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NBA AM: Who Could Make A Play For Carmelo Anthony?

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Can The Knicks Move Carmelo Anthony?

Yesterday, ESPN’s Chris Haynes and Marc Stein dropped a report suggesting that the New York Knicks had reached out to the Cleveland Cavaliers to try and start a dialogue on a trade. The idea was centered on Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony heading to Cleveland in exchange for forward Kevin Love. The report says the talks never got anywhere and that Anthony was never consulted on the idea, but it brings the question front and center: can the Knicks trade Anthony?

Over the past few weeks, Anthony has repeatedly been asked if he would agree to waive the no-trade clause in his contract. His response was always that he hadn’t thought about it seriously, but if the Knicks told him they felt the current team needed to be broken up, he’d listen.

The report from Charley Rosen of FanRag Sports that started all of the Anthony trade talk listed two teams as destinations agreeable to Anthony: the Los Angeles Clippers and the Cleveland Cavaliers, with the notion being that Anthony would perhaps consider the Lakers.

So, let’s look at each situation that makes sense and what it would take if Anthony indeed decided to waive his no-trade clause:

The Cleveland Cavaliers

As the ESPN reports suggested, the Cavaliers had no interest in doing an Anthony deal, mainly because they do not have the assets to make a deal that would not involve a core player from last season’s championship team. As a tax team, the Cavs would incur a huge penalty in taking on more cash than they send out in a trade and they are restricted in how much they can add to the payroll in trade.

While the idea of Melo joining the Cavs seems interesting on the surface, making a Melo trade work in-season would be very tough for the Cavaliers. That is before you factor in all of the issues with Melo’s game and how the Cavaliers want to play.

The Cavaliers have a depth problem now. Adding another large salary is not the answer the Cavaliers are looking for, although it is a fun headline for the situation.

The Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers are interesting for a few reasons. The window for the Clippers is not going to get any more open than it is, and despite the injuries, if the Clippers were healthy, they’d still be a little short of the Golden State Warriors in the West. Adding Anthony would be a big move for the team and they could do it financially without giving up one of their three core players. The problem for the Clippers is they are hard-capped, so they must send out at least what they take back in a trade. While it’s possible to work something out, the Clippers wouldn’t be giving the Knicks great value for Anthony, an All-Star. That is, unless a third team with assets got involved.

Let’s say the Clippers put Austin Rivers ($11 million), J.J. Redick ($7.37 million) and Wes Johnson ($5.62 million) on the table. That’s enough to get the deal done under the cap. The problem is that’s there’s no great value for the Knicks in this scenario. While it would get the Knicks out of Anthony, both Rivers and Johnson have years remaining on their deals. While both could be complimentary additions, they do not represent a future for the Knicks, which would probably be a requisite in any deal.

Could the Clippers find a third team willing to give up draft picks or rookie scale player for the ending contract of Redick? That would be the art of the deal.

There is little doubt that landing Anthony would be a huge get for the Clippers; the problem is they don’t have much outside of their core three players to offer, and it’s not likely the Clippers consider that for Anthony.

The Los Angeles Lakers

If Anthony would genuinely consider the Lakers, they do have the pieces to make an interesting play for the Knicks.

The Lakers have the salary to send. Some combination of Lou Williams ($7 million), Nick Young ($5.44 million), Jordan Clarkson ($12 million) and Luol Deng ($18 million) would likely be involved. A few combinations of those players makes the math work under the cap. One should also consider that the Lakers could, in theory, offer a promising young guy in Brandon Ingram ($5.332 million). He does, after all, play the same position as Anthony. A deal with the Lakers may yield the best package the Knicks could hope for. It also gets the Lakers a star player to pair with D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance.

There are a couple of other factors to consider. There is pressure for the Lakers to the right the ship. While the Lakers have talked about being okay with the slow rebuild, there is a growing sense in NBA circles that the franchise might pull off a deal to jump start the team that’s currently 16-33 and in last place in the Western Conference.

There has been a long-running dialogue that if the Lakers don’t turn the corner, big changes could be coming to the front office, including the ouster of Jim Buss as vice president of basketball operations. Mitch Kupchak could also possibly be out as general manager. With the proverbial clock ticking in the background, do both make the dare-to-be-great play on Anthony? Would he agree to join a Laker team with such a young core?

The Lakers could make a compelling trade offer; the question is would they and would the Knicks and Anthony seriously consider it?

The Boston Celtics

The Celtics do not seem as interested in Anthony as you would think. Sources close to the situation were non-committal about whether the Celtics have been engaged in the Anthony situation but did point out some things about the Celtics team that signaled maybe Anthony was not the right fit.

The Celtics are a defense first team that has been built around the idea of a defensive mindset. All of the players the Celtics have collected, especially in the draft, have been known for their athleticism and defense. The Celtics want to run and they want to attack defensively. That’s not Anthony.

The Celtics pride themselves in high basketball I.Q. players who play smart. That’s probably not Anthony, either.

There is no question adding Anthony would make the Celtics a bona fide contender in the Eastern Conference, especially if they did not have to give up their core talents. The beauty of the Celtics roster is they have plenty of guys.

The Celtics could build a package centered around Amir Johnson ($12 million), Jonas Jerebko ($5 million) and James Young ($1.85 million) and get most of the way to Anthony’s $24.55 million salary. Each of the aforementioned contracts are also in their final year, that’s also important. The Celtics could sprinkle in some upside youth in Terry Rozier ($1.9 million), Jaylen Brown ($4.743 million) and Demetrius Jackson ($1.45 million) and still not touch a core player. To top it off, there is the pocketful of future draft picks that the franchise owns that could sweeten any deal, including the rights to swap picks with Brooklyn this year.

The Celtics have the pieces to make a deal and give the Knicks future cap flexibility, some youth and potentially a promising draft pick. The problem is it does not seem like Anthony is what the Celtics want and it’s also not clear whether Anthony would even agree to join the Celtics.

The Celtics are legitimately one player away, but is Anthony the right player for how they want to play? The answer there might be “No.”

The Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic desperately need a star player. The Magic have a lot of things they could trade, and Anthony is exactly what the Magic franchise is missing – a “go-to guy.”

There are big issues with Orlando being a serious consideration for Anthony. The biggest is that he wouldn’t likely agree to a trade there. The Orlando market is as far from New York’s glitz and glamor as any city in the NBA, and the team is dreadfully bad in many phases of the game. One league source said Anthony would be better suited staying in New York than agreeing to the Magic, but let’s play the game anyway.

The Magic do have the salaries to send in a deal, Jeff Green ($15 million), Serge Ibaka ($12.25 million), Nikola Vucevic ($11.75 million) and Jodie Meeks ($6.54 million) would work, and all but Vucevic are ending contracts.

The Magic have some youth they could package in like Aaron Gordon ($4.35 million), Elfrid Payton ($2.613 million) and Mario Hezonja ($3.909 million). The Magic also have draft picks they could send.

Like the Celtics, the Magic could make a deal without compromising what’s truly their core. They do have a known quantity in head coach Frank Vogel. The question circles back to whether Anthony agree to a move to Central Florida.

The Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls got awfully close to landing Anthony when he was a free agent in 2014. The Knicks won out with their checkbook, but given where the Bulls are right now, is making a play for Anthony in a trade smart? It might be.

The Bulls have never been a “tear it down and rebuild” kind of franchise. In fact, ownership has had a “playoffs or else” mindset for some time, which is why the Bulls are stuck where they are.

The Bulls do have the pieces to make a trade work under the cap, and they do have some guys they could send New York that have some upside.

Regarding contract money, the Bulls have Rajon Rondo ($14 million), Taj Gibson ($8.95 million) and Nikola Mirotic ($5.782 million). Rondo and Mirotic almost get the math done, and both are ending contracts.

Factor in the fact that the Bulls have young guys like Denzel Valentine ($2.09 million), Bobby Portis ($1.45 million) and Michael Carter-Williams ($3.183 million) who have not exactly had big roles in Chicago and the Bulls have the pieces to make a very interesting offer.

If Anthony still feels the same way about the Chicago market as he did in 2014, there is a chance that the Bulls and Knicks could solve each other’s problems.

There would be some duplication problems for the Bulls to sort out, but the Bulls would all of a sudden have a respectable big three in Dwayne Wade, Jimmy Butler, and Anthony. That might not win a championship, but it would be a far scarier playoff team than currently constructed.

The Field

Let’s talk about the rest of the league for a minute. There are some outliers to consider. Anthony likely does not agree to a trade with a team clearly on the decline. He also isn’t going to agree mid-season to something unfavorable to his lifestyle and his family. That’s something people close to Anthony have been saying for a while.

All of that said, wouldn’t Anthony be an interesting fit in New Orleans? The Phoenix Suns have all the parts to make a play for Anthony, and he’d fit in nicely with all of the young guys they have. The Miami HEAT would be interesting. They are looking to fast-track a rebuild, and everyone loves South Beach. The “dare to be great” move for the Sacramento Kings would be an Anthony and Cousins duo. The Kings also have the pieces to make a trade workable for the Knicks, but does Anthony agree to Sacramento?

Keep in mind that no matter what the Knicks may want to happen in this equation Anthony controls the process. He can determine where he lands and has tremendous influence on what’s on the roster when he gets there. If Anthony does not feel like the new team offers a better shot than the Knicks, he can simply say “No” and ride out the situation.

Proponents of a trade often say the Knicks could force Anthony’s hand by refusing to play him or reducing his minutes or touches. While that is certainly true, the Knicks do have to rebuild after Anthony is gone and treating him poorly to force him out the door could have lasting and damaging repercussions as players and agents around the league will be watching how the Knicks treat Anthony, so it’s important the Knicks play this thing correctly.

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About Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.