After the Carmelo-Amare-Chandler trio, the hopeful progression of Shumpert, and the glimpse of salvation seen from Lin-sanity, there really isn’t much to be excited about on the roster.
With Chauncey gone, the Knicks now only have Carmelo and Renaldo Balkman from the trade, and let’s again look at what they lost:
Wilson Chandler: 16.4 points per game, 5.9 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 34 minutes
Raymond Felton: 17.1 points, 9.0 assists, 1.8 steals, 38 minutes
Danilo Gallinari: 15.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.7 threes, 34 minutes
Timofey Mozgov: 4.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 13 minutes
*Stats from 2011 season pre-trade
Carmelo Anthony: 22.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 34 minutes
Renaldo Balkman: 3 points, 1.9 rebounds, 8 minutes (in only 14 games)
*Stats from this past season
Numbers can without a doubt be deceiving, but there was clearly a ton of production coming out of the threesome that was sent to Denver (Mozgov is more of a project, but an enticing one as a 25-year-old 7-footer).
Felton flourished under the D’Antoni system and played the best basketball of his NBA career as a Knick and he hasn’t been able to find his groove at all since leaving the Bronx. But compared with over-the-hill veterans Baron Davis and Mike Bibby or trigger-happy youngster Toney Douglas, Felton looks like stud. If Lin can return to 18-point/8-assist form, the loss of Felton will not seem to be much of a concern, however.
Fields is an undoubtedly capable player, but I’d much rather see him as an 8th or 9th man, a Luke Walton sort of role, than an every game starter. Chandler and Gallinari, on the other hand, have the skill sets of NBA starters and while they are anything but superstars, you can’t just reach out and sign players like them at your convenience.
The condensed NBA season was a real test to the depth of NBA teams and despite frequent injuries and Chandler’s foray into China, the Nuggets proved to be one of the deeper teams in the league this year, thanks in large part to the Melo trade: Lawson, Afflalo, and Andre Miller in the backcourt; Gallinari, Chandler, Rudy Fernandez and Brewer on the wing or at the 2; Harrington, Faried, MGee and Mozgov up front. And of all those players, only Miller isn’t signed on through at least 2013.
It’s nearly impossible to quantify the value of a superstar player in today’s NBA, a concept that the Magic are currently struggling with mightily. When you send away a top 5 to 7 player in the league, you’re giving up the face and identity of your franchise. The Nuggets knew they would be losing Anthony in the near future and considering the circumstance, they faired pretty well.
Compare their situation to the one in New Orleans. The Hornets will likely lose unrestricted free agent Chris Kaman this summer and could even lose the prize piece of the deal in restricted free agent Eric Gordon, who turned down the Hornets’ contract extension offer. That leaves the underwhelming swingman Aminu and Minnesota’s 2012 draft pick in the other half of the deal. While the draft pick could prove valuable, the Nuggets have clearly done a better job of securing their future, signing both Chandler and Gallinari to long-term deals. Felton’s replacement Andre Miller has an expiring contract, but as the anchor to Denver’s bench (9.7 points, 6.7 assists) it’s quite possible he’ll return next year.
Still, when compared with Carmelo Anthony, what kind of compensation is five years with Chandler and Gallinari and the expiring contract of Andre Miller? No matter how difficult it is to find a deal for a superstar, you’d think that one of the elements in the trade would have to involve a potential star player, and neither Chandler nor Gallinari are that player – an Eric Gordon, on the other hand, is.
Had the Nuggets allowed Anthony to walk after the 2011 season, consider the amount of money they’d be able to throw to free agents in upcoming years. They have a talented young backcourt in Lawson and Afflalo that only takes up about $10 million a year – Afflalo signed through 2015, Lawson through 2013. Then there’s a pair of unique talents in Faried and McGee, who made a combined $4 million this season. That’s a solid bang for your buck there in four useful players that only demand $15 million a year and can each play 25-30 minutes a night at the minimum.
Gallo is due to make $10 million a year for the next four years, while Chandler just signed a 5-year $37 million deal. The latter isn’t anything outlandish, but Gallinari’s track record so far makes 10 million seem pretty steep.