You’ve heard the rumors. Carmelo Anthony wants out of Denver, and the Clippers have emerged as one of the likely destinations. Could a marriage between Melo and Los Angeles work?
When considering a potential deal, there’s a couple of things to keep in mind. First off, Anthony would absolutely have to sign a contract extension. I’d say it’s safe to assume that the Clippers would have no interest in forfeiting future and current assets for a one year rental on Anthony. If the Clippers make a move towards Anthony he’d have to sign the 3-year, $65 million dollar contract extension as part of the deal. That’s the first hurdle. Is Anthony willing to lock into a long-term deal with the Clippers as opposed to hitting free agency?
For argument’s sake, let’s assume Anthony is enticed by the Clippers core and the bright lights of Los Angeles, which offer far more opportunities for him and his wife in the offseason. What do the Clippers give up to get him?
If there’s one thing you come away with after reading this, let it be this: Blake Griffin is untouchable. He’s not going anywhere. If Carmelo is the acquired target, you could probably put Eric Gordon in that category as well, although that’s not as certain as Griffin is. If Griffin and Gordon aren’t being moved, what do the Clippers have to offer?
Because of Carmelo’s $17 million dollar contract the Clippers would simply have to move Baron Davis or Chris Kaman to make the salaries match. The Clippers can’t trade anyone signed this offseason until December, and if Anthony has his way, he’ll force his way out long before then. Even if Carmelo remains on the market until December, the Clippers don’t have many salaries to trade that will add up to that big deal. So while we’re making assumptions, it’s also probably safe to say that to acquire Anthony, Kaman or Davis would have to be involved in some capacity.
And that presents another hurdle. It’s hard to believe the Nuggets have interest in Baron, as they already have Chauncey Billups and their point guard of the future waiting in the wings in Ty Lawson. Acquiring Baron just doesn’t make sense for them. If it’s Baron being traded, a third team would almost certainly have to get involved. Maybe a team like Charlotte, who would probably take a chance on Baron, could serve as a potential trading partner. The list of teams without their starting point guard penciled in is slim even when you don’t consider the length and money left on Baron’s contract. Moving Baron to get Anthony would be extremely difficult, even if his reputation around the league is much better than some members of Clippers Nación would like to believe.
If Baron is out of the equation, that leaves Chris Kaman as the lone piece who could make it work. Enter hurdle number three. Do the Nuggets really want or even need Kaman? Kenyon Martin’s gargantuan contract expires next year so there is an empty hole in the Nuggets frontcourt rotation. It’s debatable whether Nene and Kaman could co-exist but we’ll move past that for now. If the Nuggets are rebuilding, and trading Anthony would seem to indicate that they are, what good will Kaman and his contract do them? If their goal is to build around young and cheap talent (like Lawson and Afflalo) while maintaining cap flexibility and acquiring draft picks, Kaman helps them in neither area. Since Kaman alone doesn’t seem to do Denver a whole lot of good, again the Clippers would be looking at involving a third team, perhaps a team like Detroit or another team starved for a center. If the Clippers don’t involve a third team they would likely have to give up much more than just Kaman or just Baron to get the Nuggets to bite, most likely in the form of draft picks. The good news there is that the Clippers have a doozy of a draft pick in their pocket.
The Minnesota pick, which is top 10 protected this year and completely unprotected in 2012, looks like one of the most valuable draft picks around the league. Timberwolves GM David Kahn has put together an odd group in Minnesota and the prospects of that team getting out of the early lottery range in the next two years seem highly unlikely. That’s the gem Denver would likely look to acquire in all of this.
Is Carmelo Anthony worth that pick and the additional assets that would have to go with it? The snap reaction is probably yes, but there’s been a lot of smart basketball people pointing out that Carmelo isn’t nearly as elite as you would think. While the argument against Carmelo is a compelling one, there are periphereals that have to be considered. The Clippers have had two winning seasons in 27 years in Los Angeles. Carmelo Anthony has led the Nuggets to seven straight winning seasons and has never been part of a losing one. The Clippers have been to the playoffs four times since they’ve been in Los Angeles. Carmelo? Seven seasons played, seven playoff appearances. That should, despite his inefficient shooting and Twitter issues, count for something.
It makes sense that the Clippers would want a player like Anthony. For years and years they’ve had a giant hole at the small forward position. Since Elton Brand and Sam Cassell left, they’ve desperately needed a player who could bail the team out on the offensive end with timely buckets. And for even longer the Clippers haven’t had a marquee player, a face to market, a guy who can bring immediate relevancy to a franchise starved for it. Sure, there’s a good chance Blake Griffin might become that guy, but Carmelo already is.
Despite all the obvious hurdles, the union appears to make sense on paper. Of course, the reputation a player carries isn’t nearly as important as his actual on court performance, and that’s something we’ll dig into in detail later this week.