With the Denver Nuggets having traded Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and others to the New York Knicks in a blockbuster deal executed late Monday, the Nuggets are clearly looking to the future. 'Melo was in trade rumors precisely because the Nuggets didn't want to lose him for nothing; Denver saw what happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors when LeBron James and Chris Bosh left those respective franchises last summer and made sure Anthony wouldn't be lost with no return.
It's always been about the future for the Nuggets, and a package with three young players (Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Timofey Mozgov) and a rising veteran (Raymond Felton) -- all on short and relatively inexpensive contracts -- nods to that. But Denver still has some potential free agents who are older and more expensive. The biggest name among them is Nene.
The 28-year-old Brazilian center can and likely will become an unrestricted free agent at season's end. While losing Nene for nothing wouldn't be quite the hit losing a player like 'Melo would have been, the Nuggets would still like to either ensure he'll be retained or ensure his departure returns an asset. Nene is, after all, the team's best or second-best player, depending on what you think of Gallinari.
As such, it's of little surprise that ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported early Tuesday that the Nuggets sought to sign Nene to an extension quickly after finalizing the 'Melo blockbuster. It remains plausible that if the team can't reach an extension agreement, Denver could put Nene on the block.
If Nene is on the market, the Houston Rockets have repeatedly been linked to the center. Reports also suggest the Rockets want to be active at the deadline, swinging a trade to help the franchise's playoff push, which because of the Nuggets' trade might get easier. But thanks to the protracted nature of the 'Melo bidding, there's precious little time for a deal to get done. The NBA trade deadline is Thursday at 3 PM Eastern.