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I recall wandering this to myself when the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors first started this summer if the Los Angeles Clippers would be a good place for him to land. The Clippers had recently lost out on all big name free agents and making a push to obtain Melo seemed like a logical idea for a team that, at least at the time, needed a wing scorer. I passed a potential Anthony deal to the Clippers off as a fun idea and not something I thought would actually take place.
After a few months of constant chatter and now that we have our first casualty of the trade talks (Mikhail Prokhorov has officially called off the Nets chase for Anthony), the Clippers, now benefiting greatly from the play of their dynamic young core and even Baron Davis, have a few intriguing pieces as well as draft picks and expiring contracts to throw at the Nuggets (thanks for the idea, Bill Simmons). It is unclear how necessary obtaining Carmelo Anthony would be for a team that already seems to be on the incline with thier potential packed roster, but I think they would rather pay Anthony max money for six years than Chris Kaman $23 million over the next two.
A package including Kaman, rookie forward Al-Farouq Aminu, Minnesota’s 2012 first round draft pick and the expiring contracts of Brian Cook and Rasual Butler could be enticing to the Nuggets. Though its not quite as good as the deal New Jersey put together, Kaman could be a big time scorer for the Nuggets in the lowpost, creating the dynamic duo of Nene and Kaman. Additionally, the Clips could take back Al Harrington’s large deal to sweeten the deal for Denver.
More on Carmelo and how he would fit with the Clippers after the break…
Going to the Clippers is a premise that Anthony should be happy with. He’s been yearning for a bigger market and Los Angeles provides him with the biggest basketball market in America (You can argue New York but Kobe and the defending champs plus Blake Griffin, an emerging Clippers team and maybe even Carmelo trumps it, in my mind). And rather than going from an OK situation in regards to overall team peformance to a below average one in New Jersey, he would get to team up with the Clippers team that is currently making an unexpected push to the playoffs.
A combination of Carmelo, Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin would be one of the best trio’s in the league. Gordon provides a super efficient two guard that maximizes his production by making the two highest percentage shots in basketball – three’s and dunks/lay-ups – at a high rate. Griffin is an athletic monster that doubles as a workhorse on the boards. His potential is limitless and he could be in the conversation for greatest power forward ever if he keeps this up. Anthony would add a dynamic scoring threat and fan favorite that can score a high amount of points albeit inefficiently.
The question here is whether or not Melo would dramatically improve a team like the Clippers, who seem to have a steady plan for the future with their bevy of youngsters. Casual fans will likely assert that Anthony is one of the league’s five best players because of his silky smooth scoring touch in highlight videos but what those fans don’t see are the jacked up 20-footers that clank the rim, the poor defense that cost the Nuggets countless points and the lack of ball movement when Anthony is on the floor. All of those things can cripple a team on any given night just like his scoring can win his team a ball game if he is on.
According to Synergy Sports Technology, Anthony ranks in the 54th percentile in overall offense, which is defined as a “good” rating. That’s Thabo Sefolosha/Corey Maggette territory and those are two players that have nowhere near as much talent as Anthony. Anthony’s decision making is what causes his efficiency to be so low. Too many times, Anthony settles for long two point jumpers – often contested, too – and only goes into the post four times a game, even though that is where he is most effective and the idea that Anthony could minimize the touches that Griffin and Gordon absolutely deserve to get scares me to no end.
Another scary idea is that a Melo deal would mess with the chemistry this Clipper team has. This group has been playing together this season as a collective unit and the addition of a player that can be easily defined as a ballhog may change things up as can the departure of teammates/friends. Another thing working against a deal is the fact that Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling is notorious for not wanting to spend a lot of money. You can make the argument that now that the team is starting to produce some results, Sterling would be more willing to open his checkbook, particularly if was to land such a popular player like Anthony, but Sterling will have to be convinced to make this deal, he won’t be pushing for it.
Two weeks ago it seemed like a Carmelo deal was a sure thing but now that the Nets have dropped out, the Nuggets are left with few suitors that can make worthwhile offers. They have already told the Knicks they don’t have enough to offer and the Bulls are unwilling to trade Joakim Noah, which leaves the Houston Rockets as the only other team that has been linked to Melo that hasn’t been declined by Denver yet. Theoretically, the Clippers could enter into the conversation. They have the pieces to acquire Carmelo in the form of talented young pieces, expiring contracts and high draft picks. But whether or not they need Carmelo is a different story.
Unlike New Jersey, the Clippers already have their franchise cornerstone in Blake Griffin and the team recently said that they were going to keep him until the day he reitres from the NBA. I don’t see why the Clips wouldn’t just let their current group of players gel together until the end of the season and judge from there whether or not Griffin is capable of leading a team as the best player (right now, I’d say that he could with a resounding yes).
Acquiring Anthony gives you a great scorer and a franchise cornerstone type of player but his all-around game doesn’t compare to the likes of LeBron or Kobe and even go as far as saying Griffin is a better all-around player right now than Anthony is (Griffin is scoring just one point less per game on two less shots, grabbing four more rebounds a contest and is even averaging more than Anthony’s career high in assists). It would be quite the headline to have Kobe and Gasol go up against Melo and Griffin, but its a pipe dream, at least in my mind. Because the Clippers are set with what they have.