Most assumed the Knicks could move up to as high as fourth in the Eastern Conference.
Most assumed the Nuggets would slide out of the playoffs altogether.
Well, those assumptions were wrong.
The Carmelo Anthony deal went down just over a month ago. Since then, the Knicks are 7-10 (including 1-7 in their last eight). Meanwhile, the Nuggets are 11-4 over the same stretch.
The San Antonio Spurs and four other playoff teams are among the victims of Denver's hot streak since the deadline.
At this point, I don't think anyone can argue that the Nuggets are a better team than the Knicks right now.
What Knicks management and fans are banking on is the future. While a case can be made for New York having a bright one, I'm not sure it's as much of a sure thing as some are making it out to be.
The individual games of Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony don't mesh. They both want to be the main source of offense and get annoyed when they're not.
Plus, consider this: 'Melo has played nearly eight full seasons in the NBA and Amar'e has played nearly nine.
In 17 combined years of NBA experience, neither one of these stars has ever showed a desire to bring his talents to the defensive end of the floor.
I know it's cliche, but a team emulates the defensive efforts of its best player. New York's two best players don't play any defense—and if they haven't done so after this long, they probably never will.
And I'm making this point without describing the no-defense coaching of Mike D'Antoni.
Compare that outlook to the Nuggets.
They acquired Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Timofey Mozgov for Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams and Anthony Carter.
The average age of the players New York got in the deal is over 30, while the average age of the players Denver got is under 24.
What we see now is likely all we'll ever see from Carmelo Anthony. Outside of some improvement on his three-point shooting, Anthony's probably already hit his peak.
Melo's replacements in Denver (Gallinari and Chandler) still have a ton of room for improvement. And Gallinari is already a more efficient scorer than Melo (he averages more points per shot attempt).
The two-headed Tar Heel monster of Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton has been fantastic in place of Chauncey Billups.
And all the other guys on Denver's roster have stepped up their intensity on both ends of the floor.
There's a new intangible quality with Denver. Each player looks more excited to be on an NBA floor. Each player is giving more effort. And everyone is playing together.
The Denver Nuggets are more of a team than they've been in years.
Plus, Lawson, Gallinari, Chandler, J.R. Smith and Arron Afflalo all have a lot of untapped potential.
If this young core has the chance to grow and develop together, they could be legitimate title contenders in a couple years.
Carmelo Anthony left Denver because he wanted to play in a bigger market and his supporting cast there wasn't good enough to help him win a title.
The media fed and encouraged that flawed theory on Denver. The problem with that thinking is that it excused 'Melo from any personal responsibility (even though he's the one that most needed to be held accountable).
Everyone blamed the Nuggets' supporting cast for Carmelo's problems: bad attitude and lack of effort and killer instinct.
He's taken those issues to New York, and under the bright lights of Big Apple media scrutiny, they've become painfully apparent.
He went to New York because he couldn't win a title in Denver. But what if the Nuggets win one without him?
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