Are NY Knicks Building Around Carmelo Anthony with the Wrong Players?

Paul Knepper@@paulieknepContributor IIIAugust 2, 2013

Carmelo Anthony is not to blame for the New York Knicks' early playoff exits during his three seasons with the team. The team has surrounded its star forward with the wrong players.

Anthony is a dynamic scorer who can create scoring opportunities for teammates. He's a solid rebounder as well, though he has defensive limitations. He requires the assistance of at least one additional elite playmaker, shooters who can prevent defenses from collapsing on him and a few very good defensive players. 

The Knicks have not had the salary cap space or assets available to acquire those necessary parts.

New York's financial restrictions can be traced back to the summer of 2010. The team went to extreme efforts (including sending Jordan Hill, a first-round pick in 2011 and the right to swap picks in 2012 to the Houston Rockets just to unload Jared Jeffries' contract) in order to free up enough cap space to sign LeBron James and another superstar from the loaded free-agent class of 2010.

James, Wade and Bosh all ended up in Miami, and the Knicks, desperate for star power, signed Amar'e Stoudemire to a five-year, $100 million contract, a contract they were unable to insure due to Stoudemire's extensive history of knee problems.  

Stoudemire played some of the best ball of his career during his first half-season in New York. He was second in the league in scoring (26.1) through the Knicks' first 57 games. With the help of an improving supporting cast, he led the team to a 32-25 record.

Then the Knicks shipped several of their promising young players (Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov) and additional assets to the Denver Nuggets for Anthony, Chauncey Billups and spare parts.

Stoudemire began breaking down a couple of months later. He injured his back during the Knicks' first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics. Further back and knee injuries followed over the next two seasons. STAT appeared in just 76 of the Knicks' 148 games over the past two seasons and is a mere shadow of the player he once was.

The amnesty clause of the latest collective bargaining agreement provided the Knicks a way out from under Stoudemire's onerous contract. Instead, New York chose to waive Chauncey Billups and clear the $14.2 million remaining on his contract (an option they picked up just eight months earlier) from the salary cap in December, 2011 in order to sign Tyson Chandler to a four-year, $60 million deal.

That move sealed the Knicks' fate.

The contracts of Stoudemire, Anthony and Chandler ($57.2 million in 2013-14, via take up such a huge percentage of the salary cap that the Knicks have been unable to sign another elite player. The assets they surrendered in 2010 and the Anthony trade have limited their ability to acquire cheap, young talent.

Ironically, Stoudemire's presence was one of the factors that attracted Anthony to the Knicks. Now his old friend's diminishing skills and unmovable contract are keeping the Knicks from landing the type of swingman that Carmelo desperately needs.

General manager Glen Grunwald has had to squeeze whatever he can out of aging veterans (Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas and Metta World Peace) and players other teams did not want (Andrea Bargnani and J.R. Smith).

Grunwald has excelled under the circumstances. He used one his few remaining draft picks on promising youngster Iman Shumpert and landed a reasonably priced (four year, $14.86 million) point guard in Raymond Felton. He also found solid rotation players in Europe (Chris Copeland and Pablo Prigioni) and scooped Steve Novak and Jeremy Lin off the scrap heap.

Still, none of those players provide the type of firepower that Anthony and the Knicks and the Knicks are looking for. J.R. Smith had a great 2012-13 season, but he is not consistent enough to be anything more than a third or fourth option on a title contender. Felton is asked to carry more of the offensive load than he should. The team is also short on quality individual and team defenders.  

Anthony can opt out of the final year of his contract after this season. He is almost certain to do so and will likely re-sign with the Knicks because they can pay him $33 million more than any other team.

New York will sell Anthony on its ability to reload in the summer of 2015. The Knicks do not have any guaranteed contracts beyond the 2014-15 season.

New York Knicks Team Salary        







Amar'e Stoudemire






Carmelo Anthony






Tyson  Chandler






Andrea Bargnani






J.R. Smith






Raymond Felton






Iman Shumpert






Pablo  Prigioni






Metta  World Peace






Tim Hardaway Jr.






Kenyon Martin






 C.J. Leslie






Earl Barron






Guaranteed Total:






Inclusive Total:






Some of the salaries above include qualifying offers, players’ options, team options and non-guaranteed money. The salary info comes courtesy of Hoopsworld. 

Anthony and Shumpert are the only players in the team's long-term plans. New York will use its cap space in 2015 to surround Anthony with the type of players who can help him succeed. Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love and Marc Gasol are among the potential 2015 free agents.

Anthony and Knicks fans need to sit tight for two more years. The crippling mistakes of the past are hard to swallow, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.


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