During one of the many Carmelo Anthony conversations-slash-arguments waged in the Dime office lately, one subject was how the Denver Nuggets would proceed should they lose ‘Melo in a (talent-wise) predictably lopsided trade.
Does the franchise start over and rebuild? Do they try covering the loss of ‘Melo like nothing happened and construct a contender for 2011 without taking a step back? Do they happily tread water and accept being first-round or second-round playoff chum for the real sharks of the Western Conference?
If ‘Melo gets traded (which is now starting to look more and more unlikely), I’m thinking the Nuggets try to keep winning now. As I said in the office, “You have a Hall of Famer in Chauncey Billups who’s like 33, 34. You don’t rebuild with him. Take advantage of the time Chauncey has left and go for it.”
Hold up, they stopped me: Is Chauncey really a Hall of Famer?
I think so. While his career stats of 15.4 points and 5.6 assists per game aren’t fantastic, they are at least comparable with those of Tony Parker (16.6 ppg, 5.6 apg), Dennis Johnson (14.1 ppg, 5.0 apg), Gary Payton (16.3 ppg, 6.7 apg) and Mark Jackson (9.6 ppg, 8.0 apg), who are either in the Hall of Fame or headed for induction. And take into consideration that Chauncey was a late bloomer who bounced around the League for a few years; since he settled in and found his niche in Detroit, he’s been a solid 17-and-7 producer.
Chauncey also has five All-Star Game appearances, three All-NBA nods, and two All-Defensive Team honors on his resume. He finished in the top six in league MVP voting twice, and going into this season ranks sixth all-time in three-pointers made, sixth in free-throw percentage, and is 49th in total assists.
But the biggest positives working in Chauncey’s favor are his 2004 NBA Finals trophy, and the reputation he’s built as a clutch performer. He’ll forever have the tag “Mr. Big Shot” attached to his name, and the legacy of players like that tend to grow in mythic proportions even more after they’ve retired.
At the same time, was there ever a period in his career when Chauncey was considered the best point guard in the League? Was he ever widely considered top-three? Did he ever carry a team without multiple All-Stars around him? And why did he live like a journeyman before getting to the Pistons? Could you argue that Chauncey was, like some will argue against Steve Nash, a glorified system player?
If any one of the hypothetical ‘Melo trades becomes a reality this season, we may find out. Whether the Nuggets get back Derrick Favors or Joakim Noah or even Stephen Curry in a deal, Chauncey will be left standing as the undisputed leader and go-to player on the squad. But even if he makes a quiet playoff exit, or fails to get Denver to the postseason, couldn’t we chalk that up to the idea that he’s past his prime at 34 years old?
What do you think? Is Chauncey Billups headed for the Hall of Fame?