It seems the consensus around the NBA and with most fans is if Carmelo Anthony does officially decide to leave town, the Denver Nuggets are going to go into rebuilding mode. Especially with Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith most likely following Melo out the door. But before you already write off the Nuggets here are a few points as to why the Nuggets wouldn’t consider rebuilding:
- 48-27: that is the Nuggets combined record over the course of the two previous seasons without Anthony, Martin and Smith on the floor. Consider that for 82 games and that team would have won 52 games, one win behind what the Nuggets finished this season. Sure they weren’t missing together (the team was 17-11 without Melo, 25-14 without K-Mart and 6-2 without JR). But also don’t forget the Nuggets are going to get at least a starting-caliber player back. By the way, without Chauncey Billups the Nuggets struggled with a 4-7 record over the last two years.
- Why trade K-Mart? It doesn’t make much sense to rebuild and still want to trade a $16.5 million expiring contract? Especially one that doesn’t carry too much value. Martin will miss almost half the season as he recovers from knee surgery and even after that there are some questions if he can help a team and the only real value he carries is his contract that more attractive to teams that want to unload contracts. Denver would have a better shot at landing Andre Iguodala or Andris Biedrins than a Tayshaun Prince or Peja Stojakovic with Kenyon Martin.
- Addition by subtraction: In many Nuggets fans eyes J.R. Smith is just as important as Anthony is to the team. And no doubt Smith is talented, but for as athletic and explosive he is, he also has a below average basketball IQ. We could go into all of his flaws, but they have all been listed before and have been well documented. But one flaw that most people overlook is the want to win. Billups has it, Anthony has it, K-Mart has it, Smith doesn’t. And it shows as he has been the biggest culprit in the lack of effort against subpar teams. The Nuggets lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers at home and lost to the Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, Washington Wizards on the road and to the Sacramento Kings twice on the road. And Smith was not only outplayed by less talented players (Rasual Butler and Andres Nocioni), but looked foolish against those squads with stupid turnovers. In those seven losses, Smith averaged a 8.1 points, shot. .259 from the field, only made 5-35 treys and nearly three turnovers a contest. Lets just say trading Smith isn’t starting over, it is an addition by subtraction.
- Matt Holliday-exception: A couple years ago the Colorado Rockies were forced to trade their star Matt Holliday for a package of Huston Street, Greg Smith and Carlos Gonzalez. Holliday was barely a year removed from leading the Rockies to the World Series and was the NL Championship MVP before he was dealt. Now, Holliday has teamed up with Albert Pujols to form the top duo in the MLB, Gonzalez has had an MVP-type season for the Rockies wearing Holliday’s same number and playing his position and Street has been, well, average. And guess what? The Rockies are still competing for the Wild Card. Obviously that was the MLB and in the NBA it is hard to trade for players that are near Melo’s level in the NBA, but a package of Eric Gordon, Minnesota’s draft pick and Chris Kaman may mirror the Holliday-Gonzalez trade. Kaman is an All-Star center and Gordon quite possibly could end up being like Gonzalez. He is one of the most underrated players in the NBA, partly due to his size. But he worked his way onto the World Championship team and was arguably the Clippers most consistent scorer. He has a humble, but confident attitude, can hit timely shots and is smart enough to be a good defender.
- Mr. Big Shot: It is hard to find a better winner in the NBA nowadays than Billups. With him on the court, the Nuggets are a different team, they can compete with anybody (Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando Magic and the formerly LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers) and come through in the clutch. Now team that up with super-backup Ty Lawson, do-what-you-ask Arron Afflalo, hungry Al Harrington and a top-10 center in Nene and you have a core to a championship caliber team. And guess who isn’t being rumored to be dealt? Mr. Big Shot.