There are only a few days remaining until the NBA trade deadline and it seems as if Carmelo Anthony will be dealt to either the Nets or the Knicks. Of course, things could always change dramatically between now and then, but let’s break this down in the simplest terms. New Jersey has played this circumstance to perfection, and in doing so, have fired the first shot across the bow of the Knicks in the upcoming competition for the New York market. Let me explain.
The Nets have nothing. Their roster is a conglomeration of mediocre talents and so-so role players that contains nowhere near enough talent to even be a playoff contender in the sad Eastern Conference. To be able to parlay any of that collection of junk into a player the caliber of Melo will represent a dramatic coup. But even if it doesn’t happen, they have done something perhaps even more important; they will have forced the Knicks to gut their roster and exhaust their assets to land one player who doesn’t even fill a glaring need for them and, in fact, creates an even bigger need.
In order to land Melo, the Knicks will have to part with three starters, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and, most importantly, Ray Felton. Among other assets, including the first round pick, they’ll likely land Anthony Randolph, the salary cap relief from Eddy Curry’s expiring deal and the only actual center on the roster with the youth and athleticism to play in D’antoni’s system in Timofey Mazgov. All for one guy who brings a skill set they already have in abundance and a washed up point guard replacement in Chauncey Billups. If the Knicks make this trade, let me be the first to say it, they might even miss the playoffs this season.
On top of that, they will also have to sign Melo to the three-year $65 million extension, a number they wouldn’t be anywhere near if they signed him as a free agent under the new collective bargaining agreement, which is certain to scale back player salaries. Right now, New York’s most pressing need is size. After this trade, it’ll again be a point guard. But after giving up the house to land Melo, will the Knicks even have enough left to get a point the caliber of Felton? And you can forget chasing guys like Chris Paul and Deron Williams; that becomes a never-going-to-happen fairytale with no draft picks, no trade assets and no cap space with two guys signed to max deals under the old CBA. Size will still go largely unaddressed.
The quickest way for the Knicks to screw up all the positive progress they’ve made over the past few years digging out from under the Isiah Thomas mess is to make this trade. They need to be patient just a little longer. If Melo ends up a Net, so be it. He’ll be a one-man band with a less-than-scary roster around him. If he doesn’t, the Knicks are the front runner to sign him as a free agent under the new agreement at a much more team-friendly price. And if they don’t land him, all of those assets are still there to chase someone who actually fills a drastic need and could make the Knicks a true championship contender—Dwight Howard.
The Nets are in a can’t lose position here; they’ll either land the superstar they desperately need, or they will handicap their soon to be cross-town rival and still have the assets and dollars to build a winner long-term.
As for the Nuggets, they have got to be smiling. They’re going to land a king’s ransom either way, for a guy who was going to split at the end of the season and they had little to no leverage in trade negotiations. If I’m them, I prefer the Knicks offer anyway. The draft picks coming from New Jersey are nice, but the actual talent coming from the Knicks will make rebuilding a much quicker process in Denver. The Cavs landed two draft picks in the token sign-and-trade for LeBron in the off-season. So did the Raptors for Chris Bosh. Denver may have charted a new course for dealing with high-profile superstar defectors.
We may not like all the constant distractions of the trade rumors, but get ready for much more. This season was all about Melo. Next season, presuming there is one, will be consumed by the “big three”: Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard. Hopefully, we can all have a couple months of peace and basketball before the trade winds start swirling again.