Throughout the 2010-11 NBA season, basketball headlines have been primarily dominated by two topics—Carmelo Anthony trade rumors and LeBron James.
However, should the latest Melo rumors come to fruition, we may soon see him and LeBron in the news together, as an Anthony-led New York Knicks could potential square off against James and the Miami Heat, reigniting one of the NBA's most intense rivalries.
But before discussing that matchup, let's first focus on how we would get there.
On January 19, the New Jersey Nets made it known that they were no longer going to pursue a trade for Carmelo, effectively establishing the Knicks as the clear-cut favorites to acquire his services.
Furthermore, New York, widely thought to be the destination which Melo himself prefers, now seems to have quite a bit of leverage in the situation, especially due to the fact that Anthony's expiring contract and hesitation to sign an extension with other franchises will likely scare the others off.
ESPN's Chris Sheridan even went so far as to declare that, "he has told the Nuggets... that he'll only sign the extension with them, or, if traded, with the Knicks," a statement which, if true, cements the Knicks as Anthony's likely destination.
And even though the Denver Nuggets may have turned down the latest Knicks proposal, rumored to consist of Eddy Curry, Wilson Chandler, Landry Fields and a first rounder (from a separate Anthony Randolph trade), many people, including one NBA general manager, believe that Melo-to-the-Knicks is inevitable.
Is it inevitable that Carmelo Anthony is going to become a New York Knick?
Consequently, whenever such a transaction occurs, New York's already-improved roster will certainly become even better.
Assuming that the trade includes all of the previously mentioned individuals leaving the Knicks, and it is accepted by Denver due to the help of a third, or even fourth or fifth team, New York would essentially be receiving Melo for only two rotation players (Chandler and Fields).
First of all, Anthony would be an obvious upgrade over the young and talented Wilson Chandler at the forward position.
Although he's not currently the shot-blocker or three-point shooter that Chandler has been in 2010-11, Melo would certainly bring an aggressive and dominant scoring arsenal to the team.
And with Melo instead on the court, the Knicks would have more opportunities to rest MVP-candidate Amar'e Stoudemire, thereby allowing them to increase his durability and limit his fouls, while not worrying about the team's offensive production.
Bringing in Anthony for Chandler would also reduce New York's reliance on the three-point shot, which would most likely give the team a bit more consistency—something they have struggled with all season.
Losing rookie Landry Fields, on the other hand, would be a slight blow to the team, although he would not be too greatly missed if Kelenna Azubuike is able to return soon, as he claims that he is, if Toney Douglas can stay healthy, and if Bill Walker is able to step up his level play.
Consequently, after a trade for Melo, New York would likely find themselves with a depth chart looking something like this:
PG: Raymond Felton, Toney Douglas
SG: Bill Walker, Toney Douglas, Kelenna Azubuike
SF: Danilo Gallinari, Carmelo Anthony, Shawne Williams
PF: Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Shawne Williams
C: Amar'e Stoudemire, Ronny Turiaf
This rotation certainly appears formidable, and it would likely allow the Knicks to make some noise in the playoffs.
After snapping their six-game losing streak with a win over the Washington Wizards, New York is sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a 23-21 record.
Moreover, it looks like they will likely hold onto that spot, as the two teams closest to them in the East are 5.5 games ahead and 4.0 games behind.
Conversely, LeBron James and the second-place Miami Heat are locked into a tight battle for the top few spots in the East, 2.5 games out of first, and with a team only 0.5 games behind them.
Consequently, should the Heat drop down to third place, they would be in line for a first-round playoff matchup with the Knicks.
And even if Miami managed to hang onto the second spot, they could face the Knicks in the first round if New York dropped to the seventh seed, or in the second round if the two teams, as second and sixth seeds, both managed to win out in the first.
But regardless of how it comes to be that the two teams come to face off, the potential matchup is fascinating: LeBron and Melo—Olympic teammates, fellow 2003 draftees, close friends and two of the most talented players in the NBA—going head to head with the loser having to go home.
However, the series would obviously come down to much more than just that.
Inside the Heat definitely have more size with two true centers in Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Erick Dampier, along with a five-time All Star at power forward in Chris Bosh.
And given the Knicks' trouble with interior defense this season, the Miami frontcourt could certainly pose a serious problem.
Nevertheless, New York has the most talented big on either team, Amar'e Stoudemire, who would certainly help to even the battle inside.
In the backcourt, the Heat boast Dwyane Wade at the two, another one of the best performers in all of the league.
However, they are relatively weak at the point, a position where New York excels—due in large part to the breakout season being had by Raymond Felton.
But all in all, Miami and their Big Three would be heavily favored to knock off New York, although a hot-shooting Knicks team has the ability to beat anybody.
Who would win a 2010-11 playoff series?
Yet even if a Knicks-Heat matchup doesn't impress during the 2010-11 postseason, it would definitely have a solid chance to be repeated in the near future, with Miami's Big Three locked down for six years each, and the Knicks' signing Amar'e for five and Melo most likely for three.
And with the rumors of New York seeking to pursue upcoming free agents like Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, the Knicks could gain some serious ground on Miami, perhaps even becoming viewed as the superior team.
Consequently, we would be certain to get some gems from the two teams in the coming few years.
And even though the matchup wouldn't be as physical and violent as the Knicks-Heat rivalry of the 1990s, it absolutely has the potential to become one of the top rivalries in the NBA for years to come.