After what seems like a neverending carnival of rumors, reports, inklings and hints, the Denver Nuggets finally traded Carmelo Anthony. He becomes a New York Knick, which is what he always wanted. Since this definitely won’t result in any titles or anything any time soon, it’s safe to say everybody is a winner here.
Carmelo gets to go to the Knicks and play for a marquee franchise with a marquee sidekick in Amar’e Stoudemire. One of the dominant scorers of his generation gets to play for one of the best offensive minds (Mike D’Antoni), which is nice. After seven long months where Amar’e was the best player on his team, he is once again second banana to a more charismatic, more well-rounded player.
The Nuggets get some decent talent and didn’t completely prepare for rebuilding mode, as they would have in a Nets trade. The downside is they got the kind of talent that could help them get a seven or eight seed, and not the kind of talent that gets any further, but hey, they were making the playoffs and getting knocked out in the first round while they had a franchise player, so it’s really a lateral move for them. At least they’re finally done with this situation.
Honestly, the biggest losers here are (a) Carmelo’s rep right now and (b) Amare’s ego down the line. While I wouldn’t say this months-long saga was as destructive to Carmelo’s image as “The Decision” was for LeBron’s — mostly because there is a world of difference in the image these two have cultivated, considering Melo is best known for “Stop snitching” and that comical back-peddling when he threw a punch at the Knicks (!) a few years back — it might have been more draining because of how drawn-out the whole thing felt. As for the latter, well, let’s just say that Amar’e was reveling in being the 2010 free agent who signed with the Knicks, he was reveling in the attention, he was reveling in the star power and he was doing this because, for a time, he WAS the franchise. He wanted another star with him, and he got it. But there’s no doubt which of the two players is the brighter star, so that’s something Amar’e will have to deal with in the future.
There were other players involved, too. Chauncey Billups, who spent a little more than three seasons back with his hometown team and briefly played the returning savior, gets shipped off to New York to find enough touches for two stars that badly need the ball to contribute (both Stoudemire and Anthony take a little more than 19 shots per game). Corey Brewer, that former Florida standout, is supposedly involved as well, as two players are going to be flipped for him. New York basically decimated its roster to do this, giving up Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Danilo Gallinari, the latter of whom is supposedly going to be shipped off again.
So what do this mean, in the short- and long-term, for the Knicks? They traded a bunch of parts for a strong scorer who is iffy defensively. So, basically, Amar’e, but two inches shorter, two years younger and with better knees. Great. The Knicks are still where they were before the trade: they’re going to score a lot of points and let their opponents run up the score. The Knicks allow 105.8 points per game, making them tied (with Cleveland!) for second-to-last in the league. They’re the second highest-scoring team in the league (following Denver, which allowed the 25th-most points out of 30 teams, and this should be telling you something). They just got stronger offensively, there’s no doubt about that, but they still have a spare-parts roster and no defense whatsoever.
(To compare it to another recent star teaming: LeBron and Dwyane Wade are also two offensive dynamos who teamed up in Miami. There are important differences, not the least of which is that LeBron and Wade are both terrific defensive players. Both of them are also great distributors, particularly LeBron. Carmelo has a career assists-per-game average of 3.1, which is better than Amare’s 1.4 dimes. Wade and LeBron average 6.4 and 7 assists per game over their careers.)
Don’t get me wrong: The Knicks will be entertaining to watch. Mike D’Antoni will work wonders with two offensive dynamos on the same team, something he really hasn’t had, and Melo and Amar’e represent the strongest front-court combination in the league. And because they’re the Knicks, expect to hear a lot about them, disproportionately to their accomplishments on the court.
But this isn’t a team that can contend in the East. Boston, Miami, Chicago and Orlando are all better, and I’m not so sure the Knicks beat Atlanta in a seven-game series. Down the line, they can use the allure of New York to grab a free agent here or there. But this is a two-man show that needs to fill out the roster. Who are they going to get in the next couple of seasons? Vets chasing a ring are more likely to sign in desperation with Chicago, Miami and Oklahoma City — younger teams that are more likely to play in the Finals over the next few years.
In perhaps the worst omen of all, Isiah Thomas is once again “calling the shots” in New York. Donnie Walsh, who cleared out the cap space to make room for marquee free agents and essentially worked to undo all of Thomas’s epic screw-ups, has a murky future with the team. Walsh also reportedly didn’t like the particulars of the Carmelo trade, thinking they shouldn’t give up every asset to get the guy. So even with more star power, at least they’re the same old Knicks: ready and willing to screw up whenever possible.