Daily Herald
If Denver is willing, Bulls may compete for Anthony
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 8/17/2010 2:59 PM

After Cleveland and Toronto were left with only trade exceptions and low draft picks in return for losing their marquee NBA players, Denver should appreciate getting some advance warning from Carmelo Anthony.

A subplot to this summer's great free-agent chase is a transaction that hasn't happened: The Nuggets placed a three-year, $65 million contract extension in front of Anthony, but so far he hasn't signed.

Technically, the deadline for Anthony to sign an extension is June 30, 2011. The realistic deadline for Denver, though, is February, the last chance the Nuggets will have to trade their star before most likely losing him for nothing in return.

There has been speculation that Anthony has his eye on New York, which will have more salary cap room next summer when Eddy Curry's contract expires. During Anthony's suburban-New York wedding to LaLa Vazquez last month, Hornets guard Chris Paul allegedly suggested during a toast that he, Anthony and Amare Stoudemire create their own "Big Three" with the Knicks.

Paul still has two years left before he can become a free agent, so that plan has its flaws. Spurs guard Tony Parker could be another possibility for the Knicks.

If the Nuggets decide to hold an Anthony auction in the coming months, he could end up anywhere and the Bulls should have the means to compete.

They could start by offering Luol Deng, who plays the same position, along with maybe Taj Gibson and a first-round draft pick or two. As long as the Bulls are willing to offer a maximum deal next summer, they would have a good chance of keeping Anthony long-term. On paper, they should have a better chance of competing in the East than the Knicks.

For a quick comparison, Anthony averaged 28.2 points and 6.6 rebounds last season, while Deng was at 17.6 points and 7.3 boards.

Anthony spoke last weekend at his basketball camp and was noncommittal about signing the extension.

"I'm just taking my time with it," he said, according to the Denver Post. "Obviously, everybody knows I'm loyal to the Denver Nuggets community and to the Denver Nuggets. I've shown that over my seven-year stint here. I don't think anybody can question that. But at this point in time I have to do what's best for me and my family. I'm just taking my time, figuring out if I want to take that extension or not."

Anthony's career with the Nuggets has been similar to Kevin Garnett in Minnesota. Denver has made the playoffs in all seven seasons since drafting Anthony with the No. 3 pick in 2003, but the Nuggets have lost in the first round every year except 2009, when they reached the Western Conference finals. In the other six seasons, Denver has gone 6-24 in playoff games.

The Nuggets are still a competitive team, but Anthony has surely noticed that Chauncey Billups will turn 34 soon and Kenyon Martin will be 33 before the end of the year.

If that extension is unsigned by February, the Nuggets should see the writing on the wall.