Sources told Yahoo! Sports on Monday that there is “no chance” the Knicks trade free agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony by the Feb. 20 deadline.
Let’s face the facts: even with Anthony, the Knicks are a mediocre basketball team in a horrendous Atlantic Division.
Anthony may want out of New York after the season. Fortunately for the Knicks, there a very few candidates for Anthony out there with enough cap space to sign him outright — although the Lakers are one.
That means the Knicks are either going to retain Anthony or, at the very least, bring back a few assets via sign-and-trade with Anthony’s departure.
Leverage is key for the Knicks in any negotiations with Anthony. It’s an open secret at this point that Anthony wants to play in a big city. It is a fair guess to postulate that he may want to play with the Clippers alongside close friend Chris Paul.
The problem is that Blake Griffin has recently taken the next step in his development. While I personally would still take a Paul-Anthony combination for the next three years (likely the last three of Paul’s prime) over a Paul-Griffin combination, it would be extremely hard to sell the Clippers’ brass on trading a 24-year-old All-Star starter with more room to grow for a 29-year-old All-Star starter who’s probably already reached his ceiling.
Moreover, with recent rumors swirling about a possible LeBron James-to-LA coup this summer, the Clippers have even less incentive to rush into a blockbuster deal.
Although the Anthony for Griffin speculation has been circulating for months, I just don’t see it as a realistic option for either side.
The Knicks are planning to take a humongous gamble by assuming Anthony will stay long term instead of trading him for assets at the deadline.
The Lakers, of course, carried the same plan with Dwight Howard last season and lost him for nothing on the free agent market.
So while the Knicks , in all likelihood, will be first-round casualties this season, it’s clear they’re ignoring better options for the team’s longterm future.
Here are several ideas and explanations for how the Knicks could position themselves for a more successful future.
These trades rank from most eccentric to most logical for both teams:
Golden State has yet to be mentioned in the Melo sweepstakes. Nonetheless, the Warriors would be a very interesting landing spot for Anthony.
Anthony has alluded to wanting to play on the West Coast, and Golden State is one of the sleeping giants in a loaded Western Conference.
Lee’s departure in this trade would allow Anthony to slide comfortably into the power forward role – a position he has thrived in for the past two season. Moreover, without Lee’s contract on the books, Golden State would have the money available to give Anthony a long term contract.
A lineup of Stephen Curry – Klay Thompson – Andre Iguodala – Anthony – Andrew Bogut would undeniably be one of the most talented offensive group in the league.
The Warriors are underachieving and could use another move to push them over the top. They’ve traded their first-round pick for this season already and are eventually going to have to part with either Thompson or Barnes to make drastic improvements. Anthony would be about as big a star as the team could bring in.
Meanwhile, for the Knicks, bringing back Lee would give them a go-to player for the remainder of the season.
Barnes, at only 21 years old, could be a piece for the team to build around going forward. He’s been disappointing this season, averaging only 10.0 points per game and 4.1 rebounds. However, his 16.1 points and 6.4 rebounds in 12 games last postseason suggest he might simply be marginalized in Golden State’s guard-centric attack. Give him an opportunity to be featured in the offense and he might return to his playoff dominance.
Speights would be a mere salary filler in the deal but has proven to be a decent rotation player in the league with even more room to improve. Ezeli has been injured all season but looks like a rotational center with upside as well based on a solid rookie season in 2012. The Knicks would gain four players worthy of roster spots at this very moment — not bad at all.
Still, there are obvious flaws with this type of a deal.
The Warriors want to preserve their future cap space for Klay Thompson’s upcoming free agency. Moreover, Golden State believes it’s already on the brim on competing for a title with their current roster. Completing such a monumental trade would open the door for a total chemistry clash with Anthony’s high profile.
Would Anthony be able to share the court with Curry?
Anthony and Curry currently combine for a usage rate of 58.6% this season. This means that Thompson, Iguodala and Bogut would only have only 41.4% of possessions to share between the three. Thompson, as it stands, uses about 20% of the Warriors possessions. Would Mark Jackson be able to work this rotation out?
The Knicks, meanwhile, would have obvious hesitancy in bringing back David Lee’s whale of a contract.
Lee is good. At times he’s great. Still, his defensive woes are a punch line throughout the NBA and he’s due $15 million in each of the next two seasons – essentially taking the Knicks out of any upcoming free agent market. The Warriors have been covertly shopping Lee’s name for the better part of a season and have yet to receive an offer they’ve liked. While he’s an undeniably talented player, his contract cancels out most –if not all — of his value on the court.
Barnes’ struggles this season would make this kind of deal even harder to pitch to New York’s fans. While he’s likely to rebound sooner or later and return to his exciting high-flying self, any expectation that Barnes could replace Anthony would be unfair for the 21-year-old.
If the Knicks were able to convince the Warriors into replacing Barnes with Klay Thompson, this trade could gain serious traction. However, for all of the same reasons the Warriors would be reluctant to make the initial deal with Barnes, they’d be even more reluctant to make the trade with Thompson.
While it’s an interesting trade on paper, it just wouldn’t have the legs or motivation from either side to get completed by the deadline.
So let’s move on.
2. Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith for Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Tony Snell, Nikola Mirotic and a future protected pick
I’ve heard that the Bulls are the most likely landing spot for Anthony should the Clippers maintain their stance on keeping Blake Griffin as untouchable.
Even so, Chicago just doesn’t have a particularly attractive package to offer the Knicks. Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau are off the table for sure.
Jimmy Butler could be a potential trade candidate but the Bulls have made it very clear that they plan to keep him around for a long time. While I suspect the Knicks could hold out for him, it would hurt their chances of getting much else in any deal.
Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls’ European ace and top trade asset, projects to translate into an above-average starter in the NBA.
Beyond Mirotic, New York would ask for Bulls’ sixth man Taj Gibson in the deal and possibly 2013 first rounder Tony Snell. Because the Knicks are so far over the salary cap, taking on Carlos Boozers’ soon-to-be-expiring contract also would make sense for future trade possibilities (and on court production).
Even so, this is change on the dollar for Anthony’s talent. The Knicks, in theory, should be able to do better if they traded Anthony.
Perhaps New York could add in J.R. Smith to rid the team of his longterm contract and headaches. Considering the Bulls would be entering “win in the near-future” mode after acquiring Anthony, Smith could actually be a useful piece for them next season as a sixth man.
At the very least, this trade would give the Knicks an opportunity to rebuild with some decent talent on moderate contracts for the next few years.
As a last resort, Chicago’s presumed offer would be better than nothing. Still, something tells me the Knicks would want to look elsewhere first before aiding an Eastern Conference rival in creating a potential super team.
So let’s say the Knicks exhaust these options. Where should they go before settling on a lowball offer from Chicago?