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John Schuhmann

By dealing for Carmelo Anthony, would the New Jersey Nets be taking a step forward or a step backward?
By dealing for Carmelo Anthony, would the New Jersey Nets be taking a step forward or a step backward?
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images

'Melo to the Nets isn't enough, but it's a start


Posted Sep 25 2010 10:07PM

The New Jersey Nets held their annual media day on Friday. Head coach Avery Johnson refused to place any expectations on his team, spoke of how he needs Devin Harris to be the two-way player he was in Dallas, and lauded the potential of rookie Derrick Favors.

And then, right after media day had wrapped up, news broke that the Nets were in negotiations to acquire Carmelo Anthony by sending Harris to Charlotte and Favors to Denver. So basically, the previous hour and a half of interviews had been a waste of time. At least the sandwiches were good.

With Anthony coming to New Jersey, expectations, whether or not there were any in the first place, would change. The potential of Favors would be for Nuggets fans to dream about. And it would now be Larry Brown's job to get Harris back to All-Star form.

The deal is not done yet. As of Saturday morning, the Nuggets had not yet signed off on the trade that would yield them Favors, Andrei Kirilenko and two first round picks for Anthony.

Though it's not clear they'll be able to get D.J. Augustin from Charlotte in the deal, the Nets are all-in and ready to pull the trigger on a trade that would alter the direction of their franchise. They missed out on all of the high-profile free agents this summer and have no guarantees that they'd be able to land one with their cap space next summer. So they're looking for the sure thing by acquiring a star via trade.

Anthony would definitely make the Nets more of a box office draw, both in Newark for the next two seasons and when they open the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2012. The trade also keeps him from becoming a free agent and signing with the rival Knicks next July. But does it make the Nets a better team right now? And are they mortgaging their future by dealing Favors?

Yes, the Nets won just 12 games last season. But they basically played without a coach for their last 64 games. And though they didn't land any big-name free agents, they made upgrades in two key areas, shooting and rebounding. So with a new coaching staff and at least nine new players on the roster, they had a chance to make a big jump if the chemistry was there.

Harris regressed last year, but with Johnson holding him accountable for his defense and better 3-point shooting around him, there is promise for improvement. If he's dealt away though, the Nets would be left with Jordan Farmar, Terrence Williams and maybe Augustin to run the show. That's a downgrade at the point.

Favors would be the first big man off the bench in New Jersey this season, but he's the power forward of the future. And for the Nets, the 19-year old Favors and the 22-year old Brook Lopez have the potential to be an incredible frontline to build around.

But often in this league, success comes with a star that can put the ball in the basket. And since Anthony came into the league in 2003, only three players -- LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki - have scored more points than he has. He's the least efficient of the four, but he'd arguably be the Nets' best scorer since they sold Julius Erving to the Sixers in 1976.

Further, in this post-Decision world, it's becoming clear that stars want to play with other stars. And in trading for Anthony, the Nets have to be thinking even bigger. When Mikhail Prokhorov bought the team, he talked about winning championships, and it will take more than Anthony and Lopez to bring a title to Brooklyn. This is the Ray Allen trade, the one that convinces the third star that he can get a ring if he joins the other two.

While the Nets are giving up a lot to get Anthony, they'd still have some assets and flexibility to make another trade or create space for a free agent in 2011 or 2012.

And that's what this trade is all about. Harris is a very good point guard and Favors is a promising prospect. Just swapping them for Anthony doesn't make the Nets an Eastern Conference contender.

But Anthony gives the Nets cachet. And along with Lopez, who's on pace to become one of the two or three best centers in the league, he might entice a certain point guard to leave New Orleans. Or another to leave Salt Lake City. Or an All-Star two-guard or power forward to leave wherever they may be calling home right now.

Is the deal a risk? Absolutely. But the Nets want a star, and there may be more risk in waiting for another one to come available.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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