Golden State Warriors Are Perfect Dark Horse for Carmelo Anthony Trade

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Golden State Warriors Are Perfect Dark Horse for Carmelo Anthony Trade
USA TODAY Sports

On most days, New York Knicks owner James Dolan appears more likely to sprout indestructible wings that allow him to orbit the Earth in ubiquitous fashion than he does to trade Carmelo Anthony.

That's just how it is in New York, where the slumping Knicks continue to reach new levels of rock bottom and ignorance. Not even a 20-32 record has been enough to convince them Anthony is a legitimate flight risk this summer, with a source telling Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears there's "no chance" they trade him by the NBA's Feb. 20 deadline.

Sudden turnarounds, however, aren't unheard of in the Big Apple. Dolan and his brain trust could change their minds and decide to shop Anthony, opting for controlled demolition over caustic uncertainty.

Should they attempt to go that route, plenty of teams will enter the mix, one of which could be the Golden State Warriors, who may be able to offer just what the Knicks want in exchange for what they need.

  

Why 'Melo?

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Bringing in Anthony would give the Warriors one more superstar mouth to feed, a risky move considering how much rising and established star power they already have. But bold moves are necessary for the type of change they need.

The Warriors play in a relentlessly competitive Western Conference. Pinning themselves to a bottom-three playoff spot isn't going to help this team. They didn't forfeit draft picks and spend money on Andre Iguodala to maintain the status quo or drop in the standings.

This team wants to win now. And like Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley writes, the Dubs' owner and fanbase want to win now, too:

The Golden State Warriors are staring at one of the game's most ghastly combinations: title hopes and a second-round ceiling.

The Dubs have a success-starved fanbase, a dream-big front office and a win-now payroll. The only thing missing is a championship-caliber roster.

This team needs a splash, and not the kind Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson can provide.

With internal pressure peaking, it's time to seek out external assistance. Significant external assistance.

Buckley's analysis is swift and unforgiving, cutting to the core—just like the Western Conference itself. More importantly, it's irrevocably true.

Standing pat won't do much in the way of championship hopes. The best Golden State could hope for is another Cinderella-esque run that expires in the second round. Joseph Lacob isn't footing a near-luxury-tax-threshold-crossing roster for a second-round exit—or for the Warriors to be considered underdogs, for that matter.

Low-budget, low-risk, under-the-radar transactions are no longer an option. Jordan Crawford represented the last of potential safe moves. It's time to for the Warriors to do something bigger and better and, yes, more dangerous.

Like making a run at Anthony.

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These two make for a good match.

Having done all he can to rescue a Knicks team that doesn't seem open to being saved, Anthony is the perfect addition to a Golden State team actually capable of taking the next step. While he will be a free agent this summer and is unlikely to guarantee anything beyond this season, the Warriors would have the market and money on their side.

Dealing for Anthony allows them to offer him one year and $30-plus million more than any other team. Interest in Anthony from other organizations won't be too aggressive either. Not many teams have the cap space necessary to offer him a max contract, and even fewer play in a market up to his standards.

Oakland isn't a gigantic market by any means, but it consists of fiercely loyal fans and a rocking arena that shakes with each made shot by the home team. The Warriors also have the superstar point guard (Curry) Anthony has never had and so desperately needs.

With the Warriors in need of making a move and Anthony in need of playing for a team with credible title hopes, this is one of the better matches out there.

 

The Potential Trade

Noah Graham/Getty Images

Unlike most teams approaching the luxury-tax line, Golden State has the assets necessary to make a splash, most of which aren't untouchable.

"Rival executives are of the belief that anyone not named Stephen Curry or Andrew Bogut is up for discussion," writes USA Today's Sam Amick

Working against the Warriors is a shallow pool of draft picks. They cannot offer New York a 2014 first-rounder after trading it to the Utah Jazz. Their 2017 first-round pick belongs to Utah too, so they cannot include a first-rounder earlier than 2019.

Providing the Knicks with valuable young assets is something they can do. Armed with players like Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson—who we are led to believe aren't untouchable—are good foundations for any blockbuster trade.

Something like this, with Golden State's 2019 first-rounder headed to New York, gives us a starting point to nosh on:

 

Why Golden State Does It

Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

Assuming the Warriors are confident in their ability to sign 'Melo, this is a fair price.

Thompson is a coveted asset and one of the best two-way shooting guards in the NBA, someone the Warriors would presumably keep over Barnes. But by including Lee, this deal lacks the financial relief New York would want. Making up for that would demand the Warriors part with Thompson.

Iman Shumpert, while inconsistent, is also a solid replacement for Thompson on the defensive end. He's still an erratic three-point shooter and scorer in general, but he gives the Warriors a solid rotation guy who can start right away.

The bigger issue here is the luxury tax. The Warriors are roughly $2.5 million under the threshold right now. Pulling the trigger on this deal forces them to cut into one of their many trade exceptions, putting them well over the line no NBA team wants to cross.

At the same time, it's one Lacob told Sporting News' Sean Deveney he's willing to cross:

I don’t want to pay the luxury tax, nobody wants to. That’s why it is a luxury tax, it is very punitive. But if it means winning vs. not winning, I choose winning. So that’s not an issue. At the end of the day, all the things we are talking about are important, but the fans care about one thing: Are you winning? Not the luxury tax. If I am not here to win, then I shouldn’t be here.

Paying into the luxury tax shouldn't be an issue, not with Lacob constantly assuming the "whatever-it-takes" stance in his approach to winning.

That brings us to the next conflict: Do the Warriors give up Lee?

Absolutely.

Most of Golden State's playoff run last season took place without Lee while it was running small and spreading the floor. As a two-time All-Star, diligent worker and double-double machine, it's an insult to call him expendable. And really, he's not expendable.

According to NBA.com (subscription required), Golden State's offense is 13.1 points per 100 possessions better, and its defense is 4.7 points better, with him on the floor. There's value in having him aboard.

But as ESPN's Ethan Strauss wrote in December, Golden State may have outgrown him:

The ensuing Warriors playoff upset made Lee look like a role player at best and an accidental saboteur at worst. Golden State played a breathtaking style of spreading four 3-point shooters around Andrew Bogut and bombing away. It harked back to fond We Believe memories of the past while offering a glimpse into a brighter Warriors future.

[...]

Lee was crucial in getting the Warriors their first playoff berth in seven seasons. He helped carry Golden State across the bridge from mediocrity to competence. And now that the fans have had a taste of success, they crave a place beyond where Lee can take them.

Lee remains a vital part of what Golden State does—something Strauss himself acknowledges—but what Golden State does isn't necessarily what it needs to do anymore. What the Warriors have has allowed them to contend for a No. 6 seed. That's nothing.

Matchups are everything come playoff time. Using Anthony at the 4 makes the Warriors a tougher cover. He spaces the floor and is shooting a career-high 41.6 percent from deep. Anthony is also burying 46.2 percent of his spot-up treys on the season, according to Synergy Sports (subscription required), diminishing the need for him to constantly be on the ball. 

Improving his standstill shooting allows him to slide rather seamlessly next to Stephen Curry, who aside from being a three-point connoisseur himself, has mastered the art of sucking in defenses before kicking the rock back out.

Is this experiment guaranteed to work? No, but again, what's happening for the Warriors now still hasn't put them where they need to be. Something needs to change.

 

Why New York Does It

 

Noah Graham/Getty Images

New York's financial state doesn't improve much by dealing Anthony to Golden State, but it isn't compromised either. 

The Knicks would still have some financial flexibility come 2015, when J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton and Lee would all be on expiring contracts. That's assuming Smith and Felton even exercise their player options. If they don't, that leaves the Knicks with just Lee, who could still be playing at a high level.

Depending on what the Knicks would pay to retain Thompson, who is eligible for an extension after this season, they can still chase one of the free-agent stars projected to be available in 2015, like Rajon Rondo.

Alex Trautwig/Getty Images
A 2015 spending spree is still possible after this deal.

Immediately, this is a deal that also keeps the Knicks competitive. Their front line becomes crowded with Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Tyson Chandler and Lee all on the books for 2014-15, but it's manageable for now, especially with "Bargs" on the shelf.

Next season is when the Knicks would worry about clearing up the logjam. Bargs, Chandler and "STAT" would all be on expiring contracts and presumably easy to move. The Knicks would also have young assets like Thompson and Tim Hardaway to pair with any of those deals in a bigger blockbuster.

Whatever the case, the Knicks would have options. Taking back Lee's contract wouldn't be ideal, but if they're both looking to remain competitive and secure an asset like Thompson, and that 2019 first-rounder, this would be an avenue worth exploring.

 

Improbable, Not Impossible

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Anthony mostly likely isn't going to the Warriors, or anywhere else. The Knicks aren't expected to move him, with Dolan seemingly prepared to sink, swim or descend into the depths of hell with Anthony.

Which team would win a potential Carmelo Anthony trade?

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What we know doesn't matter here, though. It's all pure conjecture. But there are grounds to this theory's existence.

The Knicks have reasons to trade Anthony whether they admit it or not; the Warriors have reason enough to trade for him if they're interested in running small.

And both teams have enough reasons to explore what could be a rare, balanced blockbuster capable of benefiting all parties involved.

 

*Salary information via ShamSports.com unless otherwise noted.


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