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‘Melo gives New Jersey a star, does not make them winners

Jan 12, 2011, 11:21 AM EDT

Carmelo Anthony

It’s plainly obvious why New Jersey wants Carmelo Anthony — they need a big star to sell their new Brooklyn home (opening in 2012, didn’t you see the pictures?). You don’t sell those luxury suits when the building’s doors open, you sell them this coming summer, a year out. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov needs his star now. Anthony is one of the brightest stars in the NBA firmament — and one of Brooklyn’s own. His name can sell suites and seats.

The fit is perfect. For marketing.

On the court, not so much.

The current proposed trade that brings Anthony to New Jersey makes the Nets a little better now, but leaves them a long way and a lot of moves away from really competing in the East. And with the salary they’d bring in — particularly if they foolishly accepted Al Harrington — they’d be less flexible to make the moves they need to make.

With all the contortions the Nets have made to make this move a reality, it is not a good basketball trade. The Nets would be better being patient, but with suites to sell this summer, that is not an option.

The trade being discussed is one of the biggest in NBA history. There are at least 15 players and three teams involved. The heart of the trade would send Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton to New Jersey (to reunite what could have been in Detroit); bring Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Anthony Morrow, some other players and a couple first-round picks to Denver; and send Troy Murphy and Johan Petro, some money saved and some picks to Detroit.

Some will try to sell it this way, but don’t confuse Anthony/Billups/Hamilton with the arrival of the big three in Boston and that turnaround. Boston’s turnaround was fueled by defense and Anthony is not bringing KG’s defensive intensity and leadership. He’s not bringing a quarter of it. What Anthony brings is scoring — he’s one of the best shooters of contested two-point shots in the league. But that is different than bringing victories. Also, Billups is 34 and Hamilton is 32 and showing signs of slowing down — these are not the players of the Nets’ future. They are a bridge to the next rebuilding around Anthony (26).

This move — which sends the promise of Derrick Favors out the door — would leave the Nets with a third-tier roster in the East. They would be nowhere near the level of Boston or Miami or Orlando (we can debate another day if Orlando is really on that level). The Nets would not be as good as the Bulls. They would still be chasing the Hawks.

That means even with this big trade, the Nets would be fighting the Knicks, Pacers, Bobcats, Bucks and Sixers for those final playoff spots in the East next season. Yes, next season — this season the Nets are five games out of the eighth seed in the East right now, with six teams between them and that spot. They aren’t going to the playoffs this year.

Over the coming several years the Nets will need to make a lot of moves to bring in more talent  — but that won’t be easy. In part because they will have shipped out so many good draft picks to get Anthony. But in part because of the salaries this trade brings in.

The big talk will be going after Dwight Howard and/or Chris Paul in the summer of 2012 (when both can be free agents) — but with this trade the Nets will have $43 million in payroll already on the books that season. And that is without an extension for Brook Lopez (probably in the $10 million a year range). So they are already near the salary cap under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, and that cap probably will go down when they strike a new deal this summer (or this fall, or the coming winter). The Nets will have an older, not very athletic roster. Flat out, they will not be attractive to or have the money to throw at elite free agents. Not without a lot of other moves.

If this deal goes through it will look great in the power point that pitches companies on buying a suite in the new Barclay Center. But what fans will see from those suites is (as currently constructed) a pretty average team — one that is a step back (or two) from the Nuggets roster Anthony is leaving. One that will be more interesting to imagine trades for than to watch play. One that has no cap space this coming summer to make moves.

Anthony might get to go home, but you can’t always go home again.

  1. jimmycondom - Jan 12, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    It would be nice if the Nuggets would just get rid of that choke artist already so we Nuggets fans can start rooting for our team again…

  2. hnirobert3 - Jan 12, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    NJ is taking a big chance giving up Favors and draft picks for Melo. Good player, but not the type you want to build your team around, IMO. Simmons had a great theory in his book that if Detroit would’ve drafted Melo instead of Darko, they probably don’t win the championship in 2004 because of what Melo would’ve done to the core of that team (Hamilton, Billups, the Wallace’s and Prince).

  3. thestudiokida - Jan 12, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    If you can get Carmelo and the best player you lose is Favors you gotta do it. The only thing they shouldn’t do is take on Harrington’s contract. That’ll keep them them from signing anybody else.

  4. leearmon - Jan 12, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    I dont know what people see in Favors. The Nets were ready to trade him before they ever saw him in a NBA contest. That has to speak for something. On the contrary, the Clippers at the beginning of the season reportedly were offered Melo for Blake, and although they had never seen Blake in a NBA regular season game, they said no dice. Teams know their players, and if New Jersey has been trying to ship this guy off since day one, you have to question whether or not he will ever fully realize his “potential”

  5. petermcd88 - Jan 12, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    What the Nuggets are asking for in a trade for a star player is way more than any team in the league has asked for or gotten. They think they are doing themselves a favor by dragging this thing out but the Nuggets have seriously overplayed their hand with the Nets and Melo. Yes they have the cards (since they have Melo) but everyone knows at some point they will have to show their cards. If I were NJ I would push this as soon as possible even if it means media leaks to make them look bad. Are the Nuggets really going to give up on a trade with a team in another conference that not only will give them a multitude of picks, a huge expiring contract, a tradeable asset in Harris, and a young talented big but take on 1 or 2 of there own large contracts? The empty threat of trading him to New York is only likely if this thing drags out forever and Melo realizes what a potentially bad situation New Jersey can be. And the key to any deal getting done that offers the Nuggets the most value is Melo being happy enough with his new team to sign an extension. That won’t happen if they try to squeeze out every ounce of roster flexibility the Nets have

  6. jimsjam33 - Jan 13, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    Melo is a solid player . The Nuggets a couple years ago came with a minute or two of beating the Lakers for the Western Conference championship . Melo was tremendous in that series . He’s the real thing and with Amare the Knicks will have a tough team to contend with . Better than the Celtics , Magic and Heat ? I don’t know .
    Melo for Blake . Nah . The Clippers have one of those one in a lifetime players and they’re keeping him .

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