Sometimes, taking a step forward requires taking a few steps back.
But the New York Knicks and their pride don't operate with that mentality. Though maybe it's time they should, considering all the success they've had as of late.
Over the last 15 years, the Knicks have done a lot of long-term sacrificing for short-term payoff. Antonio McDyess, Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry...Carmelo Anthony—the Knicks have given up a lot of picks and young talent to acquire these names since 2000.
And while those names might have sold some tickets, papers and plenty of dreams, they haven't generated many wins.
The next two summers are critical for the Knicks in terms of putting together a roster blueprint and executing it. Anthony can opt out of his deal following this season, something he's already admitted he plans on doing.
As it is, the Knicks' current goal is to re-sign Anthony, let Amar'e Stoudemire's, Tyson Chandler's and Andrea Bargnani's contracts come off the books in 2015 and then go after (via Brian Windhorst, ESPN) one or two of the premier free agents on the market. That list might include Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker and Roy Hibbert.
But Parker has already expressed interest (via San Antonio Express News) in signing an extension, while it seems unlikely Hibbert and Aldridge would want to leave their current situations.
This plan offers loads of uncertainty without any guarantee its completion will move the needle.
Are Anthony and Rondo a championship core to build around in 2015-16? I'm not even sure an Anthony-Love duo sounds too appealing, given Love plays the position Anthony thrives in. Who even knows if these guys have any interest in joining the New York circus anyway?
Either way, the Knicks have gotten burned time after time by playing the role of greedy buyer. How about a change in philosophy and approach? Why can't the Knicks build through the draft or with youth like so many successful teams have recently done? Because it's New York, the "Mecca of Basketball"? Oklahoma City, Indiana, Portland, Golden State, San Antonio—these are teams who've gotten stronger by keeping, acquiring and developing young talent, as opposed to giving it away for expensive, cap-clogging "stars."
For once, wouldn't it be cool if the Knicks were the team who developed and home-grew a roster?
Over the past 20 yrs, the Knicks have kept just four draft picks on the roster for three full seasons -- tied for the lowest in the NBA.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 12, 2013
When it comes to the trade market, many believe the Knicks don't have any assets to offer. Only, they might ultimately have the most attractive trade chip in the league to put on the market.
One of the Knicks' outs is dangling Anthony at the trade deadline—especially considering he's not even a lock to re-sign.
Back in October, Anthony addressed to ESPN's Ian Begley his desire to experience free agency.
I want to be a free agent. I think everybody in the NBA dreams to be a free agent at least one time in their career. It's like you have an evaluation period, you know. It's like if I'm in the gym and I have all the coaches, all the owners, all the GMs come into the gym and just evaluate everything I do. So yes, I want that experience.
This came before the season, might I add.
Now I may not know much, but I do know the Knicks can't afford to lose Anthony for nothing. It would be irresponsible not to see what teams would be willing to give up.
What if the Knicks had the opportunity to land a top-three pick in the upcoming star-studded draft, along with some other young players or long-term assets to build with? Duke's Jabari Parker, Kentucky's Julius Randle and Kansas' Joel Embiid, among others, have face-of-the-franchise potential. You gotta admit—the possibility of rebuilding with one of these guys, along with other picks and young players trade partners would possibly be willing to add—is awfully intriguing.
It might mean a few more down years, but let's face it—the Knicks' payroll is insane right now and the team still can't string together wins.
Of course, any deal might require Anthony to agree to an extension with the Knicks' trade partner, but it's worth looking into.
The other trade route to go is to deal him for another established star. Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling has mentioned Blake Griffin as a name to potentially target. I'm just not sure the Knicks get equal value in a star-for-star deal, unless they can also land some long-term assets on top.
The other obvious question to ask concerns 'Melo's ability to lead a team. Are we even sure he's the right man for the job? The Knicks would have to make quite the commitment to him this summer. If they ink him, he's New York's man for the long run.
I'm not questioning 'Melo's skills, but given his style of play, it seems pretty clear by now he's a guy who needs a specific supporting cast to work as a championship-caliber centerpiece. Quite frankly, as good as 'Melo is, his teams haven't had much success building around him.
The fact of the matter is, it looks like the Knicks might stink for the next two years anyway. Maybe it's time to use a different reset button than the one that keeps putting the team in a position to desperately overpay in free agency.
Again, this isn't to say the Knicks need to move Anthony, as it's obviously only worth doing if the price is right. But if it means an opportunity to start fresh, improve future flexibility and acquire multiple, cheaper, long-term assets, it's something New York should at least consider.