, Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Williams and eventually Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen coming off the bench. That team makes the playoffs in the Western Conference but I don’t foresee the Nets giving up this much, even for Melo.

Likelihood: 10%

Denver Stiffs reader “Garrett Olsen” proposed trading Melo for Favors, Murphy, Kris Humphries and a first rounder, followed by secondary deal sending away J.R. Smith for Damion James. Since that secondary deal doesn’t work cap-wise, why not try it all at once and try to score a first-rounder from the Nets in the deal?:

Summary: I like this proposed deal a bit more than the one above because Harris would be an odd fit in Denver alongside Billups and Lawson.  That said, the Nuggets wouldn't be receiving a top-tier player in the deal and would be gambling big-time that the likes of Favors and James pan out for the Nuggets future.  In this scenario, we'd be looking at a starting five comprised of Billups and Afflalo in the back court with Murphy, Harrington and Nene up-front backed up by Favors, Humphries, Lawson, K-Mart, Andersen and James.  Not too bad, but the Nuggets can do better.  On the flip side, Humphries could begin building his legacy as a future Denver Stiffs Hall of Famer, although he certainly won't justify paying $300 per game at Pepsi Center this season.

Likelihood: 10%

Denver Stiffs reader "nugwhitt" thinks the best angle for the Nuggets is to reduce salary by sending Melo and Balkman to the Nets along with Jrue Holiday in a three-way deal that ships Harris, Favors and Humphries to the 76ers and Igoudala and Hawes to the Nuggets.  I'll assume the Nuggets get a few first round picks here, too, or this makes no sense whatsoever:

Summary: The Nuggets would get a top-tier player here in Igoudala plus picks and a big Stiff in Hawes, but I can't foresee the Nuggets dealing with New Jersey without Favors coming to Denver.  

Likelihood: 0%

Denver Stiffs reader "slader" inquired about sending Melo and Balkman away in exchange for Favors, Murphy, Williams and a first-rounder and/or James:

Summary: As with the deal mentioned just above, the Nuggets wouldn't get a top-tier player here but would score prospects (Favors and possibly James), cap space in 2011 and a future first round pick.  But with no Melo and no Harris in return, who's going for 20 points a night consistently?  A trade like this would mean the Nuggets likely miss the 2011 playoffs but retool with interesting pieces for the future.

Likelihood: 5%

Denver Stiffs reader “adamlouis” suggested a three-team deal in which the Nuggets would trade Melo to the Nets, the Nets would send Harris and Damion James to the 76ers and Favors to the Nuggets, and the 76ers would send Andre Igoudala to the Nuggets:

Summary: I saved the best for last.  

This deal is similar to what CBS Sports' Ken Berger suggested the other day and seems to fit everything that all the parties involved are looking for.  Throw in a future first-round pick from the Nets to the Nuggets and I like this deal.  The Nuggets would essentially be getting Igoudala (who's only 26 years old and remains underrated in my opinion), Favors and a first rounder for Melo.  Not too shabby if you ask me considering the circumstances here.  And while many Nuggets fans might salivate at the prospect of Favors in a Nuggets uniform, my excitement would be derived from getting Igoudala – a versatile player who looked awesome in the 2010 FIBA World Championships on both ends of the floor.  Igoudala seems to thrive if he doesn't have to be "the man" on the team, a role that will remain in Billups' hands as long as he's here.

This deal best fits what the Nuggets want: they'd get a top-tier player (Igoudala), a big-time prospect (Favors) plus a future first round pick and cap flexibility beginning in 2011.  Moreover, if the Nuggets were to do this deal they'd remain competitive in the Western Conference while retooling for the future at the same time.  In other words, they wouldn't risk losing my season-ticket dollars.

Likelihood: 20%

To recap, a three-team deal that could possibly bring the likes of Igoudala and Favors to Denver would be the best possible "Nets deal" for Carmelo Anthony.  I've asked this question before but it bears repeating: if it's indeed inevitable that Melo wants out of Denver, why go through the charade of training camp with #15 in what's sure to be an awkward, difficult camp for all involved?  As a fan, I'd be a lot more enthused knowing that a lineup of Billups, Afflalo, Igoudala, Harrington and Nene backed up by Favors, K-Mart, Lawson, Andersen and Smith has the time to gel in advance of the 2010-11 season kicking off.  

I don't need to see a lame duck season out of Carmelo Anthony.  I'd rather see the Nuggets prepare for a possibly great future ahead.