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Melo Is Leaving, But Kroenke’s Threats Can Not Be Ignored

The sports blog world is probably going to erupt tomorrow with news that Carmelo has demanded a trade. I can see it now – hundreds of bloggers saying that Denver *has* to trade Melo or risk losing him for nothing.

Not so fast.

While it’s certainly true Denver would probably be wise to move Carmelo now, they certainly don’t have to. There are a lot of unknowns that play in Denver’s favor.

A New C.B.A.

The obvious threat in a new CBA is that player salaries would drop 10-20%. However, I don’t think they’ll fall more than 10%. Therefore, I don’t think that Melo’s primary concern is losing cash. Instead, I think he’s more concerned about his limited team options under a new agreement.

Let’s assume, first, that Melo opts out in the summer. Next, let’s figure that the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) includes a hard cap at or near the current salary cap of $58 million. Finally, let’s estimate that player salaries are scaled back about 10%.

Under these conditions, a max contract for Melo in 2011-2012 would be worth about the same amount he’s making now – $17 million. How many teams will have $17 million in cap space next year?

  • Nets
  • Knicks, but only if they dump the contract or two
  • Indiana
  • OKC
  • Memphis
  • Sacramento
  • Houston, assuming they don’t re-sign Yao
  • Minnesota

Obviously, this list is subject to change. A lot of teams could move some things around to make room…but none of these teams are likely to be contenders. OKC is definitely a contender, but I don’t see a role for Melo on that team. Jeff Green + Kevin Durant already play SF/PF pretty well…not sure what Melo adds to that team to put them over the top.

Basically, if Melo wants to play for a contender, he needs a trade to make it happen. Otherwise, he’ll have to take his chances in NY, NJ, or hope that some other team blows things up to have a chance at Melo.

Melo Needs Kroenke More Than Kroenke Needs Melo

Melo’s wish is to complete a max extension under a sign and trade arrangement with a contending team like Houston. If he wants that to happen, he can’t do it by trying to put the screws to Kroenke.

If Melo wants to sign an extension for the maximum amount of money, he needs Denver to make the offer. Trouble is, Stan Kroenke is a billionaire. He doesn’t have to worry if the Nuggets enter a long period of budget-draining “suckiness” – he can just write a check and blame the poor performance of the team on Melo’s demand to leave.

Is it in the best interest of Denver to sacrifice Melo’s rights to prove a point? Of course not. Does anyone think that a billionaire like Stan Kroenke would hesitate to put a young punk like Melo in his place?

I think he might – at least I think it’s possible. If I were Melo, I wouldn’t bet $20 million on it.

Melo needs Denver just a little more than they need him, which means it’s in Melo’s best interests to help Denver obtain value for him in a trade. Expect to see Melo be amenable to a variety of trades once the real offers start coming in.

Ballhype: hype it up!

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