Word on the street today is louder than ever that Carmelo Anthony wants out of New York.
How do we know this? Marc Berman and Frank Isola are writing it hard in the New York tabloids, and both of those fellas are as plugged into their team as any beat writers in North America.
You can bristle at Isola’s anti-Berman’s tweets – a constant source of amusement for anyone who follows the Knicks – and you can bristle at Berman’s wardrobe, which yours truly used to do back in the pre-Twitter days when we sat alongside each other in the old MSG press room.
But both of these guys are ace reporters, and when they write the Anthony trade story as hard as they wrote it today, you can bet your bottom dollar that something is afoot. (The New York Times that was home delivered to my driveway had a nice feature on Jeremy Tyler. For which I have two words: Who cares?) Here is the link to Berman’s story in the New York Post; and here is the link to Isola’s story in the New York Daily News.
Anyway, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
And Anthony’s short list is said to include three teams: the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. None can offer Anthony the extra year and the extra $30 million he would get by opting out of his contract at the end of this season – which he has said he plans to do.
Unless, of course, they acquired Anthony before the NBA trade deadline.
With the Knicks running off the rails, Anthony is about to find out what it is like to be booed at Madison Square Garden after returning home from getting trounced in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas on their current road trip. They are 28th in our current Kamenetsky Bros. Power Rankings, and you can’t sink much lower than that.
So what are the Knicks to do?
If they trade Anthony, they won’t reap the bounty that the Denver Nuggets collected when they dealt ‘Melo to New York three seasons ago. Josh Kroenke fleeced Jim Dolan to such a degree that it forced Donnie Walsh out of town. Trades like that do not happen anymore (unless Billy King is involved).
So the Knicks will have to settle, and we are here today to postulate on what they might settle for if Anthony is dealt to one of the above-mentioned teams.
Let’s start with the Lakers, who do not have an abundance of what the Knicks would be seeking – first-round draft picks. Los Angeles owes its 2015 pick to Phoenix and its 2017 pick to Orlando, meaning it cannot trade a first-round pick of its own until 2019. Their second-round picks in 2014 and 2015 have already been traded, too.
And in case you haven’t noticed, they are No. 1 in the Tankapalooza department after losing successive games to the Jazz, Sixers and Bucks. That sentence bears repeating: They just lost to the Jazz, Sixers and Bucks!
So what could Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak do to bring Anthony aboard this season, enabling them to offer ‘Melo that fifth year and $30 million?
Pau Gasol, Nick Young and Chris Kaman to the Knicks for Anthony, J.R. Smith and Cole Aldrich.
This would be like taking pennies back on the dollar, which is why the Knicks would probably look elsewhere — like down the hallway to the Clippers — for a more palatable deal. Both Gasol and Young are on expiring contracts, but Gasol is a keeper if he signs at a reasonable number in July. He has said that he won’t take a pay cut, but that just ain’t happening. The dropoff in his game has been significant this season, and brother Marc is now the better player.
The no-brainer keeper in this trade would be Young, who few realize is the most efficient offensive player in the entire NBA based on advanced metrics. Check out this column from Jacob Eisenberg which explains the dynamic around Young, who still carries the label of a chucker rather than a scorer.
Young also will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and is due a hefty pay raise. But that is where the Knicks can come at him hard, using some of the money they would save by dumping Smith in this deal. Aldrich and Kaman would be included to match up the salaries.
You cannot see how this deal looks in the ESPN Trade Machine because Smith cannot be traded until Jan. 15. But the Knicks would be sending out approximately $28.6 million in salary and would be taking back $27.5 million. And once Amar’e Stoudemire comes off their cap after next season, they will be positioned for another rebuild. Only Raymond Felton ($3.89 million player option) would be on the cap for the 2015-16 season. And just a guess, but the rebuilding might start with Kevin Love and their lottery pick in 2015 because, yes, they would be a lottery team.
Taj Gibson, Luol Deng, the rights to Nikola Mirotic, or a future No. 1 pick, for Anthony
Getting Gar Forman to give up the rights to Mirotic will not be an easy task; he is widely considered the top NBA prospect in Europe but also has buyout issues that could be problematic. He is under contract in Spain through 2016-17 with a buyout of more than $3 million.
The over-the-cap Knicks and Bulls can pay only $500,000 toward that buyout unless they go under the cap — something that won’t happen in New York until Stoudemire comes off the books. The Bulls brass was in Spain last month talking with Mirotic’s team, Real Madrid. They won the ACB last season behind the MVP performance of the 22-year-old Mirotic, who was profiled here by Nick Gibson before our EuroLeague writer was pilfered by the Atlanta Hawks, where he is Danny Ferry’s rising front-office star. (For more on Mirotic, check out this nice piece by Ricky O’Donnell of Blog-a-Bull).
As for that No. 1 draft pick, it would not be easy to try that away from the Bulls, either. But the ace-in-the-hole pick they possess (from Charlotte in the Tyrus Thomas deal) is protected 1-10 for the upcoming draft. But with the Bobcats looking more and more like a playoff team, that pick will likely land in the late teens.
Knicks president Steve Mills could settle for the lesser of Chicago’s own pick or Charlotte’s pick, and Forman could put protection into the deal that would preclude the Knicks getting the Bulls’ 2014 pick, which figures to be a lottery pick unless this deal goes down.
Moving forward, the Bulls would have a two-superstar nucleus of Derrick Rose at point guard and Anthony at small forward or power forward (the latter could happen if the Bulls use the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer this summer), along with their 2014 first-round pick. The Knicks would have two solid rotation players — assuming they can re-sign Deng over the summer.
To be fair, I can’t see the Bulls making this trade unless they felt a need to trumpet a better offer, such as the one listed below …
Blake Griffin, Willie Green and Matt Barnes for Carmelo Anthony, Beno Udrih and Toure Murry
If the Knicks insist upon receiving a superstar in return, this is the best they might be able to do.
Do the Clippers want to get rid of Griffin? No.
Do they think they have enough to compete for the Western Conference title as presently constituted? Probably not.
And remember, it has been well-documented that CP3 and ‘Melo discussed teaming up back at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Here we are six years later, and it could still happen if both teams are motivated to make moves.
Yes, Lob City would become diminished, unless ‘Melo gets some but the Clippers would become a stronger team offensively by adding Anthony’s pure scoring ability to replace Griffin’s athleticism.
As good as the Clippers are, does anyone in Donald Sterling’s front office truly believe they can get past the Spurs, Thunder or Blazers in a seven-game series? Heck, they might not even be able to get past the Golden State Warriors, who are their fiercest rival right now — and might just have the best rivalry in the entire NBA. And if Andrew Bynum clears waivers, they can add him as DeAndre Jordan’s backup.
One thing can be certain when talking about Dolan and any possibility that he might trade Anthony: He will not want to be seen as having given away the team’s most prolific superstar since Patrick Ewing without getting something special in return. A trade for Griffin is the only one of these three that provides Jimmy D. with that fallback.
Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.