How the Carmelo Anthony Trade Changed the NBA Forever

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 09: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks keeps the ball away from Danilo Gallinari #8 of the Denver Nuggets at Madison Square Garden on December 9, 2012 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Knicks defeated the Nuggets 112-106.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In one not-so-swift demand, Carmelo Anthony changed everything. For the New York Knicks, for the Denver Nuggets and the entire NBA, everything is different.

Just over two years ago, Melo was brought to New York in a three-team trade. The Knicks shipped out Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, Anthony Randolph, Eddy Curry's expiring pact, their 2014 first-round pick and $3 million. In exchange, they obtained Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter and Corey Brewer.

So much has happened for both Denver and New York since then, but at the heart of said remodeling is this accord.

The Knicks

Anthony and the Knicks (James Dolan and all) have forged an unbreakable bond that has already weathered a number of storms. Two coaches, a couple of first-round exits, cereal-inspired derision and covert super sleuths (OK, spies), you name it, Melo and New York have been through it.

Fittingly enough, Anthony is the only player the Knicks acquired in the blockbuster that is still with the team, and oddly enough, New York's blueprint for winning has been drastically butchered.

Some fancy the Knicks a superteam, a convocation worthy of rivaling the Miami Heat's blueprint. But they're not.

This isn't to say Melo and crew aren't built to beat the Heat. They're one of just two teams (Indiana Pacers) who have beaten Miami at least twice this season. New York just isn't a superteam.

An original vision of Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire carving up the rest of the league alongside Chris Paul has died harder than John McClane's catchphrase. Not only that, but ideas of STAT and Melo running together are on life support. Of the 155 regular season games since the deal, the duo has appeared in just over 50 percent together.

Toss in Stoudemire's latest injury, and you now have a faction built around that of one superstar.

Tyson Chandler, despite his first All-Star appearance, isn't a superstar. J.R. Smith isn't a superstar. Kenyon Martin and Jason Kidd are no longer superstars. A fully healthy Amar'e is but a fantasy at this point, and thus, he's not a superstar either.

There is only Melo, a talented giant amongst a slew of very good (not great) role players.

Sound familiar?

Save for New York's global appeal, the Knicks are eerily similar to the team Anthony left behind. He's even playing alongside some of the same faces in Marcus Camby, Martin and Smith.

Melo supposedly left the Rocky Mountains of Denver for the busy streets of New York in search of star-caliber peers, but what he's found in the Big Apple is but a fragment of his initial revelation. 

He's waging war on a roster, under the watchful eye of a coaching staff that was tailored to meet his needs. He's the marquee face of a billion-dollar franchise. He's once again second-to-none.

And, save for a recent rough patch, it's working.

The Knicks are a modest 88-67 (not including playoffs) and have won but a pair of victories since the trade, but they now find themselves locked in a battle for the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Theirs is a team predicated upon the ambiguous durability and savvy of their veterans, but they are a legitimate contender nonetheless.

Not unlike the Nuggets.

The Nuggets

Like the Knicks, the Nuggets have emerged as viable contenders. And like the Knicks, they to are attempting to defy the age of superteams. Unlike New York, though, Denver is attempting to rewrite the rule book without a single superstar.

Some would consider Andre Iguodala a superstar, but he's more like a prolific chameleon, prepared to assume any role asked of him, as long as it's in small doses.

He's not a superstar though. Not like Melo, and certainly not like LeBron James.

This keeps in theme with what the Nuggets have going. They're a contender by committee, relying on the above average, but not star-rific stylings of athletes like Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, Wilson Chandler and Corey Brewer, among others.

Though I'd hardly coin Denver an island of misfit toys, there is a case to be made. Brewer was sent to New York in the Melo trade and Anthony Randolph to the Minnesota Timberwolves, yet they've found niches (yes, even Randolph) under George Karl. McGee was both infuriating and a waste of talent with the Washington Wizards, but now, with the Nuggets, he's just infuriating.

This team isn't normal. It's star-less and Melo-less, and it wouldn't have it any other way. 

Denver is 99-57 since the trade, 43-22 on the season, and has a firm grip on the Western Conference's fifth-best record.

How is that possible, though? How is it that the Nuggets were forced to relinquish a superstar and seemingly came out of it looking better?

Complete and utter selflessness.

They run a fast-paced system that thwarts many a defensive scheme; they rank second in possessions used per 48 minutes, fourth in offensive efficiency and second in assists a night. They don't depend upon one player to lead them; they rely on the collective to buy into the system and run it to perfection.

And steer it to near perfection they have, renewing our faith in smaller markets and life after superstars in the process.


What, you didn't think the ramifications of this trade were being felt by just the Knicks and Nuggets, did you?

Denver changed the way teams handle All-Stars. To be more specific, disgruntled superstars.

Suddenly, it's perfectly acceptable to remain patient, to force a star to remain a member of a team he doesn't want to suit up for anymore. There's no longer a sense of urgency, no more selling low.

Take the most recently moved studs.

The New Orleans Hornets shopped Chris Paul to no end before making a decision, and the Memphis Grizzlies did the same with Rudy Gay. There's a trace of the Melo trade in the Dwight Howard one as well.

The Orlando Magic were chided for the package they received in return, but we must understand this wasn't because Howard had them pinned down. They had a choice.

Orlando could have traded him to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and fillers or to the Houston Rockets for a slew of assets. The Magic could have sent him to wherever the hell they pleased and pretty much received whomever the hell they wanted in return. They chose to send him to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Before they sent him anywhere though, they waited. They tried to convince Howard to stay, much like the Nuggets did with Anthony. Every possible avenue was explored; no rock was left unturned.

Eventually, they pulled the trigger when they saw fit to. Just like the Nuggets, who reinvented the blueprint for dealing, for shopping superstars. The same "blueprint" that the Magic, Grizzlies and Hornets followed today, and the same one others will adhere to tomorrow.

At the same time, the Knicks did much of the same. They didn't necessarily draft a newfangled approach for buying wins, but they reinforced the importance of housing a superstar.

Again, we find ourselves looking at the most recent changes. 

The Los Angeles Clippers, the Lakers and the Toronto Raptors all mortgaged their futures in pursuit of something greater.

Los Angeles' red-jerseyed stepchild sent a budding (now injury-prone) Eric Gordon to the Hornets without having any guarantees Paul would still be a Clipper beyond this very season. Mitch Kupchak and company did the same with Andrew Bynum (thankfully) without any assurances from Howard. And Toronto packaged an improving Ed Davis next to a few others in exchange for a kinda-sorta-maybe superstar in Gay.

Which brings us back to Melo, to the Knicks, the Nuggets and the trade that transformed everything.

The trade that both diverted and united the path of two franchises in search of some direction. The deal that helped Denver reshape the cosmetic makeup of a title contender. The pact that gave New York its prodigal son. 

The accord that rocked the entire NBA.

And subsequently changed it forever.


*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and unless otherwise noted.


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