On Monday night, New York Knicks fans collectively rejoiced.
After months of conjecture, posturing and incessant media speculation, Carmelo Anthony finally got his wish and was traded to Gotham. Years of front-office ineptitude (thanks, Isaiah) and an underwhelming haul of summer 2010 free agents was forgotten, as Anthony joined Amare Stoudemire to form a potent "1-1A" offensive punch. League history has shown a team needs at least two—preferably three—stars to compete for a title, and the Knicks finally had them.
Finally, an exciting, contender-worthy show would take place at Madison Square Garden, the world's foremost basketball stage. Aesthetically, at least, order was restored.
Well, after today's shocking trade developments, even the most biased and die-hard Knicks supporters should be feeling a little blue.
Elite Utah Jazz PG Deron Williams was unexpectedly dealt to crosstown rival and former Carmelo suitor, the New Jersey Nets. Why should New York care? A closer look at the players and pieces involved in each respective deal reveals Knicks owner James Dolan and company were had. Big time.
In exchange for Anthony, former All-Star PG Chauncey Billups and career backups Anthony Carter, Renaldo Balkman and Shelden Williams, the Knicks sent prolific young wings Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, rejuvenated PG Raymond Felton, raw seven-footer Timofey Mozgov, a future first-round pick and cash to Denver.
After months of insisting that only one of Gallinari or Chandler be included in the deal, New York bit. Whether or not doing so was the smart decision is up for debate, but there's no doubting the Knicks increased their chances of a playoff run this season and next in acquiring a player of Anthony's caliber.
To surprisingly snag Williams, New Jersey surrendered promising rookie PF Derrick Favors, PG Devin Harris and two first-round picks (one of which is Golden State's next year, acquired in a side deal).
New Jersey had been a player in the Carmelo sweepstakes since the former Nugget elected not to sign an offseason contract extension. The proposed deal that would have landed him is essentially the same one that the Nets swung for Williams.
Favors, a raw, athletic and huge youngster, is the major coup for Utah. Harris, once considered one the league's best young lead guards, is a surefire starter and each draft pick could be in the lottery.
Assessing the two deals, it appears New York surrendered more assets. Both Gallinari and Chandler are enjoying career seasons, and the former especially is far from a finished product. Each is good enough to start for most NBA teams and among the league's small contingent of tall, athletic wing scorers with deep range on his jumper.
Felton, signed as a free agent before the season, has been a driving force behind New York's turnaround. He, too, is a potential starter wherever he ends up. The spare part, Mozgov, is the lone bench player in the deal that has true value at present and any chance at developing further. At the very least, he's a big body capable of taking up space and finishing inside.
The future pick is relatively inconsequential, as NY figures to be one of the league's best teams, far from selecting among the draft's elite pool of prospects.
New Jersey mortgaged a potentially dominant frontcourt in giving up Favors—"potential" being the key word here. The 19-year-old, while immensely gifted, is extremely raw. He could be the rare 20-point, 10-rebound, three-block post player or a slightly more effective Chris Wilcox. Essentially, Favors is so early in his development that his acquisition is tantamount to that of a top five draft pick.
Harris is just two years removed from averaging 21 points and eight assists, though his game has clearly regressed since that breakout season. He's a solid option at PG for many teams, though no longer one of the NBA's brightest young quarterbacks. Though both NJ and GS are on the rise, both the 2011 and 2012 first-rounders are presumptive top 15 selections.
Though not overwhelmingly so, the Knicks gave up more than the Nets: two surefire starters with potential (Gallo and Chandler), an above-average PG (Felton), a true, developing young C (Mozgov) and a pick, compared to an unproven, natural tool-laden PF prospect (Favors), an above-average PG (Harris) and two high picks.
The reason the Knicks and their fans should be concerned is not that they gave up slightly more, though. Rather, it's that they did so and acquired the deal's inferior cog in terms of ability, fit and worth to D'Antoni's system. Even Spike Lee would have to admit dealing for Williams instead of Anthony would have made New York's prospects as title contenders better both in the present and future.
Did owner James Dolan and President Donnie Walsh know Williams was available at the trade deadline? Presumptively not, because the trade came so far out of left field. But, for the sake of the team's direction and fanbase's sanity, they better have been positive he wasn't on the block.
Think of it this way: Would New York be better off rolling out a starting five of Williams, Fields, Chandler, Stoudemire and Ronny Turiaf with capable bench players? Or a quintet of Billups, Fields, Anthony, Stoudemire and Ronnie Turiaf with one of the league's thinnest corps of reserves? Anyone that understands the brilliance of Williams and the intricacies that make D'Antoni's system so effective would undoubtedly prefer the fantastical scenario rather than the realistic one.
Obviously, Williams was available for the right price. A combination like Gallinari, Felton, picks and cash is comparable to the one centered around Favors that ultimately landed the former Jazz star in New Jersey. Considering the overall superiority of Williams to Anthony in every subjective and objective measure, plus the undeniable fact that New York gave up more than the Nets to get less, anyone considering the 2011 trade season a success for the Knicks has it wrong.
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