What Does Carmelo Anthony Situation Mean to Nuggets?

| by David Berri

Okay, time for another comment on Carmelo (sorry if this is getting redundant).

A few days ago – at Huffington Post — I noted that Melo was not nearly as productive as his scoring suggests (quoting Tom Haberstroh of along the way). And I elaborated on this observation in this forum. Furthermore, Andres Alvarez has been commenting on possible trade scenarios for the Nuggets while Carl Bialik of the Wall Street Journal has looked at a variety of statistical measures and reached the same conclusion: There will be life in Denver after Carmelo.

Despite all these voices essentially making the same point, George Karl – the head coach of the Nuggets – still wants Carmelo to sign the extension and stay. And Andrew Feinstein – of Denver Stiff (a very good blog dedicated to the Denver Nuggets) – has written an open letter to Melo where Feinstein essentially begs Anthony to stay.

The fans of Carmelo appear to fear a repeat of the “LeBron scenario”. Essentially, a star player strings a franchise along until he finally leaves his team. This departure ultimately leaves a team much worse off.

For the Cavaliers, this scenario clearly played out. LeBron produced 27.2 wins – while averaging 29.2 points per game — for the Cavaliers last season. This mark led all NBA players.  Such production would have been difficult to replace in a trade. So even if Cleveland knew of LeBron’s intentions and traded him last season, the Cavaliers would have probably been worse off.

Will this same scenario play out in Denver? Carmelo Anthony scored 28.2 points per game for the Nuggets. But his overall production (again, as noted at Huffington Post) was far less than LeBron.  This means that the Nuggets have actually been given a tremendous opportunity. Other NBA teams think Carmelo is a very productive player. After all – as often noted in this forum – scoring dominates player evaluations in the NBA. But since Melo really isn’t as productive as his scoring suggest, he can be traded to a team for players who actually are quite productive. In other words, Denver can actually use Melo to get better. 

Remember, this is essentially what the team did when it traded away Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups (a move that clearly worked for Denver and clearly did not work for Detroit). If the Nuggets follow this blueprint, Denver can actually build a team that can contend in the West.

So here is my basic message for fans of the Nuggets. Don’t look with dismay on the possibility that Melo might depart.  No, you should be hoping he doesn’t sign that extension. If he does, Denver is going to once again commit substantial payroll cap space to a player who is really not that productive. And building a championship team in Denver will just be harder.

- DJ

P.S. By the way, the next post will not mention Carmelo Anthony. We have two submissions — examining the Pacers and Rockets — that will appear very soon.