Does Melo Matter?
Last year I got absolutely sick of the news coverage on LeBron James' upcoming free agency. "Will he, or won't he?" was asked in some variation at least once a week on sports shows and in online articles. There was a big hubbub about how many points he'd score every time he went to New York, whether it was significant when he wore a Yankee hat, and there was even a tie-in to New York in some of his shoes. Then, after two years of coverage, the icing on the cake was a circus-like summer "Decision" that got more press than a presidential election. The whole thing was over-the-top bananas.
But here's the thing - if ever there were a player worthy of that level of coverage, it was LeBron. He's only the best player in the game, a native son to a sports-crazed and hard luck city contemplating (and executing) a devastating departure, the face of the league, and (most importantly) a perennial top-2 draft pick in fantasy. Love him or hate him, LeBron's decision mattered.
But now, I'm getting a similar level of overload when it comes to Carmelo Anthony's destination. Melo's on-going game of chicken with the Denver Nuggets front office has gotten more run than any story outside of South Beach this season. Every few days, it seems like, there's another "Breaking News! Melo could maybe, possibly be traded in the foreseeable future!" rumor hitting the media cycle. Chris Paul's toast at Anthony's wedding has been broken down and dissected down to the voice print level for sincerity. Last month I went to a Celtics-Bobcats game in which Boston had to have won by 50, but the Bobcats fan behind me wasn't upset because, as he confidentially whispered to me, they were going to be getting Melo soon, and everything would straighten out.
Now, my first reaction to the enthusiastic Bobcat fan was, "Um, no way on earth Melo comes here." But then, my second reaction broke through: "Does it even matter?"
Because unlike LeBron, Melo's future destination doesn't exactly shake up the league. I blogged about this back in August (I told you this story had been around forever), pointing out my belief that even a Chris Paul/Melo/Amare Stoudemire combo wouldn't be enough to challenge the Heat, Celtics or Lakers (lots of offense, but little defense and no interior play). It'd be fun, but ultimately more glitz than substance. But without Paul in the equation, I really just don't see how Melo moving would make much difference to anyone.
The Nuggets would take a step back, obviously, but from a low-50s win team to maybe a 40-win team (nothing like the 60-something-win contender to maybe 20-something-wins plunge Cleveland is going through). But if Melo goes to New York, they aren't contenders. If Melo goes to New Jersey, they aren't contenders. Really, for Melo's destination team to be a contender after the trade, they'd have to already have been a contender before the trade. He's a great scorer, don't get me wrong, but he doesn't do enough other things to completely change a team's culture on his own. So why, then, do I have to hear his name every time I get the urge to check on basketball?
Even fantasy-wise, I don't see a possible Melo trade creating that many waves. Take, for example, the proposed Nuggets-Nets-Pistons deal that supposedly has been under consideration this week. Shannon Mckeown does a good job breaking down all of the potential fantasy ramifications of the rumored 13-player mega-deal, but really, despite the many moving parts there wouldn't be any kind of sea change as a result. Melo in New Jersey would be just about as fantasy valuable as Melo in Denver. The other Nets starters that remained would likely be similarly as valuable. The big winners in such a potential deal would be the young players and valuable subs from Denver that could be thrust into a larger role, the J.R. Smith and Ty Lawsons of the world. But in the end, even that multi-team blockbuster wouldn't really change your fantasy life that drastically.
Carmelo Anthony is a great player. I enjoyed his National Championship run in college. I thought he should have been Rookie of the Year over LeBron in '04. He's played very well for a long time now, and I'm sure he has multiple All Star appearances still left in his future. And there's absolutely no way he finishes the year in Denver, so I'm sure in the near future I'll be covering his big trade. But man, can he and the Nuggets hurry up and get it over with already?
Around the League
• Dirk and KG in holding pattern: Dirk Nowitzki (knee) and Kevin Garnett (calf) are both scheduled to miss their eighth straight game on Wednesday night, each with an "any day now" prognosis for return. In their absence both of their teams have suffered, but neither squad wants to risk its postseason future to bring back its injured stars. Despite the day-to-day tags, I wouldn't rely on starting either of them for the rest of the week.
• Martin's wrist: Kevin Martin is sitting out Wednesday's game, his second absence since spraining his right wrist. The X-rays were negative, but Martin says that he sprained it "pretty good", which isn't a good thing for a right-handed shooter. Martin was on a fantasy rampage before the injury, but his absence opens things up for Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry to both play to their potential. This is possibly bad for Martin's long-term production, because once Brooks is fully in the swing of things, he likely takes away some of the shots that let Martin score 45 points last Wednesday.
• Beasley's ankle: Michael Beasley has tried to play through a sprained ankle, but has managed only nine points on 4-for-15 shooting total over the last two games. So, it makes sense that he's expected to sit out at least a game or two to heal up. Ankle injuries can linger (ask Steph Curry), but on the whole this seems like a short-term injury since he was able to play through it at all.
• Wall and the injury bug: John Wall had to leave Tuesday's overtime win against the Kings due to leg cramps. This was no big deal as he played 43 minutes and went for 22 points, nine assists, six boards and two steals. But it's just another tingle in my mind that makes me nervous as a Wall owner. Back in July, at the Vegas Summer League, I saw Wall take several hard falls when driving into the lane, one of which kept him on the ground. Right then and there I worried that he was too slight for his aggressive style of play. He's already had several injuries keep him out of games this year, and I worry this could be something that keeps him out at the wrong time before the year is out.
• Blatche's shoulder: Andray Blatche sprained his right shoulder on Tuesday, and is doubtful to play on Thursday. Blatche has been solid this year, though he has yet to live up to the huge finish he had in the second half of last season. This injury does not sound major, though. He's day-to-day and presumably will be back on the court soon.
• Gordon and Villanueva back to bench, TMac and Monroe to start: The Pistons continue to make changes just for the sake of making changes, sending Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva back to the bench. Tracy McGrady will remain in the starting lineup, given the chance to continue his relatively solid play of late. Rookie Greg Monroe will also be starting at center in the near-term with Ben Wallace injured, which is a bit more exciting since the youngster is operating on three straight double-doubles.
• Iggy's back, kind of: Andre Iguodala returned from a seven-game absence (sore Achilles) on Tuesday against the Pacers, but he was able to score only one point on 0-for-7 shooting from the floor. That may be due primarily to rust, but I'm still not convinced. If Iguodala gets healthy enough to trade, I would recommend it. His play hasn't been that strong this year anyway, his team isn't doing much this year, and his long-term role is in question as well. Add in a nagging, potentially serious injury, and I'm not convinced his production this season will ever live up to his name value.
• Cavs plummeting: The Cavs got beat 112 to 57 on Tuesday. They got beat so bad, LeBron took his chance to gloat with a "Karma is a (blank)" tweet. I admit I thought the Cavs would be better than they are. They had a few semi-talented veterans, and I thought there'd be pride there to galvanize them after being raked through the mud over the summer. They did okay for a little while, but since LeBron returned to town and took their manhood in that Heat beatdown they've been in free-fall with 21 losses in their last 22 games. In recent games Antawn Jamison has been playing better, but the mood around the Cavs clubhouse seems so low (I'd link to Mo Williams' tweet after the Lakers game, but it's not family friendly) I'm of the mind to avoid any Cavs vet right now. A youngster like Ramon Sessions may play himself into some stats down the stretch, but anyone over 30 isn't likely to produce all that much on a sinking ship.
• DeShawn Stevenson (24% owned): Stevenson has taken advantage of injuries to Dirk Nowitzki and Caron Butler to stake his claim as a viable scoring threat for the Mavs. Dirk will be back soon, but Butler is gone for the year so Stevenson has a window to solidify his claim before Rodrigue Beaubois is able to get back on the court.
• Tyler Hansbrough (24% owned): Hansbrough has started three straight games for the Pacers in place of Josh McRoberts (who got a DNP-CD last game), and has played well to the tune of 15 points and 8.7 boards per game.
• Greg Monroe (19% owned): Monroe has three straight double-doubles and is a rookie on a bad team that's rumored to be in talks to trade more of its veteran players. Sounds like a nice recipe for late-season surge potential.
• Chris Douglas-Roberts (14% owned): CDR has scored 54 points in his last two games, filling the stat sheet with seven total boards, six assists, five steals, four blocks and three treys over that span as well. He hadn't done much before this latest surge, but CDR does have some talent and could get extra playing time with so many of the Bucks perimeter players hurting right now.
Keeping up with the Professor
If you're interested in my takes throughout the week, you can follow me on Twitter @ProfessorDrz. Also, don't forget that you can catch me on the radio every Friday afternoon at 12:30 PM EST on Rotowire Fantasy Sports Today with Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson on XM 147, Sirius 211.