Thursday, September 9, 2010

Carmelo to Bulls? ... Confessions of a "Melo Lover"

I will say it up front: I love Carmelo Anthony. I have loved him since he lead Syracuse to the NCAA championship with a 20/10 in the title game. I love that he is with Jordan Brand. I love that he can straight up score the basketball. But I don't think I would love Melo in a Bulls uniform ...

If the title and tone of this post seem familiar, it's because I wrote the exact opposite piece about LeBron a few months ago:
As a die-hard NBA fan, I watch a lot of basketball. I recognize talent, and it's obvious that LeBron is the best player in the Association. (I might technically argue that Kobe is a better basketball player and LeBron is the best athlete playing basketball, but that's not the point.) LeBron is awesome. I went to game 3 of the Bulls/Cavs series a couple weeks ago, and it was incredible. I hated every single second of it, but LeBron was ridiculous. Just so we're clear, I get it: he's great. So would I want the best player on my team? Seems dumb to say no. But I hate him so much, how can I possibly say yes?

I will cheer for the Bulls. I will hope they win every game, just like I do now and always have. But I will never love LeBron the way I love those 1990s Bulls players: MJ, Pippen, BJ Armstrong, Jud Buechler, Horace, Rodman, Will Perdue, Craig Hodges, Cliff Levingston (the list goes on and on ...) and current Bulls D-Rose and JoaNoah. I will never love LeBron like that. He will never be included in my list of "Top 10 Favorite Bulls' Players" (or even my 'Top 25'). I hate him enough that I can be sure of that.

Now the rumors are swirling that Melo wants to be traded to the Bulls:

Carmelo Anthony(notes) still hopes to persuade the Denver Nuggets to trade him, preferably to either the Chicago Bulls or New York Knicks, an NBA source with knowledge of Anthony’s wishes told Yahoo! Sports.

The Knicks have limited assets to offer the Nuggets, which makes the Bulls a more appealing potential trade partner. The Bulls can offer a replacement small forward in Luol Deng(notes), as well as two young forwards in James Johnson(notes) and Taj Gibson(notes). New York officials would like to make a run at signing Anthony next summer if he were to opt to become a free agent. The Knicks will have salary-cap room with Eddy Curry’s(notes) contract expiring after the season.

At first glance, I wouldn't hesitate ... we have make that trade. Deng has a terrible contract, and the other 2 players aren't even starters. But then I got to thinking about everything I've been reading over the last few months ...

Is Deng's contract really that bad? I hate to admit it, but no, it's not:
Now let’s take a quick peek at the comparitive 2010-11 salaries of Dwyer’s top eight SFs (from ShamSports): LeBron ($14,500,000), Durant ($6,053,663 from his rookie contract but jumping to $13,603,750 in 2011-12), ‘Melo ($17,149,243), Wallace ($10,500,000), Iggy ($12,345,250), Granger ($10,973,202), Pierce ($13,876,321) and Deng ($11,345,000).

This biggest knock against Deng is his supposedly cap-killing contract. And yet based on Dwyer’s rankings, Deng’s pay is roughly commensurate with his standing among the league’s elite small forwards.

And is Melo really as good as we think he is? I hate to admit it, but no, he's not:
Of course, whether he actually is on that level is another question. The “is Melo an elite player?” debate was widely discussed throughout the blogosphere over the past few weeks. (We miss you, NBA. Please grab this stupid summer thing by the nose and banish it forever). Statistical master wizard (it’s when you’re too masterful to be just a wizard, but too wizardy to be just a master) Tom Haberstroh pointed out over at ESPN Insider that Melo’s greatest skill – scoring the basketball – is overblown because of his less-than-stellar efficiency at doing so.

“Let’s first talk about Anthony’s shot volume. It’s not exactly a secret that ‘Melo likes to shoot the rock, but his propensity to launch shots may raise some eyebrows. This past season, no player in the NBA took more shots per minute than Anthony — not Kobe, not LeBron, not even scoring champ Kevin Durant.

[Note to readers: be sure to click on both of the above links for a great breakdown of both Deng (from 'By The Horns') and Melo (from 'Both Teams Played Hard'). Both posts are must-read when you are considering this trade.]

So now the trade seems less like the obvious, no-doubter that I first thought it was. And that's just considering that maybe Deng isn't so bad after-all. Then we have to consider that we're also including our backup PF, a second-year player who put up a steady 9/7.5 his rookie year. I'm not trying to imply that Deng and Taj should be untouchable ... they definitely should not be that. But I think the Bulls made some legit improvements in the past two months, and I don't think Melo is the missing piece that gets us from contender to NBA championship. I would rather let this team go into the season as is and see what happens, rather than salvaging part of the young core for a player that might not be the missing piece.

I could be wrong, I am the same person who hated the Taj pick because I was certain Ty Thomas was our PF of the future. But coming from someone that loves Melo, and has openly hated on Deng and his contract, maybe my hesitation actually means something this time.


Pete said...

great post. as a fellow melo lover, i have always wanted to see him a bulls uni. its tough to tell what melo would do on this team because you have no idea what this "new" team will perform like. that said if melo just costs the bulls deng, taj and a #1, pull the trigger

2j said...

Pete - totally disagree. Taj is an essential part of our depth, likely our 6th man (or at least the first big off the bench). He was a very solid starter last year and will be part of our bench/depth that will separate us from a lot of other teams. Trading Deng + Taj for an offensive upgrade (and defensive downgrade) at small forward makes our team worse.

Yes, we have a "legit superstar" in Melo (in quotes because I think it can be argued that he's not in the very highest level of superstars) ... but we lose part of what makes the Bulls a contender: depth.

With Melo, our big 3 (Rose, Melo & Boozer) is not as good as Miami, and we don't have part of what gives us a chance: a much stronger second unit.

And that's just talking about Deng + Taj ... don't get me started on how much I would hate the deal if we include NOAH!! I violently disagree with trading Noah for Melo, and might consider if I want to be a fan of this team/organization ...

DC said...

Not sure how I feel entirely about this proposed move but I am going to take a pro-Melo slant for one big reason: Melo is a proven go-to scorer. The Bulls haven't had that in a long, long time. And we Bulls fans complain incessantly about not having that guy who can take over games. Is Rose there yet? If he is he hasn't shown it to us on a consistent basis. Rose is going to be great...Jim is probably the only person who loves Rose more than I do...but he's not there as a go-to scorer yet. The jumper is on the way but I still think he's a year maybe two away (unless he starts getting ref respect...that should add 5-6 ppg)

I wouldn't in a million years include Noah in any deal for Melo. But upgrading scoring at the 3 over Deng and sacrificing a little bench depth is not too big of a price to pay.

Deng + Taj aren't going to put us over the top against Miami and perhaps Melo won't either...but he's a big offensive upgrade to a team that has needed it for a decade. The bigger question is: Can the Bulls sign an extension? I assume that would be part of any trade, but obviously you don't trade for him if he isn't locked up.

Are they Bulls better making a Melo for Deng/Taj deal...yes. I don't know how you say no. Depth is great, but if you're starting 5 improves you don't need the bench to contribute as much. I grew to love Taj but there are dozens of players like him in the league. He's not special...nor is he rare. The Bulls could have another Taj next year. When is another Melo walking through the door? Not nearly as often.


That's one hell of a starting unit.

And remember Omer Asik is killing it in FIBA....OMER COMIN'! (OK that part was sarcastic...but still)

/rambling incoherent pro-Melo thoughts

2j said...

I can't disagree that Melo is a HUGE upgrade offensively at the 3. ANd you're right ... Melo is a rare talent (at least as far as scoring), and solid-but-not-spectacular bigs are much more common.

But, I had to write that piece opposing the move to contrast the LeBron piece. And then I had to stick with it to counter Pete's point ...

But now that it's out there, how can the Bulls not trade Deng's bad contract and a backup for Melo?!

Here's 2 reasons: Noah and Rose's contract extensions. Not a lot of cap space after Boozer + Noah + Rose. And the deal would obviously be an extend-and-trade. So we'd be totally tied up with those 4, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I would NEVER, NEVER include Noah in a Melo deal. He is our backbone and our heart-and-soul. I think he's a very valuable piece on a potential title team, and he has to stay. However, what's the problem with trading Deng + Taj, then throwing a 2-year deal at Luis Scola?! He has yet to sign anywhere, and would be an awesome addition. I realize he has the talent to start (and will likely get a contract to match), but DC is right ... there are bigs out there that can replace (or improve) Taj's spot.

Pete said...

I agree that Noah in no way cant be included in this deal and i understand that Melo isnt a good defensive player. But thats what everyone said before ray allen went to boston after playing under Thibs, he is atleast an average defender. You can teach defense, you cant teach scoring like Melo.
Also, i understand that they may not be as good as the big 3 in miami but boston won it with 4 allstar players (garnett, pierce, allen, rando) and arguably so did the lakeshow (kobe, pau, odom, artest). I'd put rose, melo, noah and boozer up against anyone. oh and Melo's teams have won 50+ games the past 3 years. Do the trade!

DC said...

Don't go tugging at my heart strings and throw Luis Scola's name around...especially after his game against Brazil.

I think Scola signed a new deal anyways:

The guys who runs this site (@shamsports) just threw out the Melo/Lawson for Deng/Rose hypothetical. Hypothetical....but interesting. Taking off my Rose colored glasses for a second it doesn't seem like that terrible of a deal.

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