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Spending hours tinkering with ESPN’s trade machine is a favourite pastime of NBA enthusiasts, but while we dream up scenarios that improve all parties, NBA acquisitions – from Dr. J’s move to Philly to Garnett suiting up for the C’s – have long been all about the dough.The headline-dominating deal featuring Carmelo Anthony is the latest example of this undeniable truth. But in a delightful twist of fate, the Pistons and Nets, who were driven to deal by dollar signs, will lose out to the basketball-motivated Nuggets. Believed to be completely without leverage, Denver will walk away from the bargaining table as the trade’s big winners.
The season’s worst-kept secret is that ‘Melo wants out of Denver. If he had any desire to stay put, he’d have signed the 3-year, $65 million offer the Nuggets extended way back in October. Anthony has a short list of teams with whom he’d be willing to sign, and that does not include Denver.
That left the Nuggets until February’s trade deadline to receive compensation for their star, lest they lose him for nothing in free agency. Anthony would only agree to go to certain teams (some of whom seemed content to wait him out until free agency), and that left the Nuggets devoid of leverage. Anything the Nuggets got back for Anthony would have been gravy.
But if this deal goes through, the Nuggets will get the turkey and the stuffing, too.
In poaching Derrick favours, Devin Harris and two first-rounders from the Nets, Denver gets basketball assets and the building blocks for a retooled team in the near future. With Ty Lawson already on board, Devin Harris might not stay in Denver for long, but he’s an all-star point guard with a reasonable salary. A tradeable asset, to say the least. Desperate to acquire whatever talent they could and salvage losing a true superstar, the Nuggets could actually be better for this trade with a little bit of luck.
The Nets, on the other hand, probably won’t be. They too traded from a desperate position. Their media-savvy Russian owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, will stop at nothing to acquire the attention and marketing power that the Brooklyn-born forward brings with his 24 points and eight boards. The Nets were competing only with themselves, but anxious for notoriety and fan interest Melo brings – and, of course, the money that comes with it – the Nets overpaid. Sure, the Nets get the best player in the deal, but they mortgage their once-bright future to do so. No other team has made an offer that rivals that of the Nets. They outbid only themselves.Don’t be mistaken, the Nets will improve from this trade. They’re 10-27, how could they not? But unless ‘Melo makes them into legitimate contenders, something he wasn’t able to do with a better supporting cast in Denver, the Nets will fall back into irrelevancy very soon. Overpaid stars, as the rival Knicks learned the hard way for the last decade, only bring relevancy if they bring wins. ‘Melo would have been more likely to do so if he joined the existing Nets squad – draft picks, prospects, and all – in free agency this summer.
Then there’s the Pistons. Desperate to save money, they dump Richard Hamilton’s contract in the proposed deal. Their owners have been trying, unsuccessfully, to sell the franchise for months, and believe the team will be more attractive without being handcuffed by the ageing, but effective Hamilton and his massive contract. Granted, he’s unnecessary on a team that needs to rebuild, but Hamilton’s got enough talent to command more than long-term cap saving, and Johan Petro’s atrocious three-year contract. Desperate to sell the team now, the Pistons appear too impatient to shop for the best offer.
When the deal eventually goes through – and all signs point to that eventual outcome – the team whose sights were set purely on remaining competitive in basketball terms will walk away as the big winners. The ball was in the Pistons’ and Nets’ court. But penny-wise and pound-foolish, they lost out to the leverage-less team most focused on basketball.
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