I've been reading all of the Melo news and rumors lately. Based on the information out there, here's my idea:
You may have noticed that Melo isn't going to the Bulls in this trade. In fact, he's going to the Knicks. However, I think the Bulls can capitalize on Melo's desire to play in New York and improve the team by being involved in a blockbuster trade like this.
ESPN has reported that Melo has not consented to signing an extension with the Nets if the long-rumored deal centered around Favors and draft picks is agreed upon. It seems that he's holding out hope that he can end up on the Knicks instead, either through trade or free agency. If Melo has reason to believe the Knicks are pursuing him, he may reject an extension with the Nets, causing such a deal to fall through completely.
Melo's agent, Leon Rose, attended the Knicks game last night. Though it appears clear that Melo wants to be traded to the Knicks, it has previously been reported that the Nuggets are not particularly interested in what the Knicks have to offer. The Nuggets want young players on rookie deals and draft picks, but the Knicks don't have any big men who meet the former description and they don't have a tradeable first round pick until 2014.
Thus, the Knicks need to find another trade partner or two to get them the extra assets to land Melo. That's where the Bulls come in. Here's why each team agrees to the trade proposed above:
Why the Bulls do it:
Wilson Chandler fills the void at shooting guard. I've been tremendously impressed with his development over the past few years. A couple years ago I thought he might be the worst starter in the league, but he's gotten better both offensively and defensively every year, to the point that he's now a very good player with the versatility to play SG, SF, or PF capably. Take a look at his basketball-refence page. His PER has improved each year (11.7, 12.9, 13.7, 17.1). This improvement has been primarily driven by his improved shooting. His TS% and eFG% have also improved each year. He's gone from a poor shooter to a very good one (57% TS, 37% 3fg, 81% ft this year), while his usage has remained constant at a fairly high level (20%). Perhaps more importantly to Thibs, his defense seems to have similarly improved each year. According to 82games, his opposing player PER has decreased each year (22.0, 18.1, 15.8, 14.0). Chandler is also just 23 years old. I think he'd be an ideal addition to the team.
It's possible that the Bulls could wait and sign Chandler in the offseason when he'll become a free agent. That's a major risk though, especially considering the CBA uncertainty. The Bulls likely won't have room under the cap, and no one knows what will become of the MLE. The Bulls would certainly be in good position to re-sign him following the trade.
Shelden Williams and Melvin Ely are frontcourt depth, mainly to keep Luol's legs from falling off before Noah returns. Deng is now third in the league in minutes per game, with a large chunk of them at power forward.
I don't like giving up Taj, but I don't see any great harm in it. He played well as a starter and kept the Bulls afloat with Boozer sidelined. Since returning to the bench, he's been generally ineffective or invisible. This season he's shooting 52% in 15 games as a starter and 38% in 22 games off the bench. Thibs doesn't seem to think he's particularly useful as a Center, preferring 30+ minutes of Kurt Thomas to any significant playing time for Taj at the position. The Bulls might as well trade him while he still has some value.
There's no explanation necessary for trading Bogans. It's addition by subtraction from a performance standpoint.
It may seem like a hefty price to give up the 2011 first round pick, but it's going to be in the 20s in a draft that is not strong. The Bulls will essentially be selling the pick to the Knicks for a couple million bucks.
Get: Melo, Harrington, Balkman, D Jones, S Jones
Give: Chandler, Gallinari, Curry, Azubuike, Walker, Randolph, 2014 first rounder, cash to Bulls
Why the Knicks do it:
The big question for the Knicks is whether they want Melo. They've improved from a 30-win team to a 45-win team this year through the additions of Amare, Felton, Fields, and Turiaf plus the improvement of Chandler. With the addition of Melo, they're probably at the level of a 50-win team. If Melo were traded as a rental player and the Knicks acquired him in the offseason, they would likely still lose Chandler (they'd need to renounce his rights given his $6.4 million cap hold) and perhaps Gallinari (plays the same position and would clear salary in a sign-and-trade). This trade would guarantee Melo with no significant additional losses. Randolph is buried deep on the bench / in the doghouse. The Knicks would have to absorb Harrington's contract, but his solid play for the Knicks under D'Antoni is what earned him his regrettable contract with the Nuggets. Balkman and Dahntay Jones are minor bad deals that shouldn't mean much to the Knicks. Solomon Jones is included for salary purposes.
The other reason the Knicks might not want Melo is that they could be trying to position themselves for free agency 2012, when Dwight and CP3 could be on the market. Either one could give the Knicks greater potential than Melo, but it would be quite a gamble to decline him in favor of a player who may never come. LeBron and Wade rejected their overtures.
Get: Gallinari, Taj, Curry, Azubuike, Walker, Pacers 2011 1st rounder, Bulls 2011 1st rounder, Knicks 2014 1st rounder
Give: Melo, Harrington, Balkman, Shelden, Ely
Why the Nuggets do it:
This is a better return than they'd get in a rental deal. They get rid of the Harrington contract, which they've been trying to do in the Nets negotiations. Neither Gallinari nor Taj have true star potential, but both are cheap young players who can be inserted into the starting lineup. The Nuggets also get 3 first round picks to help their rebuilding effort. It's not an ideal return, but it's a decent haul considering their apparent lack of options.
The Nuggets also cut about $6.5 million off this year's payroll, which becomes an eight-figure savings with the luxury tax ramifications figured in.
Get: Randolph, Bogans
Give: D Jones, S Jones, 2011 first round pick
Why the Pacers do it:
There's been speculation that the Pacers are one of a few teams willing to give the Knicks a first round pick for Anthony Randolph. I think this is what such a deal would look like. The Pacers get out of paying Dahntay Jones $5.6 million over the next two years to sit on the bench, and they even save a bit of money this year. Randolph can join the power forward rotation, possibly ahead of both Hansbrough and McRoberts.
So, what do you think?