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Carmelo Anthony trade: Chauncey Billups likely to stay, Nugs will probably get squat for Melo

It finally happened: New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov tired of the drawn-out talks over Carmelo Anthony's services and publicly withdrew from negotiations yesterday.

So where's that leave Nuggets management? In a position to keep Chauncey Billups (which is great), but receive far less than market value for their departing superstar. And it's their own damn fault.

For evidence of this last contention, look no further than our January 11 post "Carmelo Anthony trade: Are Nuggets stalling trade because they want Nets to keep losing?" The item referenced a piece by the New York Post's Stefan Bondy, who quoted an NBA general manager as saying "the Nuggets don't feel the need to pull the trigger until closer to the February 24 trade deadline."

Why not? Here's Bondy's interpretation:

Part of that philosophy is based on the assumption that the Nets (10-27) will continue losing without Anthony, and therefore the 2011 first-round pick the Nuggets receive in the trade will have greater value the longer they wait.

And here's my take:

Makes sense to some degree -- but there's a great deal of risk involved in this game outside the game. Given the complications involved in a multi-team transaction, one or more parties could get cold feet during the next six weeks or so, because of injuries to key trade components or many other factors. Moreover, the Nets would likely keep sucking for quite a while after Melo's arrival due to the difficulty he'll likely experience in finding a rhythm with his new teammates. (Example: The Miami Heat early in the season.) And given the NBA's use of a draft lottery, as opposed to a simple worst-picks-first approach, the Nets' pick would fall within a range of slots no matter their final win-loss record.

With that in mind, the Nuggets should make the trade earlier rather than later. It won't be pretty, but it's time to step toward the future rather than continuing to linger in limbo.

Because the Nuggets chose instead to keep rolling the dice, only to crap out, the squad finds itself in the Land of Diminished Expectations. Now the only franchises likely to enter the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes are the New York Knicks, his preferred destination, or teams interested in renting him for a playoff run. As such, the amount of compensation will shrink in a serious way, with the Nuggets unlikely to receive any players or picks capable of truly setting them on the path to the future.

The upside of this catastrophe involves Billups, who had become a component of the now-aborted Nets deal. Chauncey didn't want to leave Denver, his hometown, and fans wanted him to stay as well. After yesterday's events, they'll probably get their wish -- and while his skills are not what they were during his athletic prime, he'll be invaluable in the unpleasant next stage of the Nuggets' history: rebuilding.

More from our Sports archive: "Carmelo Anthony trade: Did Amare Stoudemire, NY Knicks kill 4-way deal featuring NJ Nets?"


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