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.
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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NBA Daily: Three Trade Targets for the New York Knicks
Drew Maresca explores three restricted free agents-to-be who the Knicks should explore adding via trade before the March 25 trade deadline.
Often the NBA’s biggest flop, the New York Knicks have been significantly better-than-expected to start the 2020-21 season. They’ve won eight of their first 16 games and have surrendered the fewest points per game on the season, placing them squarely in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
That said, they’re not out of the woods yet; with much of the season left to play, the Knicks are devoid of any meaningful offensive weapons. Additionally, the roster features a number of high-quality veterans whose deals are set to expire, the kind of players that contenders like to fill out their rotations with down the stretch, so the roster could look much different at the end of the year than it does now.
So, the Knicks are expected to be active on the trade front, again – no surprise there. But this year could be among the last in which the Knicks are sellers at the deadline. And, while moving some of those veterans for future assets is smart, the Knicks may also want to look at players they can add to bolster that future further.
Of course, New York shouldn’t go all-in for Bradley Beal — they’re not there yet — but there are a number of restricted free agents to-be that would fit both their roster and timeline nicely.
But why give away assets to acquire someone that the team could sign outright in just a few months? It may sound counterintuitive to add a player that’s about to hit free agency, restricted or otherwise, but procuring that player’s Bird rights, an exception in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows teams to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players (not to mention offer them an extra contract year and bigger raises), can be key to securing a player’s services and building a long-term contender.
Further, the 2021 free agent market isn’t might not live up to expectation, with many presumed free agents already agreed to extensions. So, with that in mind, which players should the Knicks pursue via trade prior to the March 25 trade deadline?
John Collins, Atlanta Hawks
Collins’ production is down this season, but that has nothing to do with his ability. A 23-year-old stretch-four who’s shooting 35% on three-point attempts, Collins is big, athletic, can score the ball (16.7 points per game this season) and is a great rebounder (7.5 per game). He also connects on 80% of his free-throw attempts.
Despite those impressive stats, Collins was even more productive last season, averaging 21.6 points on better than 40% three-point shooting and collecting 10.1 rebounds per game.
But the Hawks rotation has become increasingly crowded this year. They added Danilo Gallinari and rookie big man Oneyeka Okongwu, the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, to the frontcourt this offseason, while Collins was already vying for minutes with Clint Capella, who Atlanta added via trade last season. Cam Reddish, a second-year wing who is versatile enough to play some power forward, has also stolen some of Collins’ potential minutes.
So, as much as the Hawks seem to like Collins, he may be a luxury they can do without. He’ll obviously demand a relatively high-priced contract. The fact that Atlanta and Collins failed to reach an extension last summer would also seem to make a reunion less likely; would the Hawks invest so heavily in him now that they have three players at the position signed through at least the 2022-23 season? Further, could they invest even if they wanted to at this point? The Hawks are already committed to more than $100 million next season and, with Trae Young and Kevin Huerter extensions on the horizon, they might be hard-pressed to scrounge for the cash Collins would want in a new deal.
He won’t come cheap, for sure. But, while Julius Randle fans may not love the idea of bringing in his replacement, Collins is simply a better long-term solution.
Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans
The point guard position has been a sore spot for the Knicks for some time. And while Ball might not be the franchise cornerstone that many hoped he’d become, adding a young player with his upside is clearly a positive move.
Granted, Ball is inherently flawed. His jump shot appeared to be much improved last season and he’s showcased a significantly improved shooting form from years past. But he’s struggled in the new season, shooting only 28% on three-point attempts (down from 37.5% last season). In fact, he’s struggled on the whole on the offensive side of the ball, posting just 11.9 points and 4.4 assists per game (a career-low). He’s also missed some time with knee soreness and moved to more of an off-the-ball role as new head coach Stan Van Gundy has put the ball in the hands of Brandon Ingram more and more.
But, with New York, Ball would step into a significant role immediately. For his career, Ball is a net-positive player and, despite his shooting woes, has posted a positive VORP every year he’s been in the league, save for this season. He’s an above-average defender and, while he does need to ball in his hands, he doesn’t necessarily need to take shots to be effective.
Ball may never become the All-World caliber guard many pegged him as before the 2017 NBA Draft, but he’s better than any other option currently at the Knicks disposal. And, best of all, his trade value is arguably as low as it’s ever been. So, while the Pelicans won’t just give him away, New York should do what they can to acquire him for a reasonable price.
Devonte’ Graham, Charlotte Hornets
Last but not least, the surprise from the 2018-19 rookie class. Graham is possibly the hardest sell on this list, but it’s not for a lack of talent.
Graham burst onto the scene last season, posting an impressive sophomore campaign of 18.2 points and 6.4 assists per game. Unfortunately, those numbers have taken a drastic dip this season with the arrival of Gordon Hayward and the highly-touted rookie LaMelo Ball in Charlotte. Likewise, Graham’s struggles through the Hornets’ first 10 games limited his opportunities further.
That said, he would appear to be done slumping, as he’s connected on 43% of his attempts from deep in the team’s last two games.
But his efficiency wouldn’t be the main challenge when constructing a Graham trade. Instead, some in New York could be concerned with lack of size – Graham is only 6-foot-1 – and his inability to act as a facilitator at the guard spot.
But Graham is talented, plain and simple. In fact, he’s the exact kind of talent the Knicks should be looking to add right now. More specifically, Graham shot 37.3% on three-point attempts last season; the Knicks rank 21st in three-point percentage so far this season.
The Knicks could ultimately sit tight, swap a few veterans for future draft picks and rest assured that they’ve made enough progress by simply adding coach Tom Thibodeau. But they could and should be aggressive while they can. If New York can add one or more the players mentioned, they may not only build a brighter future, but improve on what the team could do this season. Either way, the Knicks look to be on a good trajectory, but every move they make from here on out can and will affect how quickly they make the leap from laughingstock to respectable contender.
NBA AM: The Utah Jazz Are Showing Continuity Is Key
Is Utah’s early success an indicator of things to come? Between Donavon Mitchell, a stingy defense and hot three-point shooting, they may just be the real deal.
The Utah Jazz are riding high on a seven-game winning streak, hotter, at this point, than all hell. 15 games into the season, the Jazz have been the third-best team in the Western Conference. The key for them has been continuity as they have 11 guys who were on last year’s team. The only addition they made to their rotation this offseason was Derrick Favors, who was with the team for nine seasons before a one-year departure.
Quinn Snyder is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the league, and he’s showing why this season. The Jazz are currently in 7th in both offensive and defensive rating. Beyond that, there are only three teams who can say they are top 10 in both: The Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns. Often, teams that finish in this select category are historically serious contenders.
Moreover, the Jazz have been on a shooting tear. Using Gobert’s rolling ability to collapse opposing defenses and find open shooters, Utah’s offense is clicking right now. It’s worked tremendously too, considering the Jazz have attempted and made the most three-pointers of any team this season – and hitting on 40.3 percent as a team. Royce O’Neale, Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles and Mike Conley are all shooting above 40 percent; while Bojan Bogdanovic is almost there at 37.8.
Basically, the Jazz are just shooting the ball at a ridiculously well rate right now and good ball movement has propelled them.
Mitchell seems to have taken another jump in his development, although it is subtle, and his growth as a playmaker has benefitted everyone. He’s made teams pay for overhelping, often initiating the ball movement that has led to open looks. He’s also taking fewer mid-range jumpers, converting those attempts into three-pointers. The budding star’s play has been more consistent overall, and he’s been effective out of the pick-and-roll.
Mike Conley’s improved play this season has been needed – now he’s settled and red-hot. Coming off a disappointing season last year, there were questions as to whether he was declining. While it’s safe to say he’s no longer the guy he was in Memphis, this version of Conley is still a good one. He looks a lot more comfortable in his role and the Jazz are reaping the benefits. In a contract year, Conley is averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 assists per game while shooting 41 percent from three.
Jordan Clarkson is a strong candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, fitting in perfectly as the Jazz need his scoring and creation off the bench – even leading the league in such scorers from there. But the Jazz’s bench is more than just Clarkson though, as they’ve gotten strong minutes from Joe Ingles, Georges Niang and Derrick Favors too. They’re a solid group that plays both ends of the court, and all fit in nicely with the starters as well.
Sorely needed, however, Bojan Bogdanovic’s return has helped tremendously. He gives them another big wing who can shoot and is a scoring threat, and before he got hurt last season, he was averaging 20 PPG. While he isn’t at that level this season, he gives them another reliable scoring option that they badly need. Better, it also allows Ingles to remain on the bench, where his playmaking ability can really thrive.
The Jazz have been playing stylistically a little bit different this year and it has worked. They don’t run often but when they do, they have been potent. Playing at the same pace as last season, Utah is scoring almost five more points per game in transition. Additionally, they are taking six more threes a game too. This all amounts to a 6.1 net rating, which is good for fourth-best in the NBA.
Lastly, their defense has been impossible for teams to penetrate, inviting opponents to try and finish over Rudy Gobert in the paint. Gobert is a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate for a reason – his presence alone almost assuredly guarantees his team will be a top 10 defense, which the Jazz are. Favors’ addition has helped stabilize the defense when Gobert sits, which was a major issue last season. Overall, they are just a very disciplined defense that makes teams earn their points, rarely committing cheap fouls.
As it stands today, the Utah Jazz are solidifying themselves as one of the best teams in the Western Conference. It remains to be seen if the hot shooting is sustainable, but the way they are generating those open looks seems to be. The defense is legit, and if they can remain healthy there’s reason to believe that this team can continue to compete at this level. The Utah starting lineup has outscored opponents by 58 points, but they’ve also had one of the best benches in the league – needless to say, the Jazz’s continuity has been a big part of their early success.
NBA Daily: Defensive Player of the Year Watch
An inside look-in at the early frontrunners for the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
In this fresh edition for Basketball Insiders, there are a few players that should be finalists for the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Of course, this prestigious award is given to the contributor who makes the biggest impact on the floor for their team on the defensive side of the ball. In two out of the last three seasons, the award has gone to Rudy Gobert, the rim-protecting center for the Utah Jazz. This past season, Giannis Antetokounmpo won both the DPotY award, as well as Most Valuable Player for a second straight year. Over the past few years, the trending group of finalists for the award has been consistent no matter what the order ends up being.
Can anyone new break in this year?
Anthony Davis will always be in the conversation for this award as he has shown throughout his career that he is one of the league’s most ferocious game-changers. Despite never winning the award before, he has made four NBA All-Defensive teams as well as being the NBA’s leader in blocks on three occasions. Davis’s block numbers are a little lower than they usually are at 1.9 blocks per game this season – compared to 2.4 for his career, per Basketball-Reference. This could be due to the addition of Marc Gasol to the Lakers’ frontcourt, a move that has boosted the team’s rim protection. If Davis can raise his numbers again, he should be in consideration for the award purely based on his defensive presence on the court – but he should still finish among the top five in voting.
The center for the Indiana Pacers – the former potential centerpiece of a Gordon Hayward trade with the Boston Celtics – has continued to show why the team would not package another one of its top players with him. Turner is the current league leader in blocks with 4.2 blocks per game, elevating his game beyond any doubt in 2020-21. He is one of the more underrated rim protectors in basketball, as he has only one top-five finish in the DPotY voting in his career. Turner has also improved his steals metrics this season by averaging 1.5 per game, thus providing a strong defensive presence alongside All-Star frontcourt mate, Domantas Sabonis. Turner should be the frontrunner for the award as things stand right now, but that could change as the season progresses, especially as his injury impacts proceedings.
The reigning two-time MVP should always be in the conversation for the DPotY award as he revolutionizes the defensive side of the floor at an elite level. Currently, Antetokunmpo is averaging 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per game to go along with a 106.5 defensive rating, per NBA Advanced Stats. It goes without saying, but Antetokounmpo is a chase-down block artist, always there to contest shots around the rim with his long frame. The 6-foot-11 power forward is one of the league’s top five players due to his exceptional play on both sides of the ball and will always be considered for the DPotY award as long as he in the NBA.
The Los Angeles Clippers’ superstar has been arguably the best defensive small forward in the game over the past few years. He first gained major recognition for his defense during the 2014 NBA Finals against the LeBron James-led Miami HEAT. Since then, Leonard has racked up six All-Defensive team nominations to go along with two Defensive Player of the Year awards. This season, Leonard remains an elite defender for the championship-hopeful Clippers with 1.8 steals and 0.8 blocks per game – but his defensive rating is the highest of his ten-year career at 107.8.
The current league leader in rebounds for the Cleveland Cavaliers is having a monster season thus far. In a contract year, Andre Drummond is currently putting up 19.3 points per game, 15.8 rebounds per game, 1.7 steals per game and 1.6 blocks per game. He also has a very stellar defensive rating of 105.0, a culmination of points allowed per 100 possessions. Drummond is not on a very good team, but that should not take away from the impact he makes when he is on the floor. As a pure rim protector and rebounding machine, he should finish higher up in the voting results than usual, even if his season doesn’t end with Cleveland.
Honorable Mention: Tobias Harris
The Philadelphia 76ers have started the season on a very high note at 9-5, all despite loads of COVID health and safety protocols preventing their full team from taking the floor. Tobias Harris has played a major part in their early-season success leading the NBA in defensive win shares among starters who have played at least 10 games with 0.184, per NBA Advanced Stats. Along with that, Harris is also second in defensive rating among qualified starters at 99.6. The veteran forward has averaged 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. So if the 76ers want to remain at the top of the Eastern Conference, Harris’ overall play will be a huge reason for that success.
As the old saying goes, defense wins championships – and these players are the type of players that can change the result of a game every night. Keep an eye on these players as the season moves along as they should garner consideration for both All-Defensive team nominations and the DPotY award.