Can Walsh Make Carmelo Happen?

Carmelo anthony

Carmelo Anthony in Denver is like a loose tooth ready to fall out, or so it seems as word leaks out that Anthony has little intention of signing a contract extension AND staying in Denver.  The question for Knicks fans is “when Carmelo has clearly twisted himself from those Mile High gums, will Donnie Walsh beat all the other tooth fairies to pick Melo up while leaving a little something under that Denver pillow?”

Now, this could be Walsh’s defining moment.  This could be Carmelo Anthony’s defining moment. This will probably be Denver’s redefining moment for the foreseeable future.

Besides the persistent rumors from those now famous anonymous “sources inside the camp” or “sources familiar with the situation,” Knicks fans are buoyed by the chance that Anthony will force the Nuggets to trade him by the December deadline to the Knicks.   The lastest msm reports have Carmelo, who played in Syracuse, pining for New York encouraged by wedding toasts from Amar’e and Chris Paul.  According to the New York Post, Carmelo “could sign the three-year, $65 million extension the Nuggets have offered, then force the team to trade him. Or he could refuse to sign, leaving the Nuggets to trade him or receive nothing when he becomes a free agent after this season.”

That seems very simple, but perhaps a little too simple especially after three players seemingly hijacked the free agency period this summer giving owners a reason to pause regarding their dominance over player movement. With a new CBA looming Knicks fans might want to consider whether any owners, especially small market ones, are likely to be bullied into damaging trades.  Equally of concern is whether the Knicks have enough resources to make a trade with Denver for Carmelo attractive.  Unfortunately, a Melo to New York trade looks like it would be a tough sale for even the craftiest, most patient general manager.

Denver, which recently fired its general manager, has several options, not just two, after failing to lock up their star with an extension offer.  The Nuggets could refuse to trade him and force him to play out the season. The risk for Denver is to receive nothing in return for the free agent; the likelihood is that Anthony would move in a sign and trade in which his new team would compensate the Nuggets with players, draft picks or cap space.  In this scenario Antony could maximize his contract, but Denver has less control over the compensation it would receive in return. However, to keep Carmelo the entire season would allow Denver to remain a contender for one more year.  A less likely response by Carmelo could be for him to exercise his $18.5 million option to return for the 2011-12 season; the only reason to do this would be to give Denver a chance to improve if he seriously had any interest in staying there.

Of course, Denver could trade Carmelo by the trade deadline.  The attractiveness of this option depends on the team’s future plans and the offers from other teams.   The Nuggets are currently fielding inquiries about Anthony trade scenarios without an official general manager.  The Nuggets could agree to execute the extension and trade Anthony.  Some analyst suggest signing the extension is urgent for Anthony if he wants to avoid the uncertainty of a new collective bargaining agreement which is expected to be less financially favorable for players.  However, given that the NBA has been off on all its doomsday predictions, Anthony and the other NBA players are probably less concerned about star player max contracts than they are about overall revenue sharing.

This appears to be a great chance for Walsh to demonstrate his basketball operations skill, but he is in a very difficult position which improves with time.  Currently the Knicks’ 2010-11 payroll is at $53.5 million.  Their greatest tradeable asset is Eddy Curry and his contract at $11.2 million.  The Knicks are a little skimpy on the tradeable draft rights.  The most recent draft pick not tied up in a trade is a second round 2012 pick from Golden State.  The Knicks have a first round pick in 2011, but it is subject to a potential swap with the Rockets.  Both of their own 2012 picks have been traded with protections; the first round pick protections should be meaningless if the Knicks are a winning team.  Next year, the Knicks with Curry’s contract expired or gone, are in a better position to make cap space or engage in a trade for Anthony.
Unfortunately, other teams, presently have more attractive tradeable assets than the Knicks.  If Anthony wants to play in the New York area or simply wants to play with Chris Paul, both the Nets and Hornets present slightly better trade scenarios for a rebuilding Nuggets team than the Knicks.  The Nuggets can use other teams to either create more cap space or dump some  of the other contracts they probably could do without such as Kenyon Martin’s $16.5 million ankle bracelet. In terms of the Knicks’ free agent competitors, it is difficult to tell who they would be until the new CBA is entered into.   However, the Nets are likely to be a player in 2011 free agency as well.
All-in-all, dreaming about Carmelo as a Knick is nice and hopeful, but the Nuggets still hold the power.