The Nuggets should trade Carmelo now

Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony fouls out against the Utah Jazz during the fourth quarter of the first round playoffs game two at the Pepsi Center on April 19, 2010 in Denver. Utah beat Denver 114-111 to even the series at 1-1.  UPI/Gary C. Caskey Photo via Newscom

The Denver Nuggets are now listening to trade offers, per ESPN…

The Nuggets still aren’t aggressively shopping Anthony and haven’t withdrawn their longstanding offer of a contract extension, but numerous sources told ESPN.com that Denver officials have in recent days let other teams know for the first time that they will listen to pitches after previously resisting such discussions.

“I’m not sure how soon, but I do think they’re going to trade him [between now and February],” said one rival GM.

Said another source briefed on Denver’s plans: “There’s no doubt they are working on it. Eventually they’re going to pull the trigger. ”

One source close to the situation told ESPN.com that Anthony has been no more communicative with the organization since the hiring of Masai Ujiri as Denver’s new vice president of basketball operations in late August than he was before Ujiri’s return to the Nuggets. Ujiri began his front-office career as a Nuggets scout during Anthony’s rookie season in 2003-04 and spoke optimistically about arranging a face-to-face meeting with Anthony — which sources say has not yet taken place — and trying to sell him on the team’s plans for the future at his introductory press conference.

The timing on this is going to be interesting. Training camp starts on Sep. 28, and it’s pretty obvious that Carmelo doesn’t want to play in Denver this season. He hasn’t even met with the new GM and the guy has been on the job for a month now. Yeesh.

So, yes, in all likelihood, the Nuggets will move Anthony before the February trade deadline, but it will be a hell of a lot easier to move him now that it will in five months, when the Nuggets are sitting in the #3 or #4 spot in the West. How does the team sell that to its fan base? Look, we’re poised to make a deep run in the posteason, but we’re going to trade away our best player because he’s going to sign elsewhere in the summer.

When I suggested that the Raptors look to trade Chris Bosh last February, the blog was inundated by delusional Raptor fans who said that the team was playing well and Bosh wasn’t about to leave a winner. Come February, will Nugget fans remember the Bosh fiasco or will they still be dreaming about a run to the NBA Finals? Because if Carmelo starts the season with the Nuggets, they’ll probably be a 50+ win team again.

No, Ujiri should bite the bullet and get the best deal he can for Carmelo now. Then he should turn around and move Chauncey Billups, because there’s no point in paying a 33-year-old point guard $13+ million to lead a rebuilding effort when the point guard of the future (Ty Lawson) is already on the roster. It’s going to be painful, but look at how the Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder has rebuilt its roster over the past few seasons. They were once a middling playoff team built around Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, but management let Lewis walk in free agency and traded Allen for assets. Now look at them — they’re arguably the second-best team in the West.

Is Ujiri the second coming of Thunder GM Sam Presti? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean he can’t emulate him.

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