The big fish in the 2011 NBA free agent class is clearly Denver star Carmelo Anthony. Anthony has declined to offer any sort of commitment to the Nuggets, and silence speaks volumes. The Nuggets have offered him a three-year maximum contract extension, hoping that Anthony might be worried about losing money with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement likely in place.
That complication still exists, but signs continue to point to Anthony being on another team next year. ESPN's Ric Bucher is reporting that it's now a matter of when, not if, Anthony is moved to another team.
Anthony is weighing whether to sign a three-year, $65 million extension offered by the Nuggets. His dilemma, league sources say, is what affords him the best chance of continuing his career elsewhere. Anthony could sign with Denver and convince the team to then trade him. His other option would be to not sign the extension, thereby forcing the team to move him rather than risk losing him next summer as a free agent.
During his annual basketball camp in Colorado on Saturday, Anthony said he had no timetable on when he'll decide whether to sign the extension.
In either case, "he's going to make it real clear that he's not coming back," said one league source.
Bucher also reports that Anthony and Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke know they're not long for each other, especially after many people were trying to convince Anthony to leave Denver at Anthony's July 11 wedding.
Obviously, talk of trading the face of the franchise is tough for fans, but SB Nation's Nuggets blog Denver Stiffs has a passionate argument for why the Nuggets need to trade Anthony now while they have leverage.
The Nuggets have a lot of leverage if they act sooner than later. First, and make no mistake about it, Melo wants his money and the guaranteed years sure to be wiped away in the new collective bargaining agreement...and only the Nuggets can max him out (dollars + years) under the current agreement, likely to change for the worse for players effective July 1, 2011. Second, a team that could potentially secure Melo's services would rather do so now than risk ending up empty handed next summer. And third, by acknowledging that a trade is possible ensures that Melo will go to the highest bidder.
If you're the Clippers, would you give up Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon (plus the requisite contracts to make the dollars match up) to secure Melo now? Or at least Chris Kaman and Gordon? If you're the Nets, would you ship away Brook Lopez, Devin Harris and throw in a first round pick today? If you're the Lakers, would you part with Andrew Bynum plus anyone not named Kobe or Gasol (as Nate suggested a few weeks ago)? If you're the Knicks...well, you're screwed in this scenario because you have nothing to offer other than Anthony Randolph and first round picks 20 years from now.