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Wednesday NBA Roundup: Clippers Should Stay Far Away from Carmelo Anthony Trade

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 8:  Blake Griffin #32 of the LA Clippers handles the ball against Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks during the game on February 8, 2017 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 9, 2017

Mountains of complicated logistics and prohibitive financial realities obstruct any trade sending Carmelo Anthony to the Los Angles Clippers.

But what if they didn't?

Pretend Melo's no-trade clause isn't an issue. Imagine the Clips are willing to move Blake Griffin (the only way this deal gets done, as Andrew Lynch shrewdly explained for Fox Sports), and further imagine the New York Knicks are happy enough getting away from Anthony's onerous contract to risk losing Griffin for nothing when he opts out this summer.

Dispense with the "could it happen?" aspects and ponder whether it should.

In short, little of what we saw during the Clippers' 119-115 win over the Knicks made a Melo-for-Griffin swap seem sensible. Anthony finished with 28 points on 10-of-20 shooting but was as culpable as any player on either team for the lack of defense played. New York shot an even 50 percent from the field, while L.A. knocked down 48.9 percent of its attempts in a stop-free affair.

Melo flashed his typical shot-creation prowess, with some instances standing out as more spectacular than others:

But he registered one assist and couldn't prevent New York from squandering a double-digit lead.

Griffin, meanwhile, scored 18 of his game-high 32 in the first quarter and added five assists. His playmaking was more dynamic, his impact more complete.

Watching that, it was difficult to conclude Anthony would amount to a net gain for the Clips—even on offense. Griffin is the superior player, even if we sometimes tire of the way he and DeAndre Jordan don't seem to maximize one another's skills.

Griffin's Real Plus-Minus of plus-2.41 ranks 38th in the league, per ESPN.com, while Anthony sits at No. 121—notably featuring a negative Defensive RPM figure. Griffin is in positive territory on both ends.

Griffin is also younger, which means he's more likely to continue helping the Clippers in the future than Anthony, clearly on the decline.

It's true that Anthony would provide better offensive spacing than L.A.'s incumbent power forward. The areas of the floor he occupies and the skills he brings don't overlap with Jordan's to the extent Griffin's do. And maybe his friendship with Chris Paul would increase the likelihood of CP3 extending his stay in Los Angeles with a new contract this summer.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 11:  Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers and Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks shake hands after the game on March 11, 2016 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and a
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

In his on-air interview following the first quarter, head coach Doc Rivers lamented his team's failure to prevent points. The Clippers have finished no lower than sixth in offensive efficiency every season since 2011-12. Scoring isn't their problem.

A middle-of-the-pack defensive team, the Clippers, as always, need a three-and-D role-playing wing on a cheap contract. That's not what Anthony is.

Let's also remember that Los Angeles plays like a legitimate title contender whenever its three best players are healthy. In 749 minutes together this year, Paul, Griffin and Jordan have produced a plus-15.1 net rating—higher than that of the league-leading Golden State Warriors. There's nothing broken there that needs fixing.

SACRAMENTO, CA - NOVEMBER 18: Chris Paul #3, DeAndre Jordan #6 and Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers stand during the national anthem of the game against the Sacramento Kings on November 18, 2016 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. N
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Speaking of the Warriors, their dominance alters the landscape for potential contenders. Every West team with serious plans to do anything in the short term has to equip itself to at least bother the league's best club. At this point, it's unclear how Anthony gives L.A. any advantages Griffin doesn't.

If adding Anthony doesn't make the Clips significantly better right now and doesn't extend this tiny window of contention any longer, what's the point?

It should go without saying that New York should bend over backward to make this unlikely move happen. Griffin and Kristaps Porzingis make sense together, and moving on from Anthony—for virtually any return—has its merits as a cleanser.

Maybe that's why Knicks president Phil Jackson seems hellbent on alienating Melo, on driving him out via subtweets and media shade. But given the circumstances, trading Anthony at all (let alone for a superstar return) will be exceptionally tough.

There are more direct ways to say this:

 

The Clippers can get Carmelo Anthony if they want him.

At the risk of oversimplifying, they shouldn't want him.

 

The Cavaliers Reject Your Quaint Narratives

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 8: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket against the Indiana Pacers on February 8, 2017 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

Two-month home winning streak by the Washington Wizards: broken.

Seven-game run by the Indiana Pacers: halted.

Any shred of panic regarding the Cleveland Cavaliers' primacy in the Eastern Conference: dispatched.

The Cavs used a 40-18 third-quarter surge to erase a double-digit deficit and rolled to a 132-117 win on the road in Indy, proving yet again that our best efforts to concoct in-conference suspense will always fail.

LeBron James scored 25 points and handed out nine assists, while both Kyrie Irving and Kyle Korver tallied 29 points. Korver needed just 12 field-goal attempts to get his total, which was his highest since 2007.

At various points, we've tried to paint the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, Wizards and Pacers as intriguing challengers. And it's true that all of those clubs have had their moments this season.

But whenever they've needed to, the Cavs have rudely dismissed their challengers.

In closing, a metaphor:

 

The Spurs Travel Well

It can be hard to appreciate the San Antonio Spurs sometimes. We've grown numb to their greatness, and the only thing more boring than harping on the excellence of the same team every year is pointing out how we don't harp on that excellence enough.

But, come on, this is ridiculous:

San Antonio got 32 points from Kawhi Leonard and mustered some offensive continuity in a decisive fourth-quarter run to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 111-103.

But back to the bigger picture. You're not supposed to win on the road. It's hard. You sleep in hotels and have jet lag and contend with mildewy visiting locker rooms.

The Spurs don't care. They haven't cared for two decades.

 

Quin Snyder Isn't Blowing Smoke

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Head coach Quin Snyder of the Utah Jazz paces the sidelines as his team plays the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on January 24, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloadi
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

It always sounds a little like coachspeak when Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder says things like this.

"We’re a long way away from being at the level that we want to be at," he told reporters before the Jazz buried the New Orleans Pelicans 127-94 on Wednesday. "It’s just not where we are. We haven’t been there yet. We’ve been there in a few spurts, but we’ve got work to do. We can pat ourselves on the back for about five seconds, then it’s time to try to keep going."

The Jazz are already a terrific team. At 34-19, they're sitting comfortably in the West's No. 4 spot. But maybe he's not just keeping his team's ego in check.

Utah has now scored at least 120 points in its last two games after doing it once in its first 51. Winners of four straight, the Jazz have their offensive rating all the way up to ninth in the league—a figure that could improve as the constantly injury-hit team gets more comfortable playing with a nearly full roster (Rodney Hood is still out).

With a defense that ranks third, Utah's floor will always be high. Rudy Gobert—who posted 10 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks in the blowout win—basically ensures elite stopping power. But now that the offense is coming around, the Jazz's ceiling might be as high as Snyder's comments suggest.

 

The Lance Stephenson Era Begins

May it be bountiful.

The Minnesota Timberwolves got a combined 60 points from Andrew Wiggins (31) and Karl-Anthony Towns (29) to knock off the visiting Toronto Raptors 112-109, which means Lance Stephenson is undefeated with his new team.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau was measured in his comments to reporters on Stephenson's 20-minute, six-point debut:

Shabazz Muhammad scored 22 points off the bench, so it's not as though Stephenson will be counted on as the sole slack picker-upper for Zach Lavine, who's out for the season with a torn ACL. But it sure looks like Stephenson will have a role as Minnesota tries to distinguish itself in the race for No. 8 out West.

 

There Is Nothing Good in the World

A night in which Khris Middleton returns to the floor and Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks his own off-the-backboard pass shouldn't be profoundly depressing.

But when Jabari Parker's left knee buckled during the Bucks' 106-88 loss to the Miami Heat, there was no other way to feel.

Parker, averaging just over 20 points per game in his breakout third season, overcame a torn left ACL in his rookie year. The Bucks are calling this a sprain for now, but it's hard to view the clip of Parker's first major knee injury without noticing the similarities.

Fingers crossed for one of the league's brightest young stars.

And hey, shoutout to the indomitable Heat, who won their 12th straight game despite Dion Waiters' absence. Hassan Whiteside scored 23 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.

 

The Knicks Are Never Boring

You didn't think we'd get through this roundup without hitting the wildest moment of the night, did you?

Here's Charles Oakley getting into a fight with Knicks security before ultimately being led out of the stands and arrested by the NYPD:

Oakley, a former Knick beloved by fans but ostracized by the organization, was reportedly shouting at owner James Dolan, per Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. Afterward, the Knicks got out ahead of the spin, wishing Oakley well, which is an odd stance for an organization that has effectively cut ties with him for the last decade.

Knicks gonna Knick.

 

Cauley-Stein Elevates

Willie Cauley-Stein contributed 14 points, five rebounds and four assists in a shocking 108-92 win against the Boston Celtics, helping the Sacramento Kings survive DeMarcus Cousins' one-game suspension.

And if this is the kind of thing we're going to see from Cauley-Stein whenever Cousins isn't around, maybe we should root for a few more technical fouls on the Kings All-Star:

Cauley-Stein has gradually established himself in Sacramento's rotation this season, but it's fair to call this game (and that highlight) an apex.

Never try to understand the Kings. Their homestand so far has consisted of losses to the Phoenix Suns and Chicago Bulls along with wins over the Golden State Warriors and Celtics.

 

Wednesday's Final Scores

  • Cleveland Cavaliers 132, Indiana Pacers 117
  • San Antonio Spurs 111, Philadelphia 76ers 103
  • Atlanta Hawks 117, Denver Nuggets 106
  • Utah Jazz 127, New Orleans Pelicans 94
  • Detroit Pistons 121, Los Angeles Lakers 102
  • Washington Wizards 114, Brooklyn Nets 110
  • Minnesota Timberwolves 112, Toronto Raptors 109
  • Miami Heat 106, Milwaukee Bucks 88
  • Los Angeles Clippers 119, New York Knicks 115
  • Memphis Grizzlies 110, Phoenix Suns 91
  • Sacramento Kings 108, Boston Celtics 92
  • Golden State Warriors 123, Chicago Bulls 92

 

Follow Grant on Twitter @gt_hughes and Facebook.

Stats courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated. Accurate through games played Wednesday.

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