The ship is sinking in New York. I hate to break it to Knicks fans, but you’re absolutely not getting Rondo for Shumpert (might as well ask for Boston’s #1 pick while you’re at it). After him, NY has Hardaway Jr. as a very modest asset, and an injured Tyson Chandler whose value hasn’t been this low for 3 years. Analyze the Knicks roster further, and you’ll find precisely zero assets not named Carmelo.
I recognize that it’d be a bitter pill to swallow. It’d be less bitter, however, than the taste of seeing Melo walk for nothing with no cap room to sign his replacement. Not the first to suggest it, I just might be the most confident in this prediction: if he’s not traded, Carmelo’s headed to the Lakers. As dire as the straights appear to be in Lakerdom these days, their talent is roughly commensurate to New York’s, without Kobe Bryant, not to mention the other free agent(s) that are sure to be drawn to the bright lights of LA. (No, not Lebron…Think more along the lines of Lance Stephenson, whom the Pacers very well may not be able to afford.)
Carmelo’s latest fuming about the team not playing hard only reinforces the likelihood that he’s leaving – which, I’ll emphasize, stems primarily from the fact that he sees little talent around him in NY and essentially no means to acquire it in the near future. And he’s no brash youngster any more. I suspect Carmelo recognizes that he’s not winning without a talent near or above his own. Enter Kobe calling this summer, with whom Melo has long been tight, armed with a compelling argument to flank him in his quest for a 6th ring during what he’s dubbed the “Last Chapter.” On the other line is Tyson Chandler…Is this a risk the Knicks would be wise to take?
Before you indulge your reluctance to part with the guy who was supposed to save basketball in NY, consider what I believe to be three realistic deals for Melo that would pave the way to sustainable success in NY with young talent, salary relief, and an increased probability of landing oa game changing talents in the 2015 Draft (Denver gets the Knick’s 1st rounder this year).
Trade #1: Melo To Chicago
- New York gets: Carlos Boozer (2 yrs., $15.3 million) Jimmy Butler (2 yrs. $1.1 million), and Tony Snell (4 yrs., $1.4 million),
- Chicago gets: Carmelo Anthony (1 yr. *ETO, $21.3 million)
Jimmy Butler’s not a bad consolation prize, especially on that contract. The price of he and Snell is the right to pay Boozer for an extra year — perhaps NY insists on substituting Deng’s expiring deal for Boozer. Chicago, meanwhile, vaults to the top of the East with a well-balanced trio of Rose, Melo, and Noah.
Trade #2: Melo To Cleveland
- New York Gets: Dion Waiters (3 yrs. $3.8 million), Anthony Bennett (4 yrs., $5.3 million), & Anderson Varajeo (2 yrs., $9 million).
- Cleveland Gets: Carmelo Anthony (1 yr. *ETO, $21.3 million) & Iman Shumpert (2 yrs. $1.7 million)
Given the state of discord in Cleveland these days, my guess is that NY could get Waiters and any one of Bennett, Tristian Thompson, and Tyler Zeller. If I’m the Cavs, I try to keep Thompson. And that might work better for NY too, who could use the Bennet’s superior potential (I know, he’s looked awful) with Melo gone.
Trade #3: Melo to Detroit
- New York Gets: Greg Monroe (1 yr., $4 million), Charlie Villaneueva (1 yr. $8.5 million), and Rodney Stuckey (1 yr. $9 million).
- Detroit Gets: Carmelo Anthony (1 yr. *ETO, $21.3 million), Ray Felton (3 yrs., $3.6 million).
Sure, if you’re NY, you’d love to get Drummond. I don’t think that’s happening. The Knicks should be satisfied with Monroe, easily one of the game’s top 10 young big men, if not top 10 overall. Detroit becomes very interesting, both for good and for bad. I’m not sure who’s passing in a lineup featuring Jennings, KCP, Melo, J. Smoove, and Drummond. Yet, the ceiling’s pretty damn high for that group.
Each of these deals has its upshots for New York: Chicago offers a building block in Jimmy Butler, a nice prospect in Snell, and perhaps most importantly, a collective ensemble with Boozer that will make the Knicks the worst next year (which I’m assuming is preferable.); Cleveland gives you two chances to strike gold in Waiters, who played at Cuse, and the still alluring potential of the hugely disappointing Anthony Bennett; and Detroit offers a legitimate cornerstone in Greg Monroe as well as the immediate salary relief that would come from letting Melo walk.
Of the three, if I’m James Dolan (with whom I’d gladly swap places mental defects and all), I narrowly prefer the Detroit deal. Given the salary considerations, that might seem a more obvious choice than it should be: even getting Melo off the books, NY still has the albatross contract of Amare and the less appealing by the day $11 million and $14 million due to Bargnani and Chandler, respectively, for two more years. Hence, short of the essentially impossible feat of moving three of the four for expirings, the Knicks won’t be under the cap next summer anyway. With Dolan’s deep pockets, having the salary of, say, Carlos Boozer come off the books at the same time isn’t such a bad option.
Nonetheless, Monroe’s the prize. He’s damn near $0.85 cents on the dollar, and has far more good years remaining than Melo. Unless both Waiters and Bennett perform at or near their potential, that’s the best long term talent New York can hope to get.
For Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit, the rationale is obvious. Each seeks to win now, as evidenced by their offseason transactions. I’d take that Chicago team over Miami and Indiana, while Cleveland and Detroit would go from disappointments to not-so dark horse contenders over night.