In a time when they have few real options for upgrades, Carmelo Anthony presents a unique opportunity for the Knicks, and one they need to cash in on immediately.
Posted by Matt Moore
The best and worst thing about the New York Knicks (beyond intangible things like history and their fans) is James Dolan. For all his gaffes, his petulant silence , and most damning, for his continued association with Isiah Thomas, the harbinger of New York Basketball Doom, Dolan brings the checkbook. And that's relevant. You don't have to be a big spender in a big market. Look at Donald Sterling. Or Jerry Reinsdorf. You can pull a profit, enjoy the perks, and not push the bill. But Dolan, for better or worse, spends money to try and make the Knicks a contender.
The problem? He's been willing to make deals and put his name on the marker for decisions that it wouldn't have taken much to refute. Say, calling a few friends to ask if they were good ideas. Or opening a window. Asking a taxi driver. Using the internet . Any of these options would have given him some level of insight that hey, you know what I shouldn't do? Anything Isiah Thomas tells me.
The result is that the Knicks are a team you can 100% count on to spend money to improve their team. Dolan will dive into the luxury tax like it's a nice warm pool. He's also had to do that in order for Donnie Walsh to clean up the mess at Madison Square Garden. It hasn't just taken money, but draft picks and roster compromises, though, and that's why they're seldom considered "on the rise" despite their summer overhaul.
The worst move of Donnie Walsh's time in New York was his concession of picks in the Tracy McGrady deal. The plan was simple. Get cap space to bring in two max free agents, regardless of what it takes. But in doing so, they agreed to swap with the Rockets next season (unless the Knicks get the top overall pick, in which case Walsh has bigger issues), and surrender their 2012 first rounder. This is after having to give the Jazz their 2010 pick in the last of the Isiah Thomas collateral damage.
For a team trying to go young, rebuild, and refigure, those draft picks are gold. Or more accurately, perhaps, they're timber. Imagine you're playing one of those civilization video games. You can harvest tons of crops, and train lots of soldiers. But if you don't have timber, you're not building any structures for them to live in. That's what draft picks are. And if the Knicks were going to try and aim for a top player in the league to team with Amar'e Stoudemire, fresh of the free agency gravy train, they needed those picks. It's why a deal with New Orleans was highly unlikely for New York, regardless of Chris Paul's wedding toast.
Quite simply, the reason most NBA fans and media don't think their team will trade with the Knicks is that they simply don't have anything to give back.
Which is why the Carmelo Anthony situation presents such a unique opportunity for the New York.
With Ken Berger's multiple reports that Anthony is angling his way out of Denver and recent word that the Nuggets have started to deal with that reality , even as they try and lock in a new GM, the Knicks are most talked-about as a destination. But Nuggets fans of course don't think the Knicks can return enough assets or, as I said, picks, to make the deal. But if you're looking at the big black barrel of losing Melo in free agency, the Knicks actually have a package that could be enough for Denver, if Denver doesn't take a hard line and if New York doesn't attach itself to outdated ideas.
First, you need money to make up for Melo's contract. That means Eddy Curry. And while taking on Curry may seem a bitter pill for Nuggets fans ("Trading Carmelo Anthony for Eddy Curry?! This is madness!" No, this is the NBA post-Miami Triad), his expiring contract will put them in a position to start rebuilding, which is what happens after you lose a star of Melo's magnitude. Next, they would acquire Wilson Chandler, which again, isn't a sterling asset, but is at least a capable scorer with a reasonable contract and would fill some of the gap. The big talent target, though, would be Danillo Galinari. The Rooster gives the Nuggets a pure scorer with as sweet a stroke as you'll find the league, young, versatile, and capable of playing at Melo's position. Throw in some 2014-2020 picks, and the package isn't toxic. It's not good, but it's more than what the Cavs got from Miami absconding with LeBron James.
There are other options, like recently acquired Anthony Randolph or tantalizing combo-guard Toney Douglas. But the point is the same. The Knicks can't offer a lot of teams what they would want for a star, and can't offer what the Nuggets would want in fair return for Carmelo Anthony. But that's honestly impossible to begin with. Either you're willing to trade Melo for less than he's worth, or you're not willing to trade him. Otherwise you're just standing there, saying "Multipass!" and not understanding why the strange man keeps looking at you longingly. And with the current NBA economic situation, with the CBA future in doubt, the Knicks provide an ideal partner, surprisingly.
Any deal for Anthony will be contingent on an extend-and-trade, where Melo gets the three-year, $65 million extension the Nuggets are offering and gets the new team. The trade partner has to not only be able to swallow his current contract, but willing to take on that kind of deal with the looming possibility of a greatly reduced and possibly hardened salary cap coming about from the CBA talks next summer. To handle that contingency, you need someone with deep pockets. A little down the road, whoever does take Carmelo and his extension, even if it's the Nuggets going forward, their ownership will likely resist any adjustment that eliminates their flexibility. Count Miami and Los Angeles in on supporting that paradigm.
Dolan's checkbook can speak volumes, for better or worse. And if the new CBA restructures the NBA to a hard cap, it'll be for the worse. But just as it's been in the past, Dolan and his wallet will cross that bridge when they get there.