One of the fallouts of the recent Luol Deng trade is that the Chicago Bulls have quietly been collecting assets which could theoretically be used in a trade for a superstar player. This prompts the question: Should the Bulls make the New York Knicks an offer for Carmelo Anthony they can’t refuse?
Consider this: The Bulls have all their own first round-picks they can trade, a protected Sacramento Kings first-round pick (top-12 this year, top-10 in 2015, 2016 and 2017, second-round pick after that), the Charlotte Bobcats' first-round pick (top-10 protected this year, top-8 protected next year, unprotected in 2016), and the right to swap picks with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the next draft, provided the Cavaliers don’t have a lottery pick.
What if the Bulls offered the Knicks their pick this year and in 2016, the Bobcats pick and the Kings pick, along with Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich for Anthony? Such a deal could be done before the year was out, allowing Anthony to keep his Bird rights with the Bulls and have more money and/or more years in doing so.
After the season ends, it becomes a bit more problematic, as Hinrich's contract expires, so the Bulls would have to add another player to match salaries, and you no-longer carry Bird rights in a sign-and-trade.
Why Would the Knicks Do This?
James Dolan, Executive Chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company, serves as governor of the Knicks. He has not had the greatest track record.
During Dolan's tenure, the Knicks have been trying to build a contender by trading away first-round picks or letting them walk. A brief history of their ineptitude going back to 2000 is in order, although it could be a painful walk down memory lane if you’re a Knicks fan.
They’ve only used two first-round picks (Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr.) since 2009, and the one from that year, Jordan Hill, was traded just months into the season. Danilo Gallinari, their 2008 pick, and Wilson Chandler, a 2007 pick (acquired from the Bulls), were sent to Denver in the Anthony trade.
Their 2005 picks were Channing Frye and David Lee. They also acquired Nate Robinson in a draft day trade.
From the not-sweet knees of Stoudemire, we move to Michael Sweetney, the Knicks' 2003 pick, who was traded to the Bulls in the infamous Eddy Curry trade.
In 2000 they drafted Donnell Harvery, who was traded to the Dallas Mavericks on draft night.
And in all the years not mentioned, the Knicks traded away their first-round pick before the draft was even held.
In all, this millennium, the Knicks have had three players, Robinson, Lee and Chandler, whom they drafted or acquired on the day they were drafted who have played more than 200 games with the team. Suffice to say, they have not built from within. None of them are still with the team.
The Knicks have had six years where they didn’t have a pick at all or dealt them away on draft night. And, with the exception of Anthony, none of the players they traded for with those picks are presently on the roster.
So, from their entire draft history over the last 13 drafts, they have Anthony, Shumpert and Hardaway to show for it.
They’ve constantly tried to out-clever themselves and consistently come up short. All their wheeling and dealing has earned them the sixth-worst record in the NBA since 2001. They’ve made the postseason just five times and to the second round just once.
They are faced with the very real chance of the greatest face slap of all this summer. At present, they have the eighth-worst record in the league, which if that holds, gives them a 10 percent chance of having their ball chosen with one of the coveted top three picks.
Nothing says mismanagement like being bad enough to win the lottery, but not smart enough to hold onto the pick when you do.
You can’t build a house with the roof first. You have to start with a foundation.
Go through the teams who have won titles in recent years: The Miami Heat have Dwyane Wade; the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant; the Boston Celtics, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo; the San Antonio Spurs, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili; the Detroit Pistons, Ben Wallace and Richard Hamilton; the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, and so on and so on.
Perhaps you can win a ‘ship without a homegrown star, but it’s never been done. You need picks, and the Knicks don’t have any. Perhaps a decade-plus of failure isn’t enough to convince them, but it should be.
Getting multiple first-round picks gives them a chance for a fresh start, and the chance to show they’ve learned from their mistakes.
If the reports by Marc Berman of the New York Post that Anthony might leave the Knicks anyway are true, they have literally nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Why wouldn’t the Knicks Do This?
There are a few reasons the Knicks might give pause to this, but they distill down to two: Carlos Boozer has a bad contract (and it’s not like they need another overpaid power forward), and there’s hope that Anthony may stay.
Yes, they have one year of a bad Boozer contract to absorb, but if Anthony isn’t there, and with Stoudemire on the books, they aren’t going anywhere next year anyway. Is it worth renewing his contract when they can get something for him?
Better to actually sit on that contract, and when both Boozer’s and Stoudemire’s contracts expire in 2015, they’d have money to burn.
Then, what if James doesn’t opt out of his contract this year, and stays with the Miami Heat for one more season? They’d have this charming young nucleus in Shumpert and Hardaway, a bag of first-round picks, and a ton of money to offer James, with enough left over for him to bring one of his buddies with him.
Take one step back? Sure. But, that year is the year the Knicks get to keep their own pick, so bad could be good.
Add two elite free agents, a high-level pick, an abundance of young talent, and in 2015 they’re taking a lot more than two steps forward.
Why Would the Bulls Do This?
The Bulls are on the opposite side of the coin from the Knicks. They’ve had a history of keeping and cultivating their own players. In Kirk Hinrich’s case, they even bring them back. Compared to the Knicks' three drafted players who have played 200 games since 2000, the Bulls have 14.
They have a history of building their core through the draft. Their problem has been acquiring players outside of it. They have just one free-agent acquisition, Carlos Boozer, in that same span with at least 15 win shares in his Bulls’ career.
It says a lot that the best free-agent singing they’ve had is regarded as an utter failure by many Bulls fans.
Championship teams have a long history of home-grown stars, but they also have a long history of acquired stars. The recent Lakers also had Pau Gasol, the earlier version had Shaquille O’Neal. The Celtics had Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. The Miami Heat have LeBron James and Chris Bosh. The Pistons had Rasheed Wallace. The Bulls had Dennis Rodman in their second three-peat.
There are exceptions to this rule, and it’s been more of a rule since salary caps made free agent movement more commonplace, but it’s generally been true. Of late, the Spurs have been more the exception than the rule.
The Chicago Bulls need that “second star,” and Anthony is clearly a star. He’s a six-time All-NBA player (second team twice and third team four times), and a six-time All-Star. He’s the reigning scoring champion.
Pairing up Anthony with Rose could potentially provide an explosive tandem. Per the Basketball-Reference Game Finder, Anthony is 253-225 (.529) in his career with 3 or fewer dimes and 189-82 (.697) with four or more. When he’s a willing passer, he’s a winner.
Rose, perhaps surprisingly, was Chicago’s best catch-and-shoot player before he went down with injury, with a 58.8 percent effective field-goal percentage. Meanwhile Anthony isn’t too shabby either at 59.8 percent.
That would sit well with the idea of Anthony feeding Rose, and vice versa.
Both are ball-dominant players, but they are more efficient playing off the ball. If they can both couple their shot-creating abilities with a willingness to pass to the other, the Bulls could be an extremely difficult team to guard, especially when you throw in the shooting abilities of Mike Dunleavy Jr., Tony Snell and (potentially) Nikola Mirotic.
This, all backed up with the defensive system of Tom Thibodeau and Joakim Noah, could (a very important word there) mean a championship team.
Why Wouldn’t the Bulls Do This?
All that said, the Bulls have ample reason for second thoughts about making such a move. For all his scoring prowess, Anthony has not had a tremendous degree of postseason success himself.
While he’s made it to the playoffs every year of his career, he’s made it to the conference finals just one time, and to the second round only twice in 10 tries. While he’s personally averaged 25.7 points, those have come on 21.4 attempts, with him shooting 43.5 percent from two and 32 percent from three.
Some might say he hasn’t had more success because he hasn’t had help, and there may be some validity to that. The year he made it to the conference finals, he had Chauncey Billups contributing 20.6 points and 6.8 assists in the playoffs. When he had help, he went deeper.
Still, Anthony will turn 30 this year, and he may be looking for a four-year max contract. Adding a second max deal (which would be in the range of $20 million per year) for an aging player who hasn’t shown postseason success to Rose’s max deal could prove disastrous, particularly if they’ve dealt all their future young assets to get him. That’s even truer if Rose’s injury problems aren’t resolved.
The Bulls would be stuck with two players sucking up most of their cap space and not giving comparable value, and they’d have little flexibility to work around them.
The flip side of that argument is that Anthony may be ready to embrace coaching to win a title. He’s on record as naming Thibodeau as a coach he has respect for. If he were to let Thibodeau round off his rough edges, he could be the key to winning a title, but there are no assurances.
The other thing that might give the Bulls serious pause is the potential availability of LeBron James, though they aren’t getting James or Anthony without a trade. The money is just not there.
Either team would hem and haw over this trade idea—there are legitimate reasons on both sides to accept it or dismiss it—but it realistically could prove to be a win-win trade. One team, the Knicks, gets the foundation they need. The other, the Bulls, raise their ceiling.
Ultimately it would hinge on two things: Anthony’s likelihood of leaving as far as the Knicks are concerned. His willingness to be coached would be the Bulls' worry. If both those things are answered in the affirmative, it makes sense on both ends.
Particularly for Chicago, it’s a high-risk, high-reward scenario, but perhaps it’s time for that. If they feel that the Thibodeau-Anthony dynamic (even more than the Rose-Anthony dynamic) could work, they should make the offer.