Fine, Let’s Talk About Carmelo and the Hornets (updated to reflect reality)

About a week ago I sat down, thinking about writing something about ‘Melo, but opted against it. The lingering hatred of the Chris Paul rumors stopped me for a while, but with each passing day more and more experts are mentioning New Orleans as a possible landing place for Carmelo and I can’t help but feel excited that the Hornets are being mentioned as a destination.

Let’s start with going over the differences in the situations so nobody bites my head off. ‘Melo is about to be a free agent. His contract expires after this season if he decides to not pick up his player’s option. That’s about 9 months away at this point, assuming the Nuggets don’t surprise anyone by making a deep run. If they want to get good value on him they need to move now. There just isn’t time to re-tool and convince him to stay, and there’s no guarantee that he wants to stick around even if the team was better.

To be fair, ESPN is now reporting that Chauncey Billups talked to ‘Melo, and is claiming that he’s happy in Denver. Well, actually it just says that he loves the team, loves the fans, and loves the City. Some, including myself, can see Anthony following those statements with “but I’m just not in love with you.”

I’m making that up entirely, but wouldn’t it just make sense to hear it? The guy has a 3 year, $65 million dollar deal on the table with a looming expiration date on it  – and he hasn’t touched it.

ESPN contributor Larry Coon describes it well

The next agreement isn’t expected to do the players any favors; the owners are seeking significant changes such as some form of hard cap and a dramatic decrease in the percentage of revenues paid to the players. Should Anthony become a free agent in 2011, his chances of being paid commensurate to the extension he turned down might be nil.

So there is reason to believe that Carmelo wants to play elsewhere, even if he’s denying it.

Of course the situations with he and Paul are similar as well, from the way in which their displeasure has become know to their respective teams responses. They both have even had excellent trade pieces done by the True Hoop Network. Ryan did the Paul trade post a while back, and Jeremy from Roundball Mining Company similarly took offers for ‘Melo. This morning Jeremy put up another good post regarding the contradictions in the Anthony story.

Remember that toast in New York that Paul was involved in? Well that’s no longer really in the forefront of basketball minds for the same reason it used to be. Now it’s being reported that Nugget’s owner Stan Kroenke tried to make his own in support of Paul coming to Denver and received nothing but an awkward silence. Note that nobody has completely vetoed the idea of a big three in New Orleans, not that it’s been brought up publicly or anything.

Moving on, New Orleans has one of the two things that Carmelo is looking for. With him on the team, assuming Thornton isn’t traded, the Hornets all of a sudden look like a team that could seriously contend for quite a while. Paul, Thornton, Melo and David West would immediately put the Hornets in the position of having one of the best offenses in the league, on paper at least. The trio of Thornton, Melo and Paul could conceivably play together for the next decade, kicking ass and taking names along the way. That makes Paul happy and that makes Melo happy. That also makes me happy if you were wondering.

What’s missing is the big city lights that Melo craves. The simple argument is that in New York he will be a bigger star, and would therefore be more likely to sign larger endorsement deals. The reality of this train of thought isn’t necessarily as cut and dry as the New York media would like you to think. Does anyone think that Drew Brees is suffering as a result of playing in New Orleans, one of America’s oldest and most important cities?

In an age where fans from New Zealand, South America, the Philippines and more can stream live games online, does it really matter if a superstar player is in Los Angeles, Cleveland, New York or New Orleans? I like to think that it doesn’t, not much at least. All things being equal there are certainly a bunch of guys who are going to prefer the big city, but all things aren’t equal. If the Knicks can’t put a package together to entice Denver to agree to sign and trade Melo, and the Hornets can, then he might decide that New Orleans plus 5 or 6 million dollars more a year is a better option than New York, and agree to extend the deal and subsequently the trade.

Back to Jeremy’s trade piece and actually acquiring Carmelo. In the event that ‘Melo agrees to a extend and trade, Ryan offered Darius Songaila, Peja, and Marcus Thornton. He added-

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to take care of all the blood pouring from my fingertips after putting Thornton into a trade offer.

Jeremey wasn’t thrilled, responding-

This trade gives the Nuggets some significant cap relief and a young offensive minded shooting guard who could make a nice duo with Arron Afflalo, that is not much to hang out hats on though. At least Melo gets to play with his buddy Chris Paul.

Needless to say it wasn’t his favorite, nor mine since Thornton is involved. I didn’t wind up submitting anything since I’ve really been trying to avoid speculating about all this, but whatever. It’s Sunday and I’m bored so lets do it. This is under the assumption that ‘Melo signs the contract extension and pledges his undying loyalty to Hugo.

edit- this trade doesn’t work. You can’t use TPE’s in combination with player to make up the difference in salaries. Thanks, Mike, for correcting me.

Second edit- since the rest of this made little sense due to my trade being illegal, the post is now different from here on out. My apologies.

Let’s just throw trade rules out the window for a second. Say that the only way the team is getting Anthony is to give him a max contract extension (3 years, 65 mil) and to give up Thornton and Ariza. It’s my take that Thornton just isn’t a big enough name by himself, even with expiring contracts, a rookie, and/or a pick.

Here are the stats on the two guys from last year, per 40 minutes where applicable.

Player points points per shot TS% rebs assists t/o PER 2010-2011 salary
Thornton 22.6 1.20 55.0 4.5 2.4 1.6 17.5 0.762 million
Melo 29.5 1.29 54.9 6.9 3.4 3.2 22.3 17.149 million

There’s no real debate that ‘Melo is the better player, but the Hornets would be giving up an absurd amount of financial flexibility to acquire a scorer who is better, but by no means fantastic. Anthony can score, and score he does, but he’s not terribly efficient. What distinguishes his scoring from Thornton’s is realy that Anthony gets to the line a lot more, something rookies tend to have a problem with and stars… Well you watch Chris Paul every week. The rest of Melo’s game is fairly average for a small forward, and his defense can even be considered sub-par.

Buckets’ costs nothing, can play both guard positions, and is a pretty damn good scorer who should only improve as he gets more experience. He’s a key part of the team as it’s currently built and will either start at shooting guard or come off the bench in a Vinnie Johnson style role. I’d prefer the latter since it doesn’t matter who starts the game, it matters who finishes, but that’s neither here nor there. Fact is that he can back up Paul, and he can start at shooting guard, and he can play the game, and he costs less than a million a year.

Ariza, while not a true star, is a much better defensive player than ‘Melo, and has shown the capability to be a key role player on a championship team. He’s 36% the price of Carmelo as well.

The team is much more complete with both Ariza and Thornton. It seems the main reason to make a move like this is to unite Paul and Anthony on one team, increasing the odds of keeping Paul for the long term. But is that enough to sacrifice losing both Thornton and Ariza?

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