It might not be accurate to say the Denver Nuggets won the Carmelo Anthony trade, after all they just gave up one of the 10 best players in the NBA, but GM Masai Ujiri must be applauded for a marvellous job nonetheless.
Fans and media grew sick of nonstop ‘Melo rumours over the last six months, but that’s not Ujiri’s problem. His task was to come up with the best possible package for a superstar player that he had no hope of keeping, and that’s exactly what he did.
We heard repeatedly that the Nuggets continued to raise their asking price for ‘Melo, making it impossible for the Nets or Knicks to complete a deal and frustrating everyone involved. rumours also flew that Ujiri had overplayed his hand in January when the New Jersey Nets pulled out of trade discussions with the Nuggets, costing them the one bright young star they coveted. Sure enough, Ujiri re-engaged the Nets in trade talks just weeks later and found the leverage he needed to push the Knicks into improving their offer.
We’ll never know exactly how Ujiri bargained during this process, but we do know the end result. Even though it was incredibly obvious that the Nuggets were going to lose Anthony, and that he was going to end up with the Knicks in free agency if not through a trade, Ujiri squeezed three Knicks starters out of the deal in addition to several draft picks, and a ton of cap savings.
Ujiri would have loved to keep Anthony, but that’s not how sports work today. When a star player makes it clear that he’s moving on one way or another, it becomes the general manager’s job to garner the greatest return possible for the star. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but when the GM comes up with a coup like this, he deserves to be lauded no matter what his methods were.
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