Utah Jazz: Is the Northwest Division about to get even more stacked?

NEW YORK,NY - JANUARY 20: Carmelo Anthony (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW YORK,NY - JANUARY 20: Carmelo Anthony (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With rumors flying that Carmelo Anthony is willing to join a pair of Northwest Division teams, the Utah Jazz may soon find themselves in for an even bigger challenge this season.

In an offseason that saw a flurry of moves which included several NBA stars joining new teams, no other division got deeper and quite frankly more stacked than the Northwest Division. The Oklahoma City Thunder added Paul George in a steal of a trade with the Indiana Pacers. George is a supreme talent bordering on super-stardom and if he and Russell Westbrook can find a groove, they could end up being a dominant force in the West that challenges for a top three spot.

The Minnesota Timberwolves took the largest leap of all (at least on paper) by adding All-Star Jimmy Butler for nearly nothing while also signing the likes of Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford and Taj Gibson. The Wolves were already a young and rising team, but now with the likes of Butler and other savvy veterans, they will look to be a force to be reckoned with in the West as well.

The Denver Nuggets were a staunch, albeit young and inexperienced, team all last season. They were in the eighth slot in the West nearly the entire year until Portland made a late season push and stole the final playoff spot from them. Still, the Nuggets ought to undergo significant internal improvement to their young core and also added an All-Star and excellent mentor and frontcourt presence in Paul Millsap who will be a joy to watch play alongside rising star Nikola Jokic.

Then there’s the Portland Trail Blazers who didn’t do all that much to improve this offseason (at least not yet, but we’re getting there) but after trading for Jusuf Nurkic last season ended the year as one of the hottest teams in the league and their unheralded Big 3 of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Nurkic could be primed to make some noise this year.

Last of all is our very own Utah Jazz, who we all know happened to be on the undesirable end of an All-Star changing teams when Gordon Hayward flew the coop. Even though several so-called experts are counting the Jazz out and while a regression is to be expected, with Rudy Gobert anchoring the defense, several new players that are bound to make an impact and an extremely deep and intelligent squad, the Jazz should be primed to surprised some people and are far from a weak link in the dominant Northwest Division.

With all that being said, though, recent reports seem to indicate that there’s a chance that Utah’s division is about to get even more stacked with yet another All-Star in Carmelo Anthony set to switch teams. The Melo drama has gone on all summer and while many have suspected he’d be dealt this offseason it has yet to actually take place.

The rumors surrounding Anthony have heated up once again though, and while it’s been practically common knowledge that Carmelo wanted to be traded to Houston, it appears now that Melo is expanding his list of teams to include two Northwest Division foes – the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers.

Because of the no-trade clause in Melo’s contract, he’s actually allowed to be pretty selective in where he ends up as he can choose who he does or doesn’t want to waive it for. Up to this point, that same clause has handcuffed his current New York Knicks team from making a move that would most benefit them, but given that he’s now reportedly open to joining new teams, it may give them more options that result in a deal getting done.

Patreon.com’s Peter Vecsey was among the first to report that Melo had originally doubled the number of teams that he was open to being traded to, then ESPN’s Ian Begley reported that Oklahoma City had been added to the list and several reports have indicated that Melo is considering placing Portland on that list as well. You can see examples of those reports from Twitter here below:

Adding Carmelo to either Oklahoma City or Portland would certainly make those teams all the more star-studded (without knowing what they’d have to give up in exchange, of course), but it would be quite interesting to see how he would fit with either team. Anthony is without a doubt a phenomenal talent, but I’m honestly not totally convinced that his addition to a team will make them instantly better.

In the right fit, he’s still a phenomenal scorer, but he’s getting up there in years and is far from being a reliable defender meaning he’d definitely need a team to help cover up his defensive deficiencies. That right away would be a red flag for Portland who finished 25th in the league last season in opponent points per game, giving up 108.5 per contest.

Oklahoma City has a few guys already that struggle on defense, but with a solid man in the middle in Steven Adams and an elite wing defender in Paul George, they may be able to get away with adding him defensively. Their concern, however, would be that with both Russell Westbrook and George on the squad, adding Melo to the mix could lead to too many ball dominant guys on one team.

If they worked out concerns regarding chemistry and sharing the ball, they could turn out to have a prolific offensive attack, but if not, it could actually hinder rather than help their offensive rhythm.

Not to mention, although the Knicks are willing to part with a disgruntled Carmelo, that doesn’t mean they’re just going to give him away for free. The Salt Lake Tribune’s Tony Jones, who is a must-follow for Jazz fans, has several great tweets on his TL indicating some of the reasons why certain Melo trades simply wouldn’t work out.

In short, one of the biggest obstacles is that in most cases, the Knicks would have to take on more bad contracts in order for the Anthony trade to pan out. Sure, that would allow them to shed Carmelo’s salary now, but wouldn’t exactly help them in the long run. The Knicks are ready to move on from Melo and Melo’s clearly ready to move on from the Knicks. However, finding the right match is going to be trickier than it might appear.

In the case of the Thunder, there was some speculation that perhaps Enes Kanter (who would be a likely candidate) was going to be dealt in a trade for Melo, as he posted the cryptic tweet below out of the blue while rumors were flying:

This would seem like an odd move for the Knicks if you ask me, but only time will tell how it all plays out.

The fact of the matter is, though, if a deal is eventually struck that ends up sending Carmelo Anthony to the Northwest Division, it’s only going to make the deepest division in the league even more stacked with talent. And if Melo ends up being a solid fit with Portland or OKC, then he’s talented enough to help push those teams to a new level.

And given that Utah has to play each of its divisional foes four times, facing Melo twice more than they’re accustomed to would likely make their pursuit of a playoff spot all the more challenging.

Next: Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward talks offseason, Kyrie-IT trade and more in latest blog

One would imagine that the Melo saga should be wrapped up in the next few days and once it is, it will be absolutely thrilling to see how his landing spot affects the Utah Jazz as well as the NBA landscape as a whole. One thing that’s certain, though, is that even though training camp is essentially upon us, this wacky offseason is far from finalized just yet.