There has been some chatter recently that the New York Knicks have discussed dealing Carmelo Anthony, specifically in a trade for Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, per Chris Broussard of ESPN The Magazine.
A deal like this seems unlikely, as the 24-year-old Blake Griffin is much younger and has been an integral part of the Clippers’ success this season. He has filled many of the holes in his game, shooting much better from the outside and improving his free-throw percentage to over 70 percent (he is a career 62.4 percent shooter from the line).
Also, while Chris Paul is the team’s best player, Griffin has been the face of the Clippers since he was drafted first overall in 2009, making him less likely to be dealt.
Even further quelling the Griffin rumors was Clippers coach Doc Rivers’ reaction to them, per Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:
Doc: "That network reports a story they created, then do reports on it for the next two days." Called it "stupid" and "crap."— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) January 5, 2014
Although Griffin is a less realistic target, the fact that the Knicks discussed dealing their star is still big news.
Signing Carmelo to an extension at the end of the season could be a big mistake, as he would likely decline with age and the new contract would hinder the Knicks’ efforts at adding other pieces to their roster. The Knicks would be wise to try to get some value for their star in the trade market rather than letting him walk via free agency.
ESPN’s Bill Simmons proposed that the Phoenix Suns were an ideal destination for Carmelo Anthony in a trade:
I love the way Blake Griffin is playing lately. Wouldn't trade him for Melo. The Melo trade partner that makes the most sense - Phoenix.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) January 4, 2014
While the Suns have assets that would appeal to the Knicks, Phoenix probably wouldn’t pull the trigger on a deal with the Knicks, as Anthony likely wouldn’t re-sign with the Suns. If Carmelo wanted out of Denver, a relatively stable situation at the time, he would likely leave Phoenix for a bigger market as well.
The Knicks have tough decisions to make as they approach the trade deadline this season. Re-signing Carmelo could harm the team’s long-term aspirations, but so would letting him walk in free agency or dealing him for minimal pieces.
There is one team out there in which a deal including Carmelo Anthony would make sense for both teams: the Chicago Bulls.
The trade would be constructed like this (or something similar, with interchangeable pieces):
The Knicks send Carmelo Anthony and Beno Udrih to Chicago, while the Bulls send Carlos Boozer, Marquis Teague, Tony Snell, the rights to Nikola Mirotic and the Charlotte Bobcats’ top-10 protected 2014 first-round pick to New York.
According to ESPN’s trade machine, the trade works financially. It also would benefit both teams tremendously.
Why the trade makes sense for Chicago
The Bulls are currently sitting at 14-18 and would have the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference if the season ended today. They have lost their star, Derrick Rose, for the season just as they did last season.
Despite Rose being hurt last year, the Bulls still went to battle with the champion Miami Heat in the playoffs. Adding a star scorer like Carmelo Anthony to their already-vaunted defense would be an exciting combination and could cause problems for teams in the playoffs.
In this constructed deal, the Bulls would also keep their defensive core in tact. Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah would complement Anthony superbly in their frontcourt, and Luol Deng would still be there as a defensive stopper against the opposing team’s swingmen.
Beno Udrih is far from an elite player, but he would still provide the Bulls with point guard depth in Derrick Rose’s absence.
The Bulls are also a big-market team, making it more likely than other destinations that Anthony would re-sign with Chicago. With Rose coming back healthy next season, a combination of Rose and Anthony, along with the defensive role players Chicago already has, would make the Bulls a championship contender.
Why the trade makes sense for New York
From the Knicks’ standpoint, the proposed deal also makes a lot of sense. The trade would benefit the long-term aspirations of the club, but wouldn’t set the franchise back too far, as competing in the 2015-16 season would be realistic.
Carlos Boozer has two years remaining on his contract, just as Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani’s contracts do. The 2015 free-agent class could include players like Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge, and with their cap room and New York appeal, the Knicks could potentially rebuild quickly through free agency.
Neither Marquis Teague nor Tony Snell is an elite prospect, but both are young and have upside. They would be nice additions to the Knicks roster as potential long-term pieces that could eventually be important rotation players when the Knicks are good again.
Adding Charlotte’s 2014 first-round pick (likely to end up in the 11-17 range), the Knicks would sport a young roster that could be enticing to members of the 2015 free-agent class.
The key piece to the trade for the Knicks would be the rights to Nikola Mirotic. While he likely will never be the superstar that Carmelo Anthony is, Mirotic has All-Star potential and should be a good NBA player from the moment he chooses to leave Europe.
Mirotic is a star in the making. He plays for Real Madrid and could be the best player in all of Europe despite being just 22 years old. He won the ACB MVP last season, and according to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, a scout claimed Mirotic was “the best player who is not in the NBA right now,” which includes star draft prospects Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle.
Mirotic is an incredibly efficient scorer who would help the Knicks as soon as he arrived. Via In-The-Game, so far this season, Mirotic is averaging 16.8 points per game while shooting 72.7 percent at the rim and 59.4 percent from three. Bleacher Report’s Kelly Scaletta described Mirotic’s jumper as “wetter than the ocean between the U.S. and Spain.”
Who says no in this proposed trade?
With a potential star in Mirotic as the center of the package, along with the cap space that would still be available during the 2015 offseason, this is a deal that would benefit the Knicks tremendously. Chicago would get a star to replace Rose this season who would also complement Rose perfectly once he returns from injury.
This proposed trade is pure speculation at this point, but as the season wears on, hopefully both organizations realize that a trade within these parameters makes sense for both sides.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.