After posting this piece last week, which advocated the New York Knicks making the risky decision to trade their best player, one of the most common responses we received was some variation of: “What could the Knicks realistically hope to get in return for Carmelo Anthony?”
So, today we’ll examine one potential deal that might make sense for both parties involved. (We will also examine a few other possible destinations in a follow-up piece.)
Again, as was detailed in the original story, if the Knicks decide to deal Anthony, they will have to enter trade talks with the full understanding that they’ll likely have to accept far less than market value in return. This is because Anthony holds a player option next summer that will allow him to become a free agent on July 1 and all indications point toward Anthony opting out.
Thus, any team trading for Anthony would be fully aware they may only be renting him for the final few months of this current season. However, if a team does trade for ‘Melo, they would hold a major trump card when it comes time to re-sign him, even if this new city is not necessarily Anthony’s preferred destination. If, after he opts out on July 1, he signs with the team that has his Bird Rights (the team that he was a member of on the final day of this 2013-14 season) he would be eligible to receive a five-year deal worth $129.1 million. If he instead chose to sign with any other team in the NBA, the max that team could offer would be a four-year deal at approximately $95.9 million.
Assuming his new team is willing to offer the full max, would Anthony really be willing to leave $33.2 million and an extra year on the table?
Keep in mind, Anthony will be 30 years old on the day he signs his new pact. He is fully aware this will likely be his final opportunity to cash in on a huge guaranteed contract.
This is a chip the Knicks can use to their advantage in negotiations. A team that trades for ‘Melo, even if they aren’t comfortable offering a maximum deal, can still offer far more (with more guaranteed years) than any other team in the NBA. This greatly increases the chances that Anthony would be a long-term cornerstone as opposed to a three-month rental. This reality could (and should) up New York’s asking price.
Another fact that could increase Anthony’s value is the fact that he is currently playing at an extremely high level. He put on a performance for the ages last Friday night, pouring in a jaw-dropping 62 points, setting an all-time MSG record. Anthony’s star-power, as evidenced by Friday night’s virtuoso performance, is an obvious reason why Knicks management, specifically owner Jim Dolan, would likely have a very hard time trading away Anthony.
However, if we look at the big picture from a basketball perspective, moving ‘Melo is the right decision for the Knicks franchise. Even after winning two straight home games against mediocre opponents, the Knicks are still a dreadful 17-27, 10 games under .500, and 5.5 games behind the Toronto Raptors in the Atlantic Division. No one has ever doubted Anthony’s ability to score, but the question remains: Can the Knicks realistically compete (let alone win) a title over the next five seasons if Anthony accounts for upwards of 40 percent of the Knicks’ salary cap?
One record-setting performance, and a couple wins, doesn’t change the fact that trading Anthony now puts the Knicks in the best situation long-term.
Moreover, the Knicks, as far as we know, have no guarantees from Anthony that he will re-sign with the Knicks this summer, even if New York wants to pay him the max. Anthony’s wife La La recently said that she fully expects him to re-sign with the Knicks, but a that’s hardly enough of a guarantee to bank on. Thus, keeping him past February’s trade deadline is inherently risky.
Safely assuming the Knicks won’t get back equal value in terms of talent, New York’s top priorities in any Anthony trade should be kick-starting the rebuilding process by targeting three commodities in particular:
1) Quality draft picks (as many as possible)
2) Young, promising players locked into affordable contracts
3) Veteran players whose contracts expire by 2015
Per the previous column: New York will shed major salary from their books in July of 2015. The 2014-15 season is the final year on the contracts of Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani. New York will clear a whopping $49.6 million in salary in one fell swoop. As a result, the Knicks could potentially enter July of 2015 as major players in the free-agent market – when such stars as Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, Paul Millsap, Marc Gasol, Al Jefferson, Tony Parker, Goran Dragic, Roy Hibbert, DeAndre Jordan, etc. may be up for grabs as unrestricted free agents.
If Anthony is not taking up $24.1 million, New York could be looking upwards of $45 million in cap space, which would allow them to go on quite the shopping spree that summer.
As it stands today, there are only four players that will likely be on the Knicks’ books past the 2014-15 season: Pablo Prigioni ($1.7 million), Tim Hardaway Jr. ($1.3 million), Raymond Felton ($4.5 million player option) and J.R. Smith ($6.4 million player option). There is also a $3.8 million qualifying offer for Iman Shumpert that the Knicks will have to make a decision on. As we now know, the Knicks wouldn’t be opposed to including Shumpert in a trade if the return was right.
It could be argued that the most logical landing spot for Anthony could be Chicago. Over the weekend, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski revealed that, according to a source, “Chicago is much more in play for him than L.A.” If the Bulls are in fact keen on the idea of luring Anthony to the Windy City, though, a deadline deal would benefit both parties.
So, here’s the question: Would either the Bulls or the Knicks say “no” to this hypothetical deal?
Why it makes sense for the Knicks: New York would jump start their rebuilding process by adding a solid young player in Jimmy Butler, who starred for Chicago in the 2013 postseason. Butler, 24 years old, is set to make just $2.2 million next season, and has a $3.1 million qualifying offer for the 2015-16 season. Although he has been dinged up this season by nagging injuries, Butler has an undeniably bright future in the league. He is a valuable two-way player a team can build around.
Tony Snell, the 20th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft out of New Mexico, is a solid all-around player and profiles as a solid rotation player. He’s a versatile wing off the bench and, just as importantly, he is also locked into a very affordable rookie contract that runs through 2017-18.
Because the Knicks will be well over the cap next year, they would have no issue taking back the additional year left on Carlos Boozer’s contract (whom the Bulls are purportedly considering amnestying this summer anyway). The Knicks would not be able to amnesty Boozer, but they wouldn’t need to. Again, the new focus would be maximizing cap space for 2015, and that’s when Boozer’s deal comes off the books.
The other major benefit to New York in this deal is moving Raymond Felton and the $4.5 million he is set to earn in 2015-16, which lines up with the goal of creating the most cap space in 2015.
The Bulls’ 2014 first-rounder would likely land somewhere in the teens. In a draft as deep and talented as this, this pick would be extremely valuable and could yield a very promising young player.
From the Knicks’ perspective, this deal is obviously not about short-term success. It’s about creating flexibility, adding assets, and re-charting a new course. Once an Anthony trade is completed, the Knicks could then put Tyson Chandler on the open market as well, and should bring back more picks and players (while also possibly being a conduit to dumping J.R. Smith’s 2015-16 salary). An Anthony deal would be just the first, crucial step in a full-scale rebuild. The good news is, if handled correctly, New York could successfully re-shape their entire roster in a relatively short period of time (only about 16 months).
Here’s why it makes sense for Chicago: A starting five of Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah would be an awfully intriguing starting unit. Assuming Rose comes relatively healthy, that would be an extremely exciting and dangerous squad.
Shumpert was born and raised outside Chicago, and although he has struggled with inconsistency during his tenure with the Knicks, he has also shown flashes of incredible upside. During the Knicks’ second-round defeat to the Indiana Pacers in last year’s postseason, Shumpert was arguably the Knicks’ second-best all-around player. Could a homecoming to Chicago revive his career and increase the chances he reaches his immense potential?
Felton would serve as insurance for Rose, in case the former MVP has any hiccups in his return from injury. And once Rose is back and completely healthy, Felton would be a solid back-up point guard, and could also, at times, play alongside Rose in the same backcourt. Chicago would also still have Mike Dunleavy to bring off the bench as well.
As far as the first-round pick is concerned, the Bulls could have as many as three picks in the loaded 2014 draft. Chicago will own the Bobcats’ pick if Charlotte doesn’t finish the season with one of the 10 worst records in the NBA. The Sacramento Kings also owe a first-round pick to the Bulls, but that pick is protected for selections one through 12. It is safe to assume the Kings won’t have to convey that pick this year. However, the Bobcats would qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today, so there is a decent chance that the Bulls will end up with Charlotte’s first rounder. Moreover, the Bulls currently don’t owe a single pick (first or second round) to any team through 2019. Thus, they obviously have the necessary picks in their pocket to sweeten a potential deal with New York.
Letting go of Butler would be a bitter pill to swallow, but, thinking ahead, if the Bulls inked Melo to a massive contract, they likely would be unable to match offers for Butler once he became a restricted free agent. When viewed through that prism, it makes losing Butler much more palatable.
Of course, the big unknown here is whether or not the Chicago front office believes Anthony would be worth the immense salary he’d request. The Bulls have previously intimated they would prefer to be south of the luxury tax and avoid the repeater tax at all costs. But would the formation of a new ‘Big Three’ of Rose, Anthony and Noah in Chicago be enough for them to invest heavily in Anthony? ‘Melo has shown a preference for big cities, and Chicago is one of the biggest markets in the country. Either way, the Bulls would have his Bird Rights, and would consequently be able to pay more him than any other NBA team.
Might Anthony to Chicago be an ideal fit for everybody?
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