Bynum for Melo.
Yep, sounds insane, and at first glance it sounds mostly like somebody -- either Carmelo Anthony's people or the Nuggets -- is blowing smoke to create leverage with other parties.
Nonetheless, it's too titillating not to discuss further. The idea of L.A. sending a core of Kobe Bryant, Melo, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol onto the court, with any random civilian inserted at point guard, certainly is a scary proposition for opponents. And for the Nuggets, one has to concede that coming away with Andrew Bynum is vastly preferable to getting, say, Wilson Chandler and a draft pick.
Additionally, the Lakers can dramatically sweeten the deal with spare parts. By also taking on Chris Andersen using the trade exception created by dealing Sasha Vujacic to the Nets, for instance, the Lakers can help the Nuggets further clean up their cap situation and save them over $10 million in salary and luxury tax. That becomes $13 million if L.A. throws in cash, $14 million if the Lakers take back Shelden Williams too, and $17 million if they do a side deal of Renaldo Balkman for Theo Ratliff and Devin Ebanks.
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Adding Andersen and Williams to the mix also allays the greatest fear of this trade for the Lakers: L.A. would be short-handed up front, giving opponents free rein to beat Gasol senseless.
Still, some areas of concern obviously remain. The Lakers would be sacrificing their single greatest advantage -- two 7-footers who create matchup problems for opponents' frontcourts -- to add a high-volume, middling-efficiency shot taker ... a role that Bryant already fills more ably.
One could argue that Anthony is such a huge upgrade over Ron Artest that it doesn't matter that Melo is a poor fit schematically. But it's not clear how the Lakers would defend high-scoring wing players. That's a pretty important consideration when their most likely NBA Finals opponents (Boston and Miami) each own two such performers.
Remember, too, that the Lakers aren't the only team involved in these discussions, and that the logic behind this possible deal on some levels is just as shaky for Denver. Nene isn't Gasol; he's going to have trouble coexisting in the same frontcourt with Bynum because he's not a natural 4. While Nene can opt out and become a free agent after the season, presumably the Nuggets intend to keep him and feel they'll be able to -- if they don't, they should be pursuing Nene trades with just as much zeal as they've solicited offers for Melo.
Looking more deeply, even some parts that at first seem to make sense don't upon further review. Most notably, there's the notion that this deal would position the Lakers well for a post-Kobe era, because Anthony could take over the role as the main go-to guy.
That's true, but it's mostly irrelevant. This is hardly the time to be thinking about "positioning for the future." The Lakers have a window to win another championship right now, and it's not going to be open forever. Kobe's knees aren't getting any springier, and the smoke signals from Phil Jackson's tepee are that somebody else will be coaching the Lakers next season. One has to wonder if swapping Bynum for Melo only puts the Lakers further away from a three-peat goal.
Nonetheless, it's a workable kernel of a trade, and here's why. As I noted above, Bynum for Melo doesn't make a ton of sense if that's the whole deal. If that's part of the deal on the other hand ... well, then we're talking. As I noted above, a two-way deal with the Lakers could save Denver a ton of money if structured correctly, while also giving the Lakers some replacement frontcourt bodies. So that's a start.
[+] EnlargeMike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesGetting Melo would be nice. Add in Jose Calderon, though, and things could get very interesting in L.A.
However, the really interesting part is if they add other teams to the mix.
Let's think about these teams' goals for a second. For Denver, the big idea is to get as many young assets as possible for Anthony, but a second goal is to get the team under the luxury tax this season. Denver is $14 million over the threshold at the moment, but because of the cap exceptions owned by the Lakers and other potential trade partners, it's possible for the Nuggets to trade their way under.
And from L.A.'s side, if the Lakers got an upgrade at point guard along with Melo, then such a trade becomes a huge win for the Lakers as well ... regardless of whether Kobe and Melo get in each other's way a little bit.
Believe it or not, the framework of such a deal could work. Obviously, L.A.'s prime target as the point guard upgrade would be Chauncey Billups, but that's a pipe dream. It isn't possible to put together a realistic deal for Billups and Anthony -- the Lakers simply don't have the assets.
Jose Calderon, on the other hand, is very doable. And there's a really good three-way deal these teams could do that would land Calderon in L.A. along with Anthony; get Bynum to Denver while pulling the Nuggets all the way under the luxury tax via trade exceptions owned by the Lakers and Toronto; and save the Raptors about $16 million over the next two years by dumping the contracts of Calderon and Linas Kleiza on the Lakers. (My trade idea is here.) Draft picks and cash would almost certainly be part of the conversation too.
That's one thought, but there are plenty more workable scenarios. A Cleveland deal with Mo Williams, for instance, would work roughly the same way. So would one with Washington and Kirk Hinrich, although it's made more difficult by the Wizards' lack of a large trade exception.
The big-picture idea, however, is that there probably needs to be more to the picture than just Bynum and Melo for a realistic Lakers-Nuggets trade to happen. Bynum-for-Melo is certainly the centerpiece, but as a straight one-for-one trade there's more to dislike than like for both sides.
It's the other blocks that can be built around such a deal that make it enticing. While such a swap would be dramatically more complicated, it's that possibility that has me contemplating whether there really is some fire behind this smoke.