There's been a lot of discussion in our comment section about Carmelo Anthony given the rumors of him refusing to sign an extension and a seeming preference to leave Denver. However, most of that talk has centered around a view I consider ridiculous, Deng + Gibson + picks for Anthony.
If we can do that trade, then absolutely, we do it. It's a no-brainer, captain-obvious, hell yes, type of trade. However, for those same reasons, Denver isn't touching that with a 10 foot pole. Deng's salary commitment is so high and Denver is so close to clearing almost everyone off the books that there's simply little incentive for them to take back Deng's future commitment just to get a role player type prospect and some terrible draft picks.
They also probably don't do this trade either, but if they were willing, are you in?
First, I know the immediate gut reaction is going to be "We can't trade Noah! He's the heart and soul of this team!". Yes, he was the heart and soul of this team last season (though let's keep in perspective that the team wasn't that great), and he's my favorite Bull. Those who've followed my ramblings for a few years know that I was one of the most vocal Noah supporters even back in 2006 when I hoped he would declare so we could take him #2 overall over both Tyrus and Aldridge.
I've been hooked to the Noah bandwagon for as long as anyone, so I would not trade him lightly.
However, let's take a look at this deal realistically before we get all emotional and talk ourselves out of trading Luol Deng for Pau Gasol because we love him, and he has so much potential.
The on court perspective:
Immediately after making this deal, the Bulls are screwed at center. The front court rotation now becomes Boozer, Asik, Gibson, Thomas, and a player to be named later. That's pretty brutal at the center position unless Asik is a massive sleeper (and he's not, at least not this year).
Given what's left in the front court, it's hard for me to get a handle on whether this team is even better after the trade. Deng isn't in Melo's league in terms of overall scoring, but he's not a slouch at SF either. Melo isn't providing more three point shooting and also uses the mid range game significantly.
Melo's obviously a much better shot creator which would draw coverage away from Rose and allow him to operate more freely, and his body type and shot types should translate well to an off the ball role similar to Deng's.
Melo gives the offense another deadly option as well as a clutch scorer at the end of games to help close teams out or hit last second shots, the latter of which Rose has struggled with considerably thus far.
The upgrade at SF is highly notable, and the Bulls offense probably plays better after this trade, but from an overall team perspective, the defense is tremendously worse, and I think the gap is probably larger than the offensive improvement immediately though.
The salary perspective:
You're giving Melo a new max extension as part of any trade if one goes down. In that situation, Melo projects to make around 20-21 million a season for the next five years after this one. He'll remain in his prime the entire time, and his body doesn't seem prone to break down given his style of play.
Noah and Deng combined will probably average around three million more than Melo per year for the length of Deng's contract after Noah signs an extension. So you are left with Melo + a three million dollar player vs Deng + Noah long term. Does Melo bring enough to the table to justify such a move?
In a perfect world where no one gets hurt and we don't look at how the roster evolves, I don't think he does. He's basically adding relatively efficient volume scoring and shot creation. You're getting free throws, points, and a bit more passing than Deng. Defensively you're probably in break even territory, while Luol rebounds a bit better.
With Noah you get the passing, ball handling, and lots of energy on offense while getting someone with defensive anchor potential on defense. While I think it's easier to find a Noah than an Anthony, you're not going to go out and get another Noah easily either, and certainly not at the three million you'd have left in the same salary space.
However there are two compelling arguments for the swap.
First, in terms of talent you can only play five guys at once, and so while Deng + Noah strike me as providing more talent to the Bulls roster now, it also makes the roster harder to improve because you need to find an elite player to improve upon a good player. With Anthony and a scrub the total talent is less perhaps, but an average player then gives you a considerable upgrade.
Condensed talent makes it easy to improve your team. Depth with tons of good, but not elite, talent makes it very difficult to continue to improve, because the caliber of player required to make an improvement is so much greater. From that perspective, Anthony is the best player of the group, and typically the team getting the best player wins the trade every time.
Next, Deng and Noah are both considerable injury risks going forward. They've both have considerable injuries in the past, and Noah's body type and style of play make him a career injury risk. Anthony seems like a much better bet in terms of staying healthy though, of course, anything can happen.
The other team perspective:
Finally, one way to quickly wage a trade in terms of fairness is to pretend you are the other team. If you are Denver, what would you say to this deal. I'm pretty sure you'd respond with a bunch of jpg images with the word FAIL on them, or drop a GTFO on it.
Carmelo has been the anchor of a team which has flirted with title contention. Luol Deng and Joakim Noah have played alongside Derrick Rose and managed to break even twice and neither can stay healthy. Seriously, a Denver fan spits on you after making this proposal.
In the end, two things have to happen for you to want to do this trade. First, you must remove your emotional ties to Noah. We all love Noah, how could you not love Noah if he's on your team? So viewing him in a rational light right now is probably fairly difficult.
Second, you have to believe that Melo is a legitimate franchise player and not a volume chucker. Given Denver's success with the relatively mediocre supporting casts, I tend to believe that, but I understand why others do not.
In the end, I think this trade makes us a worse team right now, but it makes us more likely to win a championship later. I look at a team with Rose, Melo, and Boozer at it's core, and think "I'm a legit contender with the right role players" while acknowledging we don't have them now. I look at a team with Rose, Deng, Boozer, and Noah and don't reach the same conclusion, I'm a star player away still.