Let's play a simple game. Which starting lineup is the best?
1. Ray Felton, Landry Fields, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Amar'e Stoudemire: Sixth Man: Toney Douglas.
2. Ray Felton, Landry Fields or Wilson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Ronny Turiaf. Sixth Man: Toney Douglas.
3a. Ray Felton, Landry Fields, Carmelo Anthony, Danilo Gallinari, Amar'e Stoudemire. Sixth Man: Wilson Chandler.
3b. Ray Felton, Wilson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, Danilo Gallinari, Amar'e Stoudemire. Sixth Man: Landry Fields.
The obvious answer is 3a or 3b.
The Knicks, as presently constituted, are an above-average to good team. They will certainly make the playoffs in a top-heavy East, and can conceivably win a first round series so long as it's not against the top three Eastern Conference teams. That's it.
The Knicks' ceiling, however, doesn't change much by mortgaging some younger players to get Carmelo Anthony. In order for the Knicks to get Carmelo, two of the 23-and-under trio of Fields, Chandler and Gallinari will probably need to be moved, unless the Denver Nuggets get desperate and trade Carmelo for 25 cents on the dollar at the trade deadline.
Do you want the Knicks to trade Fields right now, who is leading the team in plus-minus and hustle plays? Do you want the Knicks to trade the versatile Chandler, who electrified the MSG crowd with his dunks last night and is improving his three-point shot with every game? Do you want the Knicks to trade Danilo Gallinari, who can shoot a three-pointer over anybody in the league?
If it means trading two of those players, of course not. Knicks GM Donnie Walsh can't mortgage the future of this team for the present, because Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Ray Felton, one of the above three and a couple of spare parts is not winning New York its first NBA title since 1973, let alone its first conference title since 1999.
Furthermore, how much do the Knicks really improve by replacing two of those players with Carmelo Anthony? Ultimately, Carmelo will give the Knicks close to 30 points a game, but he's merely replacing the point production two of those players give the team, and not offering much on defense.
Therefore, unless Donnie Walsh can low-ball Denver and convince them to take only one of that trio, combined with Eddy Curry and perhaps Anthony Randolph, the Knicks should stay put and wait for Carmelo to sign in the summer, which barring something cataclysmic, he will certainly do.
Although that aforementioned trio is certainly talented, and I am for waiting for Carmelo until the summer, I am fine with parting ways with one of those players because ultimately, it's very hard to see the Knicks keeping Fields, Gallinari and Chandler past next season if Carmelo Anthony signs. Chandler and Gallinari become restricted free agents in 2011 and 2012, respectively, and Fields is an unrestricted free agent in 2012.
Do you think one of them wants be a sixth man when they can be starters elsewhere after one (in Chandler's case) or two more years of continued improvement? Probably not.
Ultimately, teams win championships by being well-rounded with multiple players fulfilling their individual roles. The Knicks need another 25-plus point scorer in Carmelo Anthony, but they also need more size and defense down low and from the perimeter. A backup point guard wouldn't hurt, either.
New York wasn't winning that game last night even if we just replaced Chandler with Anthony. By then giving away two of those three younger pieces I spoke of earlier, Walsh would simply be creating more holes for him to fill. Anthony can only offer the team so much.
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