Throughout all the trade talk about Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks, a question has been pondered by fans and the media alike.
"Why don't the Knicks just wait?"
In principle, this actually makes a lot of sense.
Anthony has stated on multiple occasions that he wants to be a Knick, and at the season's end (if he doesn't sign an extension, of course) he'll have his choice of teams.
However, the situation is far more complicated than that.
First off, there is plenty of money involved. With a new collective bargaining agreement due for the NBA, Carmelo could potentially be walking away from millions of dollars.
The Denver Nuggets have offered Anthony an extension of three years, $65 million, and the new CBA has the potential to drastically cut what he could make on the market as a free agent this summer.
This means that there is plenty of motivation for both Anthony and the Knicks to get the deal done this season so he can sign the same extension in New York for the big money.
By not trading for him now, however, the Knicks risk Anthony being tempted into signing the extension in Denver in fear of losing the money in the future.
Second, there is no guarantee that Anthony will still want to be a Knick this summer.
While it's clear he wants to be right in New York right now, plenty could change over the course of a few months.
What if Amar'e Stoudemire re-injures his knee? I doubt Anthony would still be as intrigued with New York if Stoudemire suffered a major injury.
What if Chris Paul is shipped somewhere before the deadline? That could influence where Anthony wants to go because it's obvious he wants to be with other big name stars.
There are just too many uncontrollable factors for the Knicks to bank on Anthony's current interest in their team to wait until this summer to sign him on the market.
Third, there are plenty of teams right now that want to acquire Anthony before the Knicks do.
The New Jersey Nets have been the biggest rival for Carmelo's services, but he seems unwilling to sign the extension. Anthony's lack of interest essentially blocks any deal for the Nets.
Even so, could the Nets deal be in his best interest right now?
There's no doubting that Anthony has weighed the same risk factors about waiting for free agency, and that could scare him into okaying the deal to the Nets.
For a fan base as good as New York's, it'd be a punch in the gut to see Anthony land in New Jersey just because the team wanted to wait until summer.
Lastly, and most importantly, the Knicks shouldn't wait just to salvage the players they would be giving up in a deal for Anthony.
The players most commonly mentioned—Wilson Chandler, Landry Fields, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton and Timofy Mozgov—are all role players or slightly better.
The five players combine for zero All-Star appearances (Anthony played in his fourth last night) and each could be replaced.
In exchange, the Knicks would be getting one of the top 10 or 12 players in the NBA and a second star to go along with Stoudemire to challenge to emerging trio of stars in Miami and Boston.
Sure, losing those promising wing players would be a tough pill to initially swallow, but is Chandler, Gallinari or Fields ever going to be as good as Anthony?
Will Felton ever be a championship caliber point guard?
Is Mosgoz's ceiling anything more than a top 20 NBA center?
Those are real questions that the Knicks brass have to ask themselves in the next 72 or so hours.
Could the Knicks really wait and still get Anthony?
But there's no sense in risking that when you have the chance to bring a difference maker into Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks are playing the waiting game at their own risk.