Rip Hamilton to Denver would actually make some sense

Now that this is old news, why not delve into those rumors about Denver’s alleged interest in Rip Hamilton, shall we?

Over the weekend, David Aldridge had this graph in a story he wrote about the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors:

The Nuggets are still trying to figure out some way to keep the 26-year-old Anthony in the Mile High City, despite his clear desire to leave. A league source said Denver had made a recent attempt to pry Detroit guard Rip Hamilton from the Pistons without success to show Anthony that the organization could still put talented players around him. But if the Nuggets can’t add to their personnel, keeping Anthony happy becomes a near-impossibility. According to another source, Anthony was not thrilled that the Nuggets were not able to do more than sign free agent Al Harrington this summer while other teams in the Western Conference made bigger moves.

Not thrilled with signing Al Harrington for 5 years/$34 million? Who does Melo think he is?

As far as Hamilton, I think most would assume the Nuggets had interest in him because they have already stolen two productive players from the Pistons in Chauncey Billups and Arron Afflalo, why not grab a third one?

But there is also another reason they may have targeted Hamilton, and unfortunately since I can’t find a link to video of this, I’ll have to just set the scene from memory. Anthony was at a NBA playoff game before he 2003 NBA Draft. As the biggest star in college hoops at the time, coming off one of the best NCAA tournament runs any player has ever had, and on the cusp being a part of one of the best draft classes in league history, the cameras were obviously focused on him.

He was interviewed during a stop in the game by the sideline reporter, who asked all the typical questions, but what was most interesting: they asked him about possible teams in position to draft him. He didn’t say specifically he wanted to play for any team, but when talking about potential places he could end up, he said (paraphrasing) that he’d love to play in Detroit because Rip Hamilton is his favorite player.

Now, I’m sure as one of the top players in the league since he entered the NBA, he doesn’t have “favorite” players anymore, but perhaps he still does respect Hamilton’s game enough that Denver thought it would be worth it to try and pry him away from the Pistons.

Which brings me to what Denver could give up. Short answer: a lot.

Anthony is obviously heavily involved in trade rumors right now, but Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that basically every player on the roster is available save for Billups and Ty Lawson.

The Nuggets have two major expiring contracts in Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith. While the Pistons don’t have much use for Smith, him paired with another player (Chris Anderson, perhaps?) could give the Pistons a big and they could use Smith’s contract in another trade down the road. Martin, on the other hand, would provide salary relief and be a huge frontcourt upgrade. He and Ben Wallace would make the Pistons very formidable defensively up front.

And although it would seem unlikely Denver would trade Nene, he and Hamilton’s contracts match almost perfectly if the teams did a one-for-one trade. These scenarios are nothing new — I already Tweeted them over the weekend shortly after Aldridge’s article came out. Considering Denver is really limited with only a few contracts they could offer to match Hamilton’s, it’s a bit frustrating to think the Pistons may have heard from Denver and were not willing to discuss a deal. Which brings up my next question: did the Pistons hear from Denver?

The local reporters and their lovable ‘team sources’ quickly said, “no way … never heard from the Nuggets.” And hey, that bland team denial obviously appeased some folks out there.

But there are at least a few reasons to consider that maybe there was more to this:

• David Aldridge is as well-sourced and accurate a NBA reporter as there is working today. I trust his information. That’s not to say I don’t trust the local guys, but Aldridge, as a league-wide reporter, is as good as it gets and he does have some advantage because he’s been covering the league on multiple platforms for much longer than any of the Detroit guys.

• Joe Dumars has a reputation (fair or not) of over-valuing players (except, inexplicably, for Billups) a bit. It’s not a stretch to think he’d like to get more than an expiring contract, even if it is a player like Martin who could help in the interim, for Hamilton. To some extent, I understand the philosophy — giving away players for expiring deals rarely pans out (see: Iverson, Allen). But this is the third offseason in a row that the Pistons have reportedly been ‘open for business’ when it comes to trades, and save for Billups-Iverson, which didn’t even happen during the offseason, the team has yet to make a major trade.

• It’s believable Denver would call. The team seems to be going in a few different directions. They’re gonna trade Melo. They don’t want to trade Melo. They’re gonna have a fire sale and rebuild. They sign Al Harrington long term with an eye on winning now. Nothing they’ve done of late has made a lot of sense, so it should shock no one if they were willing to deal a useful big for a player like Hamilton, who is a good player, but also has contract/injury questions that I would assume less panicky teams than the Nuggets would prefer to evaluate before dealing for him.

I’m not saying the Pistons’ denial that Denver ever called is a lie, but I don’t just automatically assume it was a lie because a team source or two told the local beat writers it was. It’s all hypothetical anyway, as it now appears imminent that Anthony will get dealt somewhere soon and Denver seems resigned to the fact that even if they add to the roster, he’s probably not signing an extension.

They’re definitely a team to keep an eye on though, if they are as willing to deal anyone as Wojnarowski reports. Martin and Nene would be major upgrades in the frontcourt to most teams in the league.