Arena: Carmelo Anthony's time in New York has run its course
The NBA is evolving and leaving players like Carmelo Anthony behind.
This past Friday, Knicks team president Phil Jackson addressed the media, saying that Anthony would be "better off elsewhere," and he could not be more correct.
Anthony is an incredibly well-versed offensive player and can score from anywhere on the floor, but he often tries to take on the entire defense himself. Though not a particularly bad passer, Melo is an unwilling passer. Sometimes his super-hero attitude gets results and for certain moments, he looks brilliant. The sad truth, however, is that at age 32, those moments have been fleeting while it’s become obvious that his style is unsuited for the modern NBA.
Anthony’s iso-centric style of play runs counterpoint to the style of pass-first triangle offense that team President Phil Jackson has been trying to implement. When Jackson signed Melo to a 5-year $124 million contract in the summer of 2014, he did so anticipating the former scoring champion would be able to fit into that offense. Instead, Melo's play has been the antithesis of the triangle and the team has gone through the worst three-year stretch in franchise history.
This is not directly Melo’s fault, of course. He is not the one who decided to trade Tyson Chandler, or sign Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, but he has also not been able to lift the team out of the NBA’s cellar despite several sets of sweeping changes.
The lone bright spot to emerge from all their losing is 21-year-old budding star Kristaps Porzingis, who the Knicks must build around. This makes Anthony especially expendable since he does not fit the same timeline that they should be striving for. The franchise already tried and failed in their efforts to build a win-now culture this season, signing Rose, Noah, Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings to form what Rose called a “superteam.”
Said “superteam” imploded and after their incompetence became apparent, rumors ran rancid around the team. Rumors of potentially trading Rose, Jennings and even Melo – whose no-trade clause made for a prolonged stay in the middle of the rumor mill – effectively poisoned the team’s morale. Jennings, who was waived late in the season, admitted that Anthony’s consistent presence in trade talks was a major distraction.
If the Knicks are indeed desperate to trade their fading star – which they should be – they should also be willing to accept pennies on the dollar. Anthony recently went as far as to say that he saw “the writing on the wall,” suggesting his Knicks tenure was likely to come to an end and it will be impossible to find a team willing to pony up fair value for a player whose value is plummeting.
What does Melo bring to the table? A polished arsenal of offensive tricks, a negative defensive presence and a lack of passion – sapped by years of underachieving with the Knicks. What is that worth? Not very much.
The Sacramento Kings were much maligned for their trade of Demarcus Cousins, a top-ten offensive player in the league with a limited defensive impact; so potential compensation in a Melo trade should not be held to a high standard. The Knicks should be happy to simply receive a late first-round pick and the salary cap flexibility that will come with alleviating the $53 million remaining on his contract.
To the dismay of Knicks fans, trading Melo to a contender for a late-first round pick will not immediately help them get out of the gutter, but it is a necessary step to make this Porzingis’ team.
Trading Melo and not resigning Rose could create over $45 million in cap space this offseason that the Knicks could use to sign younger players who compliment Porzingis. In addition, New York will have a top ten draft pick this year in a class loaded with talent in the lottery. If they can snag an impact player with the selection, it would give them a solid young core of PorzinGOD, Willy Hernangomez and said rookie. Coach Jeff Hornacek decided to sit Melo for the last few weeks of the season, and in his absence, the team discovered that they may have some solid young building blocks in Hernangomez and PG Ron Baker.
Keeping Melo would only impede this young cores’ ability to improve as he tends to hog as much spotlight as he can.
With the ridiculous amount of cap space the Knicks would be saving from jettisoning Anthony, perhaps they could throw a max contract prayer at Blake Griffin, Gordon Hayward or Kyle Lowry. It’s unlikely any of those sign, but more realistic targets could include Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague or Andre Iguodala.
The problem here is that pesky no-trade clause. Melo has no incentive to waive this clause unless he goes with a situation favorable to him, which severely limits what teams the Knicks can engage in legitimate trade talks with. He wants to compete for championships, but in order to do that he would need to take a backseat to incumbent stars.
Here's a few teams who could trade for Melo: the Clippers, Celtics, Grizzlies and Cavaliers.
Doc Rivers and the Clippers have almost nothing to offer up in a trade, but for a team whose ceiling in recent years has become obvious, trading for Anthony would help them break through in the West and take them from good to great.
The Celtics are the No. 1 seed in the East right now, but if they cannot get past the Cavs, they may go for a win-now approach and trade some of their extensive draft capital to ascertain the potent scorer.
The Grizzlies are an aging franchise looking for an injection of some sort of life to keep them in it. Perhaps exchanging Chandler Parsons’ awful contract for Anthony’s would be good for both players? Memphis is a strong defensive team who could use a scoring punch on the wing.
The most enticing possibility is a trade of Anthony to the Cavs. Player-Coach-GM LeBron James would be getting his wish – as per usual – and if the Cavs do not win a championship this year, there are likely to be sweeping changes. The Cavs will spend whatever money they can to keep LeBron in Cleveland and compete for championships. Acquiring Melo could be their next big move.
The common denominator of all those trade scenarios is Anthony taking a secondary role and putting aside his own personal quest for stardom – something many believe he is incapable of.
If he can swallow his pride and accept a lesser role, while putting more effort in on the defensive end, Melo could finally win the championship that has eluded him. Trading him would not only give the Knicks a chance to start from scratch – it would give Anthony a chance to resurrect his reputation.
The Knicks need to embrace the new pass-centric NBA era. An era that has made players like Carmelo Anthony obsolete.