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Carmelo Anthony trade should happen before season, but it can't stop Nuggets from freefalling

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New Nuggets exec Masai Ujiri says he's dedicated to keeping Carmelo Anthony in Denver, but few think he can pull it off.

That includes two NBA experts at CBS Sports, who agree that the Nugs must move Melo, even though they're likely to slide in the near term whether he stays or goes.

The Melo life hasn't been too mellow of late: Anthony's Twitter feud with Kat Stacks erupted amid rumors that he's New Jersey Nets-bound, plus separate rumblings that both he and Chauncey Billups could have new addresses soon.

Not that it matters much, according to CBS Sports' Ken Berger, who recently wrote that the Nuggets are set up for a free fall with our without Melo. "To me, the future looks a lot bleaker for Phoenix's predecessor in the conference finals, which is why I'm picking the Nuggets as the team most likely to stumble in 2010-11," Berger writes, citing the Anthony situation, injuries to Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen, and the likelihood that police-investigation-troubled J.R. Smith will be sent packing as his principle reasons.

Berger's viewpoint serves as a jumping-off point for colleague Royce Young's pop quiz about when, not if, Carmelo will be traded. In his view, "The Nuggets need to trade Anthony, otherwise they're facing the same situation the Raptors and Cavaliers faced this past offseason. They don't want their superstar to walk without getting anything in return. And the longer they wait, they less they can get in return."

Hence, Young puts the odds of a trade before the season starts at 2-1, with the chances getting longer as time passes -- 4-1 by Christmas, 10-1 by the trade deadline, and 25-1 for a post-season sign and trade. As for his guesses about a likely destination, his top five consists of the Houston Rockets, the New Jersey Nets, the New York Knicks, the L.A. Clippers and -- a surprise fifth pick -- the Nuggets.

His explanation for the last choice? "Most agree Anthony has already mentally left Denver, but people change their minds. Chris Paul already did it after Dell Demps sold him on a plan. Maybe Ujiri can do the same. Or maybe the Nuggets can't find a good trade buddy early on and in the first two months, Denver is winning and Carmelo is having a great time. Now that three-year extension doesn't look so bad anymore. You know how it goes, everybody can change."

True enough -- and Nuggets fans would love it if this scenario played out the as Young sketches it. But we can't bet the franchise's future on it.

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