SB Nation Denver's Nate Timmons tackles this topic head on in "Would Melo Leaving Kill Basketball in Denver?" In the piece, Timmons notes that the last time the Nuggets lost a star around whom the team had been built was Dikembe Mutombo, who found himself in "a similar situation as Melo after the 1995-96 season. The team was in a slight decline and Mutombo had to either stick around or leave town. He chose to sign with the Atlanta Hawks and the Nuggets got nothing for him in return, unless you count quite a few losing seasons."
That's an understatement. Take a look at the season-by-season stats for the next seven years:
Yep: That's seven years without a winning record, including two seasons in which the win total was south of fifteen. Out of 82!
As Timmons notes, the Nuggets got zip for Mutombo, while they'd likely get some bodies in exchange for Melo if he forces a trade. Then again, no one believes they'd receive equal value -- and with the best elements of the current Nuggets either aging (Chauncey Billups), brittle (Kenyon Martin) or nuts (J.R. Smith), the trend would instantly point downward.
All of which means the Nuggets need Carmelo to stay, not just because he's a great player in his physical prime, but due to the fact that he's capable of attracting other talents to play alongside him. And in a world where LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh may soon be teammates, that's more important than ever.