Should the New York Knicks Wait for Carmelo Anthony or Try To Win Now?

Mark BirdsellContributor IIIDecember 4, 2010

PHOENIX - NOVEMBER 15:  Carmelo Anthony #15 of the Denver Nuggets during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on November 15, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Nuggets 100-94.  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.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The New York Knicks don’t look like they are going to be making their first NBA Finals appearance since 1999 this year.  However, for the first time in a long time, the Knicks look more then capable of competing for a playoff spot.

Donnie Walsh didn’t make as big of a splash this summer as anticipated, signing Amare Stoudemire and Raymond Felton instead of LeBron James or Dwayne Wade, but the team is playing solid basketball.

Stoudemire and Felton have developed good chemistry on the court.  While they may not be as potent of a pick-and-roll combo as Amare and Steve Nash, this team is coming together and starting to win games.

Anthony Randolph looks more and more like he will never reach the much hyped “potential.”  However, Landry Fields appears to be the steal of the draft.

The future of the Knicks looks more promising then ever.  And moving forward Walsh has a number of decisions to make.

Ever since Carmelo Anthony’s wedding this summer, the Internet has been a buzz about the possibility of Chris Paul and Anthony joining Amare in New York.  That is easier said than done.

Paul is under contract until 2012 and the New Orleans Hornets are playing great basketball.  Newly-minted Hornets GM Dell Demps would be crazy to move Paul anytime soon.

Anthony is a different story.  His contract is up at the end of the season.  He has refused to sign a $65 million contract extension with the Denver Nuggets.  Finally, he was born in Brooklyn and is widely rumored to want to join the Knicks.

The problem comes with the uncertainty of the new collective bargaining agreement.  The owners are attempting to lower the current salary cap and lower the players' contracts. 

Under the current CBA rules, the Knicks would have enough cap space next summer to offer Melo a maximum contract.  The contracts of both Eddy Curry and Kelenna Azubuike expire at the end of this season, eliminating almost $15 million in payroll.

A player of Carmelo Anthony’s experience is entitled to a new contract worth the greater of either 30 percent of the salary cap or 105 percent of his previous year’s contract.  Assuming the salary cap were increased to $60 million, the first year of Melo’s new contract under either calculation would be approximately $18 million.

However, the Knicks won’t be operating under the old CBA and no one knows what the new CBA will hold.  Therefore, the question becomes do the Knicks roll the dice and hope that Melo lets his current contract expire and that he will join New York in the offseason, or should Donnie Walsh be proactive and try to make a trade?

In the current NBA landscape expiring contracts and trade exceptions are valuable tools in improving a team.  For the first time since Eddy Curry signed his six year, $60 million contract, he has trade value.  Not because of Curry’s play on the court, but because he has an $11 million expiring contract.  This could easily be turned into some assets for the Knicks.

A couple possible trade scenarios, these are completely hypothetical, but work salary-wise would be Curry to the Atlanta Hawks for Josh Smith straight-up.  Another possibility would be a three-team deal between the Knicks, Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies.  The Knicks get O.J. Mayo and Marvin Williams, the Hawks get Curry and the Grizzlies get Bibby.

Either one of these trades make sense. 

The first scenario works because the Hawks may not be able to afford to keep Smith after giving both Al Horford and Joe Johnson contract extensions.

The other proposed trade makes sense for the Hawks because coach Larry Drew is a big fan of Jeff Teague, which makes Bibby expendable and management has been rumored to be trying to move Williams. 

The Grizzlies recently moved Mayo to the bench in favor of rookie Xavier Henry and they receive a veteran point guard who is more capable of running the team then Mike Conley.

Finally, the Knicks get Mayo and Williams, two young talented players, in exchange for Curry’s expiring contract.

While it is true acquiring any of these players is not as flashy as Carmelo Anthony.  However, with all of the uncertainty surrounding the current NBA landscape and after the disappointing summer Walsh might try to go with the safe move now instead of the unknown later.

I don’t know if the current trend of “Super Teams” will continue.  At this point in time the Miami Heat haven’t been dominating the NBA, but that won’t necessarily deter other superstars from teaming up together.

Melo and Amare would team up to be one of best tandems in the league.  The question becomes at what point in time does Donnie Walsh stop looking toward the future and start trying to win now?