Since I’m guessing the Denver Nuggets won’t take my advice and keep Carmelo Anthony this season, and the list of rumored destinations for ‘Melo grows by the week, it’s time to explore what the Nuggets can do trade-wise to get something close to equal value in return for the man who’s been their franchise centerpiece for the last seven years.
Although I still believe ‘Melo ultimately ends up in New York, recent rumors have gained momentum that he has the Houston Rockets at or near the top of his wish list of teams with which he’d sign a long-term extension following a trade. How exactly would ‘Melo end up in Houston, though? I tinkered around with some possible trades, and this one works out best for both sides on the court and with the salary cap:
Houston gets: Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith
Denver gets: Kevin Martin, Shane Battier, Jared Jeffries
Actually, a ‘Melo-for-Martin and Battier deal would have worked, but if I’m the Nuggets and I know teams want ‘Melo, I’m making them take the problematic J.R. Smith back in the deal.
Denver now rolls out a lineup of Chauncey Billups, Kevin Martin, Battier, Kenyon Martin and Nene, with Arron Afflalo, Birdman and Ty Lawson off the bench. That’s a playoff team. K-Mart2 replaces all but a couple of buckets of Carmelo’s scoring, Battier makes the team stronger defensively, and the two of them make Denver a smarter team automatically. Billups and Battier’s mature leadership would even out the hotheads like K-Mart1 and Birdman. For at least one season, before Battier, K-Mart1 and Afflalo become free agents in 2011, the Nuggets are a strong team in the West.
As for the Rockets, they become a legit championship contender if Yao Ming can stay healthy (of course). If you take the best offensive center in the game, who also gets you 9-10 rebounds a night and blocks a couple of shots, and surround him with ‘Melo (arguably the best scorer in the League), Aaron Brooks at point guard, Courtney Lee and J.R. splitting time at the two, and Luis Scola at power forward, that’s a team with elite talent.
Could that version of the Rockets knock off the two-time defending champion Lakers?
Breaking down the matchups, Houston would have the edge at center (Yao over Andrew Bynum), point guard (Brooks over Derek Fisher) and small forward (‘Melo over Ron Artest). Scola isn’t that far behind Pau Gasol at power forward, and the combo of Courtney Lee’s defense and J.R.’s offense would at least make Kobe Bryant work hard. The Rockets’ bench — J.R. or Lee, Kyle Lowry, Brad Miller, Jordan Hill, Patrick Patterson and Chase Budinger — can compete with L.A.’s backups. And Houston coach Rick Adelman has been going head-to-head with Phil Jackson since the early-’90s. Granted, Adelman has been mostly losing to Phil in that time, but he at least knows Phil’s game.
Two years ago, the injury-racked Rockets gave the Lakers a battle in a seven-game playoff series. And that Houston squad wasn’t as good as this hypothetical Houston squad. If Carmelo winds up with the Rockets, Hakeem and Clyde could well get some new company in the franchise pantheon of champions.