My Thoughts on the Carmelo Anthony Trade

It was awesome.

I could probably end there, but I figure you might want me to elaborate a bit. Since I am a bit late to the party analyzing this trade, I’ve found two posts out there that perfectly encapsulate my thoughts on this deal. The first is Joe Treutlein’s post over at Hoopdata:

While assets like late draft picks and cash can be replaced by the Knicks at any time, teams could try for years and years and not have the opportunity to get a player of Anthony’s caliber, a truly scarce commodity in the NBA. In this league, your best three or four players are usually significantly more important than the rest of your roster (especially on a cash cow team like the Knicks, who can find creative ways to replace those guys quite easily), and there just aren’t many opportunities to fill those top spots often. Everything the Knicks gave up other than Gallinari/Chandler is easily replaceable using their endless supply of cash, and it’s not like the Knicks had a surplus of cap space waiting for them as an opportunity cost this summer – even with a favorable outcome of CBA negotiations they were nowhere close to being in position to sign a max player (and that’s AFTER you consider they’d have to renounce the rights to Chandler anyhow).

You really need to click that link and read Joe’s entire post. It is brilliant and clearly explains why you do this deal if you’re the Knicks. The bottom line is the Knicks were not winning a title with the roster they had prior to adding Carmelo Anthony. Further, franchise players like Melo aren’t exactly freely available. If you have an opportunity to add a player whom Dime Magazine ranked as the #5 “Go-to-Guy” in all of the NBA, then you make that deal every single time (btw, Amar’e was ranked #17.)

Another excellent analysis of the Melo deal comes from none other than the Sports Guy, Bill Simmons:

One of the strangest subplots this week: Everyone rushing to pick Carmelo’s game apart, especially people who rely on advanced metrics and ended up getting caught up in small-picture stuff. Carmelo has one elite skill (he rebounds extremely well for a small forward) and one transcendent skill (he’s as good as anyone in the league at scoring and/or getting to the line, especially in crunch time). You can absolutely, positively, unquestionably win a championship if Carmelo Anthony is your creator at the end of a basketball game. The Knicks didn’t have anyone like that. Few teams do.

I keep hearing that you can’t win a title with Melo and Amare. Agreed. But you can win the title with Carmelo, Amare and Chris Paul (or Dwight Howard, or Deron Williams). In the short term, you can make some noise, rock the building and make Knicks fans forget about the 10 excruciating years they just endured. And you can scare the living hell out of the fans from the other Eastern contenders.

Again, I urge you to read his entire post (or at least the parts about the Melo trade.) Simmons’ take is really just a variation on the Hoopdata theme. The Knicks now have one of, if not THE, best scorers in the NBA in addition to an All Star power forward. This is an incredible starting point for building a championship team. The Knicks have already shown an ability to mine for solid contributors like Toney Douglas, Landry Fields, and Shawne Williams (and remember, they plucked Timofey Mozgov from relative obscurity) and I see no reason why the Knicks won’t continue to use their vast resources to continue to find diamonds in the rough.

However, Nate Silver, from the excellent political blog Five Thirty Eight, doesn’t see this as a slam dunk move for the Knicks:

The trade is being billed as a high-risk move. But in some ways it is just the opposite, seeming to lock the Knicks in to roughly 50 wins over the next handful of seasons — not a lot more, not a lot less — under most of the more realistic scenarios.

It’s hard to deny that Mr. Silver is dead-on accurate in these sentiments. However, my retort would be, “So what?” As Mr. Silver notes in his post (as always, you should read the entire post,) the Knicks would generally qualify as a 4th seed in the Eastern Conference under what he considers “the most realistic scenarios.” To begin, what’s wrong with being a 4th seed? If you’re a 4th seed then you’re in the mix and with a couple of breaks you could find yourself in the Finals. Further, if the Knicks follow the blueprint laid out by Mr. Treutlein (flexing their financial might and buying as many late 1st and 2nd round picks as possible) then the team could end up with a their own army of Landry Fields, DaJuan Blairs, Gary Neals, and Glen Davises. If the Knicks strike gold on a few late draft picks or international talent, then all of a sudden the Knicks are serious contenders.

I guess my confusion with a lot of the Melo trade analysis can be summed up with a rhetorical question: “How come teams like Boston and San Antonio can find what Mr. Silver calls ‘players who produce above-average value relative to the salaries they are making’ but the Knicks can’t?” When you already have an All Star core to build around, the GM’s job is to go out and find “glue guys,” or as I like to call them “gap fillers.” Right now the Knicks need interior defense and rebounding. Often, a player like Blair will fall in the draft because he has a limited ceiling. But guess what, he is awesome at rebounding. In short, the Knicks can go out and target players who have one elite skill or are one dimensional to fill the gaps in Amar’e and Melo’s games. Think: someone like Thabo Sefolosha on OKC.

Finally, I believe there is a huge aspect to acquiring Carmelo Anthony that I haven’t seen discussed enough (if at all.)acquiring Melo serves as way to protect the Knicks investment in Amar’e because it will allow Coach D’Antoni to rest Amar’e more often. Up until the team acquired Melo, once Amar’e left the lineup, the offense went in the tank. It became a lot more difficult for the Knicks to score and D’Antoni was forced to play Amar’e too many minutes. Now that the Knicks have Melo, Amar’e can do what he did in the Cleveland game: sit out for a long stretch while the offense runs through Melo. Additionally, once they learn to play together, it should be a lot easier for both players to get their points when they’re on the floor at the same time. In theory, with playing less minutes and having to expend less energy on offense should translate into more energy and focus on defense (perhaps wishful thinking, but I digress.)

I know there are many out there who disagree with my contention that acquiring Carmelo Anthony was a no-brainer. However, I stand by that opinion. With this trade the Knicks have acquired a rare asset that is not easy to come by otherwise and by teaming him with another superstar they have provided a solid backbone for the front office to build around. The Knicks have virtually assured themselves a 47-50 win team going forward with the possibility for much more if the team is able to smartly exploit its vast financial resources.

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5 Responses to My Thoughts on the Carmelo Anthony Trade

  1. Nobody can argue that Melo is not one of the permier players in the league, but I still don’t see how this team wins without a big man pulling down rebounds and playing D. In fact I question whether any Mike D’Antoni team can win a championship. They’ll be like an Indiana Pacers of 10 years ago — good enough to win 50+ games and two or three rounds of playoffs, but once they come up against an elite defensive team they will lose. Still…it’s light years better than the last miserable decade of Knicks ball!

    • Thanks for commenting Keith. Regarding your first comment, this seems to be a common refrain for Knicks fans, but its one that confuses me. Why does everyone comment as if this is the final incarnation of this team? Don’t you think Walsh is going to scour NBA rosters, the NCAA, the D League, and overseas to try and plug the holes? Getting Amar’e and Melo completes phase 1. Phase 2 is acquiring complementary players to support those two.

      Regarding you being skeptical about a D’Antoni team’s ability to win a title, this is also a common refrain I don’t get. D’Antoni has been to the conference finals on a couple of occasions and his Suns teams were always very competitive in a tough Western Conference, and that’s with a cheapskate owner. As far as I’m concerned, this is D’Antoni’s first year with the Knicks and I think he’s done a decent job. Let’s see what D’Antoni can do with a full year with a roster than isn’t in constant flux.

  2. Fair enough — I’m willing to see if they go after any defensive minded players during the offseason. I’m just not into this reliance on the three point shot. It looks great when they’re falling but too often a team that relies on the three is exposed during crunch time when they’re chucking up airballs when a drive up the lane is a much higher percentage play.

    • They just need a Chandler, Camby, or Noah type. What’s great about having Amar’e, Melo, and Billups is that you can fill in defensive minded players at the other two positions without worrying if it will effect the offense. I would actually like to see Brewer get some burn at the 2 because he is an excellent defender.

      Agree with you about the incessant chucking. That’s why getting Melo is so key. Dude can score in so many ways and is one of the best closers around. I also think guys like Chandler and Felton really weren’t great 3 point shooters but they kept chucking. Billups is a huge upgrade over Felton as a 3 point shooter.

  3. Pingback: Knicks Defense Improving « The World's Most Famous Blog

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