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NBA PM: Trying to Trade Carmelo Anthony

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So, in full disclosure, I have previously avoided dedicating a column to potential Carmelo Anthony trades primarily because Melo had made it crystal clear time and again that he had absolutely no interest in waiving his no-trade clause. Accordingly, it seemed to be a fool’s errand to conjure up hypothetical trades when it appeared there was no way Melo would ever approve any such deal.

Welp, after four straight losing seasons, and the looming likelihood of a fifth, in addition to a terribly fractured relationship with team president Phil Jackson and purported issues in his personal life, it seems we may have finally arrived at a point where Melo would actually prefer to be traded.

Thus, here we are. Now, let’s gets down to business.

From a Knicks perspective, there should be three primary objectives in any trade involving Melo:
* Clear cap space, and/or
* Acquire young, promising players on affordable contracts, and/or
* Obtain draft picks

History tells us it is almost impossible to get equal value in return when trading a star. And while Melo is clearly no longer an elite all-around player, he remains one of the NBA’s most accomplished and skilled scorers. However, Phil likely lost leverage and devalued his asset during his divisive diatribe after the end of the regular season. And, of course, there is the looming no-trade clause, which gives Anthony ultimate power and the final say on any proposed deal.

One other impediment to a deal is the trade kicker in Carmelo’s contract. Before we get to the fun exercise of examining and deliberating potential trades, let’s get some bookkeeping out of the way so we know how much the team that trades for Melo will have to accept in salary.

Back when Melo initially signed his massive, $124 million contract in July of 2014, Phil Jackson not only decided to pay Anthony $25 million more than any other team could offer, Jackson also agreed to include a no-trade clause and a trade kicker (a decision that was derided soon after it was announced).

Melo is owed $26,243,760 million in 2017-18 and has an Early Termination Option for the following season. If he does not exercise that option and opt out, he will be paid $27,928,140 million for the 2018-19 campaign.

Thus, Melo is owed a sum total of $54,171,900 over the next two seasons. Melo’s contract also includes a 15 percent trade kicker. 15 percent of $54.2 million is $8.1 million. If we divide that number by two (the remaining years on Melo’s deal), we get $4.1 million.

$26,243,760 (Melo 2017-18 base salary)
+$4,062,892
= $30,306,652

Thus, when configuring trades involving Melo, we have to use an outgoing salary for Melo of approximately $30.3 million as opposed to just his base salary of $26.2 million.

The bonus money owed to Anthony would be paid by the Knicks but it would go on the acquiring team’s salary cap.

So, because Melo’s outgoing salary would count as $30.3 million with the trade bonus included, the team that acquires Anthony will have to send back $24.2 million (125 percent of Melo’s contract plus $100,000).

Two caveats here: As will be discussed below, if the Knicks wait until after July 1 (the start of the new NBA year) to trade Anthony, then the salaries may not necessarily have to match up evenly. For instance, if a team is $20 million below the cap, they can use that cap space to absorb/offset the difference in outgoing salary. Also, Melo has the option to waive his trade kicker to facilitate a deal, just as Roy Hibbert did when he waived his $2.3 million trade kicker when the Pacers traded him to the Lakers in 2015.

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s now talk trades…

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New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for J.J. Redick (via sign-and-trade), Austin Rivers and 2021 first-round draft pick.

Why it makes sense for the Clippers:
It’d be an easy decision for the Clippers. They would avoid overpaying an aging, slowing Redick and bring in a sublime scorer in Anthony, who just so happens to be BFF’s with Chris Paul, the free agent point guard who the Clips badly wants to keep in L.A. Assuming the Clippers re-sign Blake Griffin as well, that gives them an incredibly intriguing Big 4 of CP3, Melo, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Billionaire owner Steve Ballmer has already avowed he is willing to pay a hefty luxury tax bill for a superior product. This would be the best of both worlds for L.A.; they keep their core together but also infuse new life and shake things up with the exciting addition of 10-time All-Star.

Why it makes sense for the Knicks:
It doesn’t. But before we break down this potential deal, let’s first discuss why a sign-and-trade with Blake Griffin is extremely unlikely. Assuming he opts out of his contract this summer, he can sign a max contract with the Clippers (who own his Bird Rights) for $175.7 million over five years. If he inks a deal with any team other than the Clippers, he can sign for “only” $128.5 million in guaranteed money over four years. When a player agrees to a sign-and-trade, they lose their Bird Rights in the process. Thus, the Knicks would be able to offer a max amount of $128.5 million. It’s extremely difficult to imagine Griffin willfully choosing to sacrifice nearly $45 million in order to leave a team that has won more than 50 games in five straight seasons so he can join a team that has won more than 50 games just once since 1996-97. Moving on…

A deal centered around J.J. Redick would be an awful move for the Knicks. Redick will be 33 years old when he signs his next contract. It’s been rumored Redick will be seeking around $16 to $18 million annually. While he is still an elite shooter, a skill that has increasing value in today’s NBA, Redick is on the downside of his career. Last season, he averaged less than 15.2 points per game and shot below 45 percent from the floor for the first time since 2012-13. In the 2017 postseason, Redick averaged 9.1 points on 38.0 percent shooting. In the two most important games of the Clippers season, Games 6 and 7 vs. Utah, Redick was invisible. He scored a total of seven points on 2-for-9 shooting. As noted above, if/when the Knicks move on from Melo, the team needs to embrace a complete rebuild and focus on the future, i.e. building a young foundation that can grow with and around Porzingis. If the Knicks clog up their cap space going forward by overpaying a defensively deficient guard creeping towards his mid-30’s because he would be a great fit in the Triangle Offense, it would be a major mistake that sets the franchise back years. Furthermore, it would likely force the Knicks subsequently trade Courtney Lee, New York’s current starting shooting guard. While Lee had an up-and-down season in New York, a young 3-and-D wing on an affordable contract is preferable to Redick.

Rivers is a decent player, but obviously not a difference maker. While his 2017-18 salary ($11.9 million) isn’t terrible considering his skill set, he has a player option for 2018-19. Thus, even in the best case scenario of him playing very well and exceeding expectations, the Knicks would be forced to offer him a raise and long-term contract next summer to keep him in New York.

Would Anthony accept a trade to L.A: We have to assume the Clippers would be one of his top choices, if not his preferred destination.

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New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
Boston Celtics in exchange for Jae Crowder, Tyler Zeller and Memphis’ 2019 first round draft.

Why it makes sense for the Celtics:
There are a lot of unknown variables that have to play out before Boston considers trading for Carmelo. If the C’s advance past Wizards and put up a strong fight vs. the Cavs in the Conference Finals, they may be unmotivated to make a major move, especially considering they will be adding a top-tier prospect via a top-three pick in the 2017 Draft (courtesy of the Nets). Also, because they will have upwards of $30 million in cap space to spend this summer, Danny Ainge and company will likely target a younger, max-level player. Gordon Hayward, who played collegiately under Brad Stevens at Butler, is presumably the apple of their eye.

But what if the next few weeks and months play out differently? Maybe the Wiz come back and knock off Boston in round two. Or the Cavs crush them in the Conference Finals by shutting down Isaiah Thomas, with Boston unable to produce offense elsewhere. Then, come July, Hayward re-signs with Utah. At that point, maybe Ainge is willing to roll the dice and bring in Anthony. Maybe a hungry, motivated Melo is viewed as the piece of the puzzle that takes Boston over the top.

Why it makes sense for the Knicks:
It’s a no-brainer for the Knicks. While not nearly as gifted as Melo offensively, Crowder is a terrific defender with an improving offensive game (he shot a career-best 39.8 percent from 3-point territory this past season). Best of all, Crowder is just 26 years old and locked into one of the more attractive contracts in the league, which would clear a ton of cap space for New York. Crowder will make a total of $21.9 million through 2020, or an average of just $7.3 million annually over the next three seasons.

The Celtics are swimming in extra picks. The Knicks would benefit greatly from any additional draft selections they can acquire. The salaries don’t match, but Boston would be able to absorb the excess salary into their cap space. (Safe to assume that Phil Jackson was hoping that Rajon Rondo had not gotten hurt and the Celtics flamed out in round one, as it would have increased the chances Boston would be willing to deal.)

Would Anthony accept a trade to Boston?
The C’s would seem to check a lot of boxes for Melo. Boston is a major market on the east coast and just a few hours north of NYC. And, with a top rookie and Melo added to an already stellar collection of talent, the Celtics would enter next season as a legit contender for the crown.

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New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
Toronto for DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph, Pascal Siakam and Toronto’s 2018 first-round pick

Why it makes sense for the Raptors:
The Raps have a solid nucleus, which has carried them to playoffs in four consecutive seasons. The problem is they have stalled once arriving in the postseason, unable to get past Cleveland, the cream of the crop in the East.

Toronto will almost certainly make every effort to re-sign Kyle Lowry and keep Serge Ibaka in Toronto by inking him to a new deal. Obviously, they are in “win now” mode. Much like the aforementioned Celtics, the Raps might believe they are just a key player away from dethroning the Cavs. A starting five of Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Melo, Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas, with Norm Powell and Delon Wright coming off the bench would surely have to excite fans north of the border. Furthermore, they’d rid themselves of Carroll’s onerous contract, which was a rare swing-and-miss by GM Masai Ujiri.

Why it makes sense for the Knicks:
Carroll’s contract ($14.8 million in 2017-18 and $15.4 million in 2018-19) is certainly not cap-friendly, but it will be off the books in two years. In addition, Carroll is owed far less than Melo and obviously doesn’t have a no-trade clause. A gaggle of smaller pieces will be easier for Phil Jackson to flip in future deals down the road.

Cory Joseph is an above-average backup point guard. He is owed $7.6 million next season and has a $7.9 million player option for 2018-19. He’ll most likely opt out in July of 2018, clearing cap space in the process. Assuming the Knicks draft a point guard with their lottery pick next month, Joseph can serve as a starter for a season and help mentor the Knick neophyte. Siakam was the Raps first round pick in 2016 and showed flashes of promise as a rookie, starting 38 games. If those pieces don’t fit for either side, the Raps have plenty of other attractive assets to dangle in a deal. I’m sure New York would be very interested in adding Delon Wright or Jakob Poeltl as opposed to one of the other principles in the deal.

Would Anthony accept a trade to Toronto?
Toronto is further away from NYC, but much of what was said above about Boston applies to Toronto. If he values winning, Melo has to be at least intrigued by joining a stacked Raptors lineup.

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New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Kevin Love and Kay Felder

Why it makes sense for the Cavs:
This is another hypothetical trade dependent upon future events. If the Cavaliers defend their title this season, they would have no reason even to consider breaking up a core coming off back-to-back titles. However, if they were to get knocked off in the NBA Finals, or, especially, if they were tripped up in the East, the Cavs might investigate shaking things up.

One other factor in play here is the fact that both Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade have the opportunity to become free agents this summer. All four friends have been open about their desire to team up and join forces at some point in their careers. While LeBron somehow figuring out a way to make “Team Banana Boat” a reality in Cleveland is extremely unlikely, it’s not impossible to envision him pressuring Cleveland management to trade for his buddy Melo.

Why it makes sense for the Knicks:
Yes, Kevin Love has some flaws, but he’s also an extremely skilled big man who is five years younger than Anthony. Granted, he’s not an ideal fit alongside Porzingis, but if you’re Phil, you make the trade and figure out how to realign the remaining chess pieces later in the game. Love is not only younger than Melo, but he also has a lower annual salary.

Would Anthony accept a trade to Cleveland?
Melo has nearly every individual accolade a player could hope for. At this stage of his career, considering the toxic work environment in New York and the roster assembled around him, one has to assume he’d now jump at the opportunity to join his friend LeBron and compete for a championship.

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New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
Portland Trailblazers in exchange for Maurice Harkless, Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier and Portland’s 2018 first-round pick.

Why it makes sense for the Blazers:
After going on a shopping spree last summer and doling out $350 million in long-term contracts, the Blazers will be bumped up against the cap for the foreseeable future. They will have to wheel and deal if they want to substantially improve their roster, just as they did in acquiring Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first-round pick from the Nuggets in exchange for Mason Plumlee. After stumbling out of the gate last season, Portland made a remarkable run to qualify for the postseason. Nonetheless, they squeaked into the playoffs and were quickly swept by Golden State. Afterward, Dame Lillard, the face of the Blazers franchise, discussed how the organization needs to find a way to compete with the vaunted Warriors. Procuring a talented veteran in Melo would provide an upgrade and allow the Blazers to start three elite scorers (Lillard, Anthony, and rising star C.J. McCollum) and a big man in Nurkic. Basketball Insiders’ own Moke Hamilton broke down this intriguing possibility last month.

Why it makes sense for the Knicks:
Making the salaries match would be difficult. Inserting Allen Crabbe in place of Harkless would get the job done, but Crabbe is owed $56.3 million over the next three seasons. That would be a tough contract for the Knicks to swallow. Harkless, who was born and raised in Queens, NY, is set to earn just $30.9 million over the next three seasons. Considering both players are comparable, Harkless is the more desirable option. In this scenario, a third team would be needed to absorb some of the excess salary.

Noah Vonleh hasn’t lived up the hype after being selected ninth overall in the 2014 draft. However, he’s still just 21 years old and played the best basketball of his career this past April, averaging 8.7 points (shooting 57.1 percent from the floor) and 9.1 rebounds. Shabazz Napier hasn’t had a chance to play consistently since his rookie season in Miami. The Blazers have a glut of picks they can include to spice up any deal. Portland has three first-round selections in the 2017 draft (15, 20 and 26th overall picks).

Would Anthony accept a trade to Portland?
A couple of factors to consider regarding Melo waiving his no-trade clause. First, he has a player option for the 2018-19 season. Thus, Anthony would only have to option of spending only one year with his new team before opting out and becoming an unrestricted free agent. Secondly, he gets to collect a cool $8 million via the trade bonus if he approves any deal. In Portland, Melo could revive his career playing alongside young, hungry players on a team with a high ceiling.

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Here are a few more potential (albeit somewhat unlikely) trade scenarios.

New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Jordan Clarkson, Corey Brewer and Larry Nance Jr.

If the old management group were still in place (the one that handed Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov $136 million last summer in a desperate attempt to become an adequate team), it would be easier to imagine the Lakers trading away a couple of their young pieces to net a notable name such as Carmelo. However, with Rob Pelinka now calling the shots in L.A., it’s safe to assume they would have no interest in renting Melo for a year or two on a team that is nowhere near a title contention. The Knicks could surely pique the Lakers interest by discussing a deal that included the dead-weight contracts of Deng and Mozgov along with young talent, but that would be counter-productive for New York.

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New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
Miami HEAT in exchange for Justise Winslow and Josh McRoberts

This would only be possible once the HEAT cleared Chris Bosh’s salary off their books. It also assumes McRoberts exercises his $6 million player option for 2017-18.

Miami was rightfully ecstatic when Winslow fell to them at No. 10 in the 2015 draft. He was immediately viewed as a cornerstone piece for the franchise. However, his first two NBA seasons have not gone according to plan. He appeared in only 18 games during the 2017-18 campaign before a torn labrum in his right shoulder ended his season prematurely. In the 18 contests he played in, Winslow shot 35.6 percent from the floor, 20.0 percent from three-point territory and 61.7 percent from the free throw line. All that said, he is still only 21 years of age and projects as a terrific perimeter defender with a high basketball IQ.

Nevertheless, might Pat Riley be tempted to trade his prized youngster for a player that would be able to provide significant help right away. The HEAT went 30-11 over their final 41 games last season. The Golden State Warriors (33-9) were the only team in the entire league to tally more victories over the second half of the season. The HEAT have to believe they are close to being a real threat in the East. Miami would be able to trot out a starting five that included Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, Anthony, and Hassan Whiteside, with Tyler Johnson coming off the bench. The issue for Miami is that they would not only have to part with Winslow, but they’d also have to use most of their coveted cap space to absorb Melo’s contract.

For the Knicks, it’d be a no-brainer. As for Melo, one would think he wouldn’t mind spending a (tax-free) season on South Beach.

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New York sends Carmelo Anthony, Joakim Noah and Kyle O’Quinn to the –
Detroit Pistons in exchange for Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson.

How desperate is Stan Van Gundy shake up things in Motown? Would he be willing to dismantle the roster he built?

Based on preseason predictions/expectations, the Knicks were quite possibly the NBA’s most disappointing team last season. You could make a strong argument that the Pistons were a very close second. After winning 44 games and qualifying for the postseason in 2015-16, Detroit was expected to take that “next step” in their progression this past year. Instead, they took a major step backward. The team appeared to quit down the stretch and failed to make the playoffs. Van Gundy was outwardly optimistic at the end of the year and said all the right things, but he had to have been incredibly frustrated. Playing in the first season of a five-year $130 million contract, Drummond was not nearly as impactful as he should have been. Reggie Jackson, who is owed over $51 million over the next three seasons, fought through knee tendinitis all season. He missed the first 21 and the final nine games of the year. Even when Jackson was active, the team was often better with Ish Smith running the point. Still, there would be little motivation in trading away their flotsam for the Knicks jetsam.

On the flip side of the coin, New York would love to get out from under the Noah contract, but how enthused would they be about trading for Drummond and Jackson, knowing that dynamic duo would account for approximately 40 percent of their cap going forward? More importantly, Melo would likely squash this before it even got serious. Moving on…

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New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Kent Bazemore, Mike Dunleavy, and Malcolm Delaney.

The Hawks are stuck in the middle of the Eastern Conference and appear to be trending in the wrong direction. Paul Millsap is a pending free agent. Dwight Howard is unhappy with his role in the offense. The organization consistently has trouble selling tickets. Anthony could be appealing on a number of fronts.

It’s not an overly exciting package from the Knicks perspective, but they do get younger and upgrade defensively. Bazemore struggled to locate his stroke for much of the season but has a relatively high floor due to his solid perimeter defense. Delaney is a backup point guard on a cheap deal. The final year of Dunleavy’s contract is non-guaranteed.

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New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Khris Middleton and Matthew Dellavedova

At first blush, it seems unlikely that Melo would consider moving to Milwaukee; but, upon further inspection, maybe he would entertain the possibility.

The Bucks are a fresh, up-and-coming team that features one of the game brightest young stars in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Anthony also has a good relationship with Bucks coach Jason Kidd. Melo enjoyed his greatest success as a Knick playing alongside Kidd back in 2012-13. And, again, Anthony would pocket millions by agreeing to the trade, and he’d have to spend just one season there if he was unhappy.

Milwaukee would obviously hate to give up Middleton but would be happy to dump Delly’s deal. Dellavedova signed a four-year, $38 million pact last summer but was replaced in the starting lineup by Malcolm Brogdon in late December. Brogdon, who is favored to win the Rookie of the Year award, is clearly the Bucks PG of the future.

The PG-starved Knicks would be more than willing to add Dellavedova if that was the price to pay for acquiring Middleton as well.

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About Tommy Beer

Tommy Beer

Tommy Beer is a Senior NBA Analyst and the Fantasy Sports Editor of Basketball Insiders, having covered the NBA for the last nine seasons.