The New York Knicks have been in the middle of trade talk and the the free agency discussion for the last two years. They swept payroll off the books and currently have one of the lowest payrolls in the league.
The trouble for the Knicks now is that the team has some excellent young talent, that it would prefer not to part ways with and the club is performing better than many expected at the start of the season.
This is in great part due to the fantastic performance of Amare Stoudemire and the career year that Raymond Felton is having.
So, what do they do now?
The few people who do not presently live under rocks are completely aware that the Knicks have a keen interested in acquiring Carmelo Anthony from the Nuggets.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets, Nets and it seems like some agents are pushing for Carmelo to accept the trade to Nets and allow the story to end there.
The Nets have a good package to offer Denver and are willing to completely deplete their roster to get this done. For Carmelo Anthony, the only reason for him to sign that deal would be guaranteed money before the CBA. But, why should he rush?
The trade deadline approaching and the Knicks should be putting some other irons in the fire. They actually have a pretty good package to offer for Anthony, if they are willing to part with a few pieces of their young talent.
Because they do not have any draft picks, the Nuggets might be the team to drag their feet–and obviously have been.
Here are a few conditions that I have been thinking over the last couple of days.
Carmelo Anthony might get cold feet and make a terrible decision and sign with the Nets.
The Denver Nuggets are at risk of getting nothing for Carmelo Anthony, if he stays strong.
The Knicks are a decent team.
The Knicks desperately need a real center to get to the Conference Finals.
The Knicks need a shooting guard and backup point guard.
The Knicks need defenders.
The Knicks have the huge $11M expiring contract of Eddy Curry to offer.
Several teams in the league that are out of contention need to focus on salary reduction.
If Carmelo Anthony signs with the Nets, then the Knicks just have to move on. There a millions of dollars of incentive for Carmelo to sign and he might, if Denver holds to its guns and pursues only the best possible offer and they might just do that. The Nets can offer draft picks, and that is very attractive.
The Denver Nuggets are not doing any thing to suggest that they desire to be a winning ball club in the next three years without Carmelo Anthony.
This is in large part due to the impending collective bargaining agreement negotiations. So there is considerable pressure on Carmelo and his agents, who have interests of there own and benefit more from a larger contract signing.
The Knicks should be moving on a Plan A and a Plan B–and whether Melo is Plan A or B is hard to determine right now, because the Knicks are playing good basketball with a comparatively small payroll that will get significantly smaller when Curry's contract expires.
(The Knicks have seven contributing players who combined make less than Curry, who does not play at all.)
The Nuggets are basically trying to make this their version of the Dallas Cowboys Herschel Walker trade. Being that not everyone in the NBA can be like the Lakers or Boston Celtics and Pau Gasol's and Kevin Garnett's from former franchise member for the equivalent of peanuts and a nod.
The Nuggets are a terrible team to negotiate a trade with for three reasons:
The Nuggets are Not Trying to Win Now.
The Nuggets are about to Shed a Ton of Payroll Costs.
The Nuggets are Definitely Not Trying to Win Now.
Assuming Carmelo leaves, this is a team that has about to shed a ton of payroll at the end of this season regardless of what happens. Kenyon Martin, Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, and Chauncey Billups, have a combined $62M in salary, of which only about 4 million of which is guaranteed to Billups next year.
The Nuggets without Anthony have no reason to re-sign any of them. So I figure the Nuggets are about to shed $58M in expenses, if they do nothing at all. As a result, they can afford to be greedy.
The biggest reason (emphasized by 1 & 3) the Nuggets are a terrible team to negotiate with is that their primary goal for next year is not related to the win/loss column or box scores for basketball games.
They are going to be in a planned rebuild mode, as opposed to a rebuild forced on them by injury. And, they know there will be a slew of free agents coming into the market in the next three years.
So, the Nuggets are saying "No" to the team that has "birds in the hand" (NY) and holding out to make a deal with a team that has "birds in the bush" (NJ) to offer. The real "bird in the hand" that New York has is Carmelo Anthony's clear desire to sign with them.
Their management has a lot of confidence in their ability to draft, but their roster shows that they got to winning through trade and a lucky lottery ball. (LeBron was off the board and Detroit drafted Darko so it was really, really easy for them.) Their confidence in being able to build buy picks seems unjustified–unless they are early picks.
The only reason for the Nuggets to participate in a trade is to get assets that will have value three years from now and to attempt to shed any excess salary that they can in the meantime. This is why Al Harrington and Chauncey Billups get packaged into trades.
(Al Harrington's contract is not that bad, but Denver does not expect to be a contending ball club during the duration of it, so why keep him when you can pay someone else half as much to join them in the long wait for the return of prosperous times?)
Are the Nuggets just greedy?
The Nuggets would like to make a trade that gives them the most for the least and the only thing stopping them is Carmelo Anthony's fortitude. The Nuggets could care less where Carmelo ends up and it's all the better for them to send him to the Eastern Conference which will have a log jam of quality teams.
For the Nuggets it is best to send him NJ for the picks, but, if they wanted to win, they would be better off sending him to New York for the inexpensive and proven talent. Either way he is out of their backyard except for two games a year for the rest of his career.
They are better off trading him than they would be losing him, however, they are not exactly bad off if he just walks away. The Nuggets will still be able to field a team that can win a few games and will have very low costs.
The Nuggets are a little greedy, but this crisis represents to great of an opportunity for them.
The Knicks are a good ball club and could actually set themselves back for a season or two, if they play their cards wrong. Ideally, they would have liked to pick up there superstar in free agency and avoid all of this dancing to get the goods.
Unfortunately, the Knicks do not own any draft picks to trade or use for themselves. So, they they lack the right lubricant to make the trade slide down the throats of the the Nuggets management without giving up some of the other talent on the roster.
What is the Problem the Knicks have that the Nuggets Don't?
The problem the Knicks have is that they are way better than the Nets. The Nets would have trouble winning a high school championship, so why not blow up the roster for one player.
The Nets have the luxury of being able to offer up their first-born to get this trade to go through, because they are going nowhere fast. If only the Knicks, were so lucky. This would be easy.
Who knew Raymond Felton would play so well that people would stop talking about Chris Paul and Tony (“Yeah, I'm married to Eva Longoria, but I think your wife is HOT!”) Parker as the next piece needed in New York?
Did anyone expect Larry Fields to play this well for $473,000/year? Was Wilson Chandler expected to play this well this season? That Ronny Turiaf has played this well (though out of position) and earned his pay? That “The Rooster” would keep crowing?
Basically, the Knicks are doing well, so they are trying to act responsibly.
This is what makes the situation for the Knicks complicated. They do not need Carmelo as bad as they thought they did before the season started. I still think the should be willing to part with talent to get Anthony, because they do not need Gallinari, Chandler, and Fields (not all three), if they get a proven scorer and box office draw.
But, those guys are putting numbers in the box score at a discount low cost. So, those are the kind of players you like to keep around. Carmelo Anthony is still the sexy move and keeping what they have is the mundane.
The only guy they are overpaying this season is Eddy Curry. I feel bad for the guy, but it is true.
Opportunities Still Exist If The Knicks Want To Make A Move:
In any case, the Knicks can create other opportunities for growth by looking elsewhere, if they need to, and it is understandable that New York is having issues getting the parts together to make a trade happen.
Most of the players on their roster are outperforming the pay the receive, so trading them for some less valuable asset (Draft Picks) to be packaged up and sent out the door for a player that your team does not absolutely need is an intimidating proposition.
If it wasn't, then the Knicks would be trading for the draft picks outside of a three-team deal, because that may be their biggest need going forward.
The Knicks Need for a Center, Backup Point Guard, Shooting Guard, and Defenders.
The New York Knicks play in the Eastern Conference. The path to the Finals will be brutal and could make for some great series.
The cream of the crop in their neck of the woods is represented by the extremely deep and physical Boston Celtics, the dynamic and deep Chicago Bulls, the front-loaded Miami Heat, and the potential explosion that is the Orlando Magic.
New York right now is probably the fifth-best team in that conference and that is not because they are bad, it is because the teams ahead of them are that good. The Knicks will have to play two of those teams to make it to the Conference Finals.
With the exception of Miami, all of those teams have impressive front courts. Orlando has Dwight Howard and is the most problematic front court player any of the teams have; he makes up for the lack of depth his team has in the middle with his stellar play. The Knicks are completely over matched by Boston at most positions and certainly in depth
The same can be said when comparing them to Chicago. These are also good defensive teams that New York will be unable to run off the court and New York does not present a single significant match up problem to any of them, with the exception of Amare vs. the Miami Heat front court (the absence of Udonis Haslem will be felt in the post season) and possibly Amare vs. Orlando.
The Knicks as they are presently constructed will get bounced in the first round of the playoffs, barring a major upset. Orlando is the team they would have the best chance against and that would would be a high-scoring affair.
Any talent they trade to get to Carmelo Anthony has potential to set them back as they try to assemble a competitive roster. They are not one player away; they are several players away. Ronny Turiaf is a power forward playing the center position.
The Knicks need at least three of these four to get better: Center, Backup Point Guard, Defensive Shooting Guard, and Defenders. If they do not get three of those, they need another superstar type player to offset what they lack.
Because they either need to be able to say we can beat you down the stretch in close games or we can shut you down in close games. The superstar does the former and the role players do the latter.
The Eddy Curry contract could be the most valuable asset that the Knicks have. This contract screams salary relief to teams that are at the bottom of the league and lack either the talent of the market to go forward.
That contract could work to get assets from other clubs that need to shed salary or players that are taking up too much cap room for small market teams.
If they do nothing else with it, they should try to spend it on the Portland Trailblazers to get the rights to Greg Oden even if they take back a player. Yeah, it sounds absurd, but if Greg Oden can play at 80 percent of what it looked like he could be he would be worth having around. Plus, his contract is not guaranteed.
The Curry contract needs to be used; that's my basic point and, though Oden gets hurt each time he comes back, he looks tantalizing. Probably too high risk, but the Curry contract has to be used.
Teams like Charlotte:
The Charlotte Bobcats are an excellent example. If the rumors are true and Jordan has all of his players on the trading block in exchange for salary relief, then Stephen Jackson or Gerald Wallace can be had.
Jackson makes $19M+ the next two seasons and Wallace makes $21M+ and has another year coming over the next two years (and you should assume he will be exercising his player option.)
You know Jordan would love to get rid of Diop, but let's be honest. that is not going to happen. No one will buy that. The Diop contract places financial pressure on the Bobcats to get salary off the books.
That hideous contract for a player that severely under performs is the biggest problem the Bobcats have. The opportunity here is to get Jackson a veteran guard and proven scorer with only 3 year left on his contract.
Jackson is paid handsomely, but significantly less than lesser performing players (based on salaries as they are today).
New York could use a big guard for its matchup in the East and, if they are winning, will have the revenue to carry that salary for a couple years until something better comes along.
Gerald Wallace is a similar case–but what he brings is defense. Jackson might be better, because guard is more of an issue than forward (though Wallace can play both).
So Charlotte should be interesting to them, Because either of these players can create the condition for the Curry contract to be absorbed by Charlotte or a third team (such as Denver).
Teams Like Memphis:
Memphis is a team that is not in need of the salary relief, but signed two really stupid contracts (given their market size and revenue). Mike Conley and Rudy Gay are paid basically until the end of time and both are paid too much.
Not as bad as the Elton Brand contract, Iguadola contract, Arenas contract, Rashard Lewis contract, or the Curry contract, but definitely "We Just Maxed Out Joe Johnson" bad. Well, they do need salary relief, but they are stuck with most of what they have.
Unless you are an elite team, one of them has to go. But, the recent developments with O.J. Mayo are intriguing. New York could acquire O.J. Mayo and for a minimal amount of assets and then use him as a trade piece somewhere else or keep him and flesh out the two-guard position.
There are also teams like and Minnesota and Cleveland to negotiate with. These are are teams that might be willing to let go of a draft pick the Knicks could use dearly or, in the case of Minnesota, NY could acquire the rights to Ricky Rubio as a backup PG.
Cleveland is so dismal that a young player who can play now with low salary requirements is definitely worth a pick to them. The need to explore some low-risk options to rebuild that team.
These Options Need to Be Explored:
New York should really give Memphis and Charlotte a call now and see what is available. These are teams that they could work out a win-win scenarios with and in pursuit of Carmelo Anthony, Memphis, Cleveland and Charlotte look like the best trading partners.
Yes. There are some trades that make sense that could get Melo to New York. But some are quite a stretch.
While I can understand that Melo expressed interest in going to Chicago, it still baffles me that this summer Carmelo was making New York one of his desired destinations as opposed to Orlando. In any case, his sights now seem to be set on NYC and the Madison Square Garden.
There are some trades that make sense between Denver and New York. Some with two teams and some with three or four.
It is all about how much New York wants to give up and how much risk Denver wants to take on. Most of the scenarios do not seem to be in the Knicks' favor for the short term.
Some of these can get pretty involved.
Playing Fair. 3 Teams with Bobcats: Knicks Get Cannibalized but stronger
- Knicks receive: Anthony, Stephen Jackson, Gerald Henderson, Kwame Brown
- Nuggets receive: Randolph, Gallinari, Azubuike, Fields, Mason
- Bobcats receive: Curry, Shawne Williams, Landry Fields
In this case the Knicks are well that poorly served and keep Chandler. They get their primary target (Melo) and replace the outgoing players at the guard position with Jackson and Henderson.
Both can can score in a running offense and they get a some kind of center off the bench (even if it is Kwame Brown for peanuts and no long-term obligation.) This squad matches up a bit better in the East.
The Bobcats get Fields and Williams (quality players for the lowest possible cost), plus salary relief next season.
4 Team Bonanza (This is ugly.)
- Knicks receive: Anthony, Harrington, Stephen Jackson
- Nuggets receive: Randolph, Chandler, Azubuike, Fields, Curry, Mason
- Grizzlies receive: Gallinari, S. Williams
- Bobcats receive: O.J. Mayo, Bill Walker
This really does not make the Knicks better, but everyone can benefit in this trade. The Knicks would be completely depleted, but would have a good starting lineup as a core and more veteran players. The Bobcats would come in for the salary relief and Mayo's upside.
Memphis would do it to move Mayo, save a million and get two quality players. Denver would get rid of the Harrington contract and get players who effectively replace Anthony's production (though not his presence).
If Memphis needs Chandler to make it go, it looks like this:
A conventional trade is definitely still a possibility. Carmelo holds the trump card and he can get himself to NYC if he really wants to. Denver would only stop him out of spite. Hard to see any other reason.
Knicks Try to Pull a Fast One and Carmelo helps:
- Knicks receive: Anthony
- Nuggets receive: Chandler, Walker, Fields, Curry (expiring contract)
It is not exactly a bad trade. Nuggets get salary relief and gifted players. Really, they are no worse off than now and paying less to be in that shape. And the Knicks give up a player, Chandler, who is going to be replaced with a significant upgrade.
The Knicks can make this offer, but it will get rejected, unless there are no other options. This is where Carmelo holds the cards.
Knicks Get Depleted in a Two Team Trade: (Knicks get Weak)
- Knicks receive: Anthony and Harrington
- Nuggets receive: Randolph, Chandler, Azubuike, Gallinari, Walker, Curry
The Knicks do not need Chandler if they get Carmelo. However, this has them giving up a lot of talent in the whole package. If the Nuggets rejected this trade, because of the Curry contract, they would be stupid.
Randolph, Chandler, Azubuike, Gallinari, and Walker Combined are better than getting picks. But, this is probably bad for New York, since they have no picks going forward.
If this is not on the table, then New York does not want Carmelo as bad as he wants them. It is a lot to give up.