Handicapping the Carmelo Anthony Situation

Chris Landers, Sports Editor

Each year, the National Basketball Association’s trade deadline wreaks havoc upon the league and its general managers. Contenders contemplate which moves will put their teams over the top, while bottom-dwellers look to rebuild. It’s a time of year when the only constant is chaos, and it is upon us once again. In the face of all of the mind-numbing information, the Review is here to sift through the mess and make sense of the possible scenarios.

The marquee name in the rumor mill this season is Denver Nuggets all-star forward Carmelo Anthony. He will be a free agent after this season, and this summer announced he would not be willing to sign the three-year, $65 million contract extension that the Nuggets put on the table. Numerous reports have surfaced saying that Anthony’s preferred destination is the bright lights and big market of the New York Knicks.

Faced with the prospect of losing the face of their franchise without any compensation, Denver has spent the better part of the fall and winter looking to trade Anthony for draft picks, young talent and salary cap space. Further complicating matters, however, is that no team will want to acquire the star in the last year of his contract with no guarantee that he’ll resign. Thus the only viable trading partners are teams that Anthony would be willing to sign an extension with. So far, that list is comprised of three teams—the Los Angeles Lakers, the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks. The New Jersey Nets seemed to be on the verge of landing Anthony, but have recently pulled away from talks completely after several offers were rejected.

Resigning with the Nuggets

Yes, it’s widely believed that Anthony wants out of Denver. Still, that doesn’t mean he’s a lock to leave. The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the players’ union and the owners will expire after this season, and the ensuing negotiations are expected to result in a much stricter salary structure for the players. If the Feb. 24 trade deadline passes and Anthony doesn’t take Denver’s $65 million, his next contract under the new CBA will potentially be worth significantly less. Nuggets fans must essentially hope that the threat of losing potential millions in contract money will be enough to keep him in tow.

The Chicago Bulls

The most far fetched of any possible scenario, Chicago is one of the teams that Anthony would reportedly be willing to sign an extension with. Yet the Bulls are unwilling to part with promising young center Joakim Noah, the one player the Nuggets are demanding in order to swing a deal. Given that the Bulls roster has been good enough for the third seed in the Eastern Conference up to this point, it is highly unlikely they will compromise their future with Noah to make a trade.

The Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are the newest development in the ‘Melo melodrama. (I’m sorry, I had to do it.) The two-time defending champions are again in serious contention, and adding Anthony could be the piece that separates them from the likes of the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics. Los Angeles also offers the big market city that he reportedly desires in order to sign a long-term extension.

Yet as good as this situation may sound, there are, naturally, complications. The Lakers have already taken star players Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom off the table. Outside of that core triumvirate, there aren’t many tradable pieces. Center Andrew Bynum has been discussed, but L.A. has been very reluctant to move its young big man in the past due to his massive potential. Additionally, Bynum’s expensive contract isn’t something the Nuggets are looking to take on.

The New York Knicks

The Knicks have been thought of as the frontrunner in the Anthony sweepstakes since this summer. Anthony got married in Manhattan and was born in Brooklyn. Also, New York has the market and young talent that would ensure endorsements and potential championship runs in the future.

The catch, as with the Lakers, is the package that can be put together. The Knicks traded away all of their early round draft picks to free up salary cap space for the Lebron sweepstakes of last summer. There also aren’t many enticing players to be put on the table, and Denver will be very reluctant—both from a basketball and public relations standpoint—to trade away their franchise player for a thoroughly mediocre package.

This will eventually devolve into a game of chicken. The Nuggets don’t want to lose Anthony for nothing, and Anthony doesn’t want to become a free agent and be forced to sign somewhere for less money. It all hinges on who blinks first. Will the Nuggets cave to a lesser deal with the Knicks just to get something in return? Or will the dollar signs floating in his head bring Anthony back to Denver?

Regardless of the outcome, one thing is certain: this time of year, chaos reigns supreme.