What would the point be to the New York Knicks trading Carmelo Anthony right now?
The toxicity around the Knicks right now is approaching Superfund levels. Team president Phil Jackson, who has said nothing publicly to anyone covering the team since September, has nonetheless created the impression that he’d like Anthony gone, via confidante Charley Rosen and a sharply critical column Rosen wrote for FanRag Sports earlier this month. A Jackson-Anthony summit a couple of weeks ago did nothing to quell the trade talk. The disclosure last week that the Knicks have reached out to the Cleveland Cavaliers and LA Clippers to assess their interest in Anthony made it plain: Jackson wants Anthony out.
But there’s no way, right now, that the Knicks will get anything close to what they want or expect for the 32-year-old Anthony. Everyone knows he’s on the block, so no one is going to offer that much. Add to that Anthony’s no-trade clause, giving him veto power over any potential deal, and New York’s not operating from a position of strength.
It is easy to say that it’s time to build the franchise around Kristaps Porzingis. It is quite another to determine what Anthony’s true value is in today’s market and in today’s game. That’s not unique to Anthony, by the way. Even though Brook Lopez is firing 3-pointers this season at an all-time rate (career-high 223 attempts and counting), he’s not viewed around the league as a stretch five (or whatever the nomenclature of the week is for his position among the advanced stats folk). He’s a center with great low post skills, a decent (but not great) rebounder and, like most men his size, not all that effective guarding bigs in space behind the 3-point line. What is that worth in the 3-point dominant NBA of today?
In the old (read: two years ago) days, someone with Anthony’s proclivity for scoring and star presence would fetch you a whole lot of future firsts and/or young players you could build around -- like what New York gave Denver in 2011 to land Anthony in the first place. But that kind of deal is increasingly difficult for teams to pull off or justify. In the new NBA landscape, awash with money, teams need to have multiple players in their rotation that aren’t pulling down eight figures per year. That makes Draft picks and young players on cheap contracts even more valuable than they already were.
The list of available and willing suitors just isn’t that big.
There just isn’t a credible path to get Anthony to Cleveland and close friend LeBron James. There’s no way the Cavs are going to deal either Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson, and let’s be honest, there isn’t anyone else on the roster that would be a blip on New York’s radar. (If the Knicks were willing to take a package from Cleveland featuring J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and other pieces, man -- hard to see that. But it would indicate how desperate the Knicks are.)
Nor has Anthony ever expressed any interest in a homecoming in Washington with the Wizards (he grew up in nearby Baltimore). Even if he did, the Wizards certainly aren’t parting with John Wall or Bradley Beal, and have said they’ll match any offer for rising restricted free agent Otto Porter, who leads the NBA in 3-point percentage this season. And, again, even if Washington wanted ‘Melo, it’s hard to see New York jumping on a package of, say, Ian Mahinmi, Markieff Morris, Andrew Nicholson and a 2017 first-round pick.
Dallas could certainly use someone who can score the way Anthony can, but the Mavericks have made it clear that Wesley Matthews is off-limits, and league sources indicate that Deron Williams is equally unattainable. (Nor is Williams interested in a buyout.) Plus, the Mavericks are in desperate need of getting in the Lottery and adding a player not born in the 1980s, so Dallas isn’t parting with any picks. And the Los Angeles Lakers are no longer in the kowtowing-to-the-aging-superstar business.
Would Oklahoma City like to reduce Russell Westbrook’s nightly burden? Sure. Thunder GM Sam Presti has never been shy about midseason roster shake-ups and OKC currently has two near non-scorers in the starting lineup in Andre Roberson and Domantas Sabonis. But Presti has rarely traded young for old (when he did, getting Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green, it didn’t work as he’d hoped), and unless the Thunder was willing to talk about Victor Oladipo -- it is not -- what else is there for the two teams to talk about?
Getting Anthony would require a good team to totally remake its offense for a ball-dominant player whose free throw attempts have dropped significantly from his career high of 8.9 per game in Denver in 2009-10 to their current 5.2 per game. Or it would require a bad team to trade future picks or young players to the Knicks for someone who’s still got $54 million coming his way after this season through 2019. And, it would require a team to think that getting Anthony would put it over the top -- either in the East over Cleveland, or in the West over the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs.
The smart move would be to let Anthony get his trade value back up with a strong finish, then re-address this in the offseason. But no one wants to be reasonable, right? You all want trade rumors! Well, there are a couple of obvious places where a deal is at least possible. Clearly there are only a few places and/or teams for whom Anthony would give up his no-trade, so we’re going to leave out wacky trades where he plays for the Sacarmento Kings or Utah Jazz and concentrate on things that have at least a basis in possibility, if not, currently, reality.
Clubhouse Leader: LA Clippers
Scenario: Escalating the Arms Buildup
Clippers trade: G Austin Rivers, G Jamal Crawford, F Wesley Johnson, 2021 first-round pick, 2019 second-round pick
Knicks trade: Carmelo Anthony, G Sasha Vujacic, worse of 2017 second-round picks between Chicago, Houston
The Clippers are working on borrowed time. Everyone in L.A., up to and including coach Doc Rivers, is under the gun. Owner Steve Ballmer may look like a shot-and-a-beer billionaire, but like all other billionaires I’ve known, endless patience is not in his tool box. Add to that the impending free agency of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick, and the immense pressure Golden State’s lineup puts on everyone in the conference to keep up in the arms race or die, and it’s easy to see L.A. rolling the dice. They would have to go all in with a pursuit of the Warriors this season, and add ‘Melo where Luc Mbah a Moute currently resides at small forward -- and, all due respect, does not engender fear in the Bay.
Because of Anthony’s 15 percent trade kicker -- he gets an additional 15 percent bump on top of whatever he’s contractually owed if he’s traded -- his actual salary cap number for this season if he were dealt would be $29,363,544, give or take a penny: the prorated amount of the 15 percent kicker for the rest of this season ($4,804,164 as of this morning) plus his actual 2016-17 salary of $24,559,380). The Clippers are hard-capped, having a team salary above the luxury tax threshold this season of $113,287,000.
L.A.’s current team salary is, according to Basketball Insiders’ cap magnate Eric Pincus, $114,740,032. The hard cap for this season -- the “apron” past which no team is allowed to go by making a trade -- is $117,287,000. (Teams can exceed the tax threshold if they’re re-signing their own players, which is why a team like Cleveland, for example, is above the hard cap number with a team salary of $127.5 million.)
So the Clippers could make a trade for Anthony, provided they don’t take in more than an additional $2.456 million -- the difference between their current cap and the hard cap limit. That means they’d have to send out salaries equaling at least $26,907,544 to be able to take in Anthony alone.
But teams also have to have a minimum of 13 players on their roster at all times (12 active players and at least one inactive player) unless it has several injured players at the same time.
So if the Clippers, who currently have 15 players on their roster, could trade three players and take back just one -- Anthony.
The only deal that would make sense is to send Austin Rivers (yes, Doc’s son) along with Crawford and filler salaries to make the deal work -- in this case, Johnson’s $5.6 million this season. (Well, Redick would work financially instead of Johnson, too, but Redick would just be a rental for the Knicks; he’s looking for one last big payday next summer, which he surely would get somewhere else.) That would send enough money out to allow the Clippers to actually take back another player besides Anthony -- in this scenario, “The Machine”, who has some history making big shots in Staples Center at enormous moments in the playoffs.
The Clips are currently obligated to send their 2017 first-rounder to Toronto, but even though the pick is Lottery protected -- the Clippers would keep it if they somehow wound up missing the playoffs -- they can’t send it to New York. If the Clips keep this year’s pick, the obligation to the Raptors flips to 2018. And Los Angeles is already obligated to send its 2019 first to Boston. So L.A. can’t trade either its 2017 or 2020 first-rounders because of the Stepien Rule, leaving the earliest possible first-round pick it could move to be its 2021 first.
It isn’t the haul that you would normally associate with a player of Anthony’s caliber, but if the Knicks want to get rid of him as badly as everyone says, they’re going to have to accept pennies on the dollar. Besides, Rivers has been a solid two-way guard for the Clippers, and would give the Knicks a credible alternative at the point next season if they opt not to re-sign Rose. What Doc Rivers would say to Kristin Rivers -- his wife, Austin’s mother -- would be best left to history.
… YOU WRITE IN, DA ANSWERS …
Depth charges. From Kenneth Matsumoto:
Enjoy your articles and writing, but I can’t agree that the West lacks depth compared to the East. A lot of emphasis is being placed on what will be the 8th seed in the West having a losing record, but the winning percentage of teams 1-7 in the West is .685, versus .587.
I think teams No. 8-15 in the West share many similar characteristics and as a result they are “bunched.” They all have suffered from injuries and with the exception of Dallas, which has a significant youthful lack of consistency.
The West continues to be a much stronger conference. The Cavs would be in no better than 4th place in the Western Conference standings, their winning percentage versus the West is .625, which would place them in 6th.
Of the top 8 teams in the East by standings, only THREE have records above .500 versus the West (before start of play 1/23/17). EIGHT teams in the West have winning percentages against the East.
Phoenix, a bottom seed in the West, has a .625 winning percentage versus the East -- the same as the Cavs versus the West.
Seven Western teams are above 60 percent, three teams in the West have winning percentages above 75 percent versus the East.(endital)
The point wasn’t that the West as a whole isn’t stronger than the East, Kenneth; I said that at the outset. I was speaking specifically of the depth in the West. I wasn’t comparing it to the East. Unless there’s a massive second-half run by either Denver, Portland or Sacramento, one of those teams is likely to get the last playoff spot with a record around .500 at best, compared with Phoenix in 2014 -- which won 48 games and didn’t make the playoffs at all. That was the point.
He sends one of yours to the hospital; you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago Way. From Henry Hall:
What the heck is the deal with Rondo man? When he plays hard he is a top 10 player. Like, remember him guarding LeBron in the playoffs and ducking his elbows mongoose-cobra style 40 feet from the hoop while putting up like 20-15-15? Is this like a Ty Lawson situation? His 3-point shot even got decent last season and nobody will touch the guy. An elite defender (when engaged) and floor general needs to be on a team that wants him. I can only think of two teams that would truly benefit: New Orleans and San Antonio. Speaking of the latter, what are the chances of Pop taking a flyer?
Things are melting down quickly in Chicago, Henry. (Henry sent this before Rondo went Global Thermonuclear War on Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler in a scathing Instagram post last Thursday that openly questioned their leadership. Wade and Butler had questioned the drive of teammates following the Bulls’ collapse at home last week against Atlanta, when Chicago blew a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter. The Bulls responded by benching Wade and Butler for the start of Friday’s game, another home loss to Miami. Butler went 1 of 13 from the floor off the bench.) Assuming Rondo’s days with the Bulls are numbered, I never say never, but it’s hard to see the Spurs bringing him in; besides, San Antonio has played rookie Dejounte Murray behind Tony Parker without any hesitation this season, including at Cleveland a week ago.
Spanish Flyin’? From Jarrell Pulliam:
Huge Timberwolves fan here. With all of the trade rumors about Ricky Rubio, I'd like to present a different idea which I've said all season. Trade Kris Dunn. KAT is going to get the max, Andrew Wiggins is going to get the max, and Zach LaVine is going to get the max as well. The Timberwolves are going to have 3 max players and a potential 4th in Dunn. I like the idea of trading him and Shabazz [Muhammad] while the interest is high. I also like the idea of a player like Arron Afflalo off the bench on the wing, but that's another discussion. Tyus Jones has shown he can be effective when given minutes. He's a better playmaker at this point than Dunn and a better shooter than both Dunn and Rubio. If you keep Dunn and let him become the player you hope he will what happens when you can't pay him? Thoughts?
Nope nope nope nope nope. No way I trade Dunn. He’s going to be an outstanding pro point guard. And Rubio is in his way. You worry about paying him in four years, not now.
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(Last week’s averages in parenthesis)
1) Russell Westbrook (32.5 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 8.3 apg, .387 FG, .750 FT): One wonders what the two-time defending MVP in the All-Star Game will have in store next month in New Orleans, when he’s playing with his old buddy Kevin Durant.
2) James Harden (30.5 ppg, 8 rpg, 11.3 apg, .425 FG, .889 FT): Two 50-point, 13-rebound, 13-assist triple-doubles in one season is two more 50-point, 13-rebound, 13-assist triple-doubles than anyone else ever.
3) LeBron James (26.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 10.5 apg, .569 FG, .688 FT): At least, unlike other people I can name, Liggins was willing to hurt his field goal percentage by taking a buzzer-beating shot.
4) Kevin Durant (29.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.5 apg, .563 FG, 1.000 FT):Not sure I’d call it the worst movie in history, but it, ah, wasn’t good.
5) Kawhi Leonard (23.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4 apg, .394 FG, 941 FT): Broke Tim Duncan’s club record of scoring in double figures in 75 straight games last week.
BY THE NUMBERS
66 -- Years since the Knicks had played a four-overtime game, before Sunday’s classic in Atlanta. The last time New York played a 68-minute game was on Jan. 23, 1951, in a 102-92 four OT loss to Rochester. Arnie Risen led all scorers with 26 points. Good Old Arnie.
1,316 -- Career games for Grizzlies guard Vince Carter, who celebrated his 40th birthday last week.
16,157 -- Miles that the Thunder have traveled in the month of January. Including Tuesday’s game at San Antonio, OKC played 12 of 15 games this month on the road. According to the Thunder, the team spent 40 hours this month on a plane flying somewhere. And, incredibly, seven of the team’s 15 games have been played in a time zone that ‘s different from the one in which they played the previous game.
I’M FEELIN’ …
1) The coaches got the All-Star reserves in both conferences right. I can’t work up much angst about Joel Embiid not making it, despite his role in the Sixers’ solid improvement this season. And Damian Lillard, unfortunately, doesn’t have to look any further than the Blazers’ won-loss record to see why he’s not going to New Orleans.
2) This is awesome, and I volunteer to take part in something similar in New Orleans next month at All-Star if anyone is game.
3) Saw the Mavericks last week, and while this season is likely lost because of all the injuries, I can see why Dallas thinks it has someone good in undrafted forward Dorian Finney-Smith from Florida. He has great 3-and-D potential, after most scouts before the Draft said he’d almost certainly have to play stretch four in the pros. Rick Carlisle has put him on the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Taj Gibson and Carmelo Anthony with varying degrees of success.
4) There was greatness in Melbourne, with Serena Williams and Roger Federer, yet again, holding time to a standstill and winning yet another major -- Williams’s 24th, breaking the modern record for which she was tied with Steffi Graf, and Federer’s 18th -- this one the most amazing of his incredible career, years removed from his last. What champions these two are, and how remarkable their careers.
NOT FEELIN’ …
1) I have tried, in the last few weeks, to not write much about the political roiling our nation is going through. It’s been a long year for all of us, no matter who you support, and we all needed a break. But the executive order President Trump signed last week banning people from seven nations from entering the United States -- including American citizens with valid green cards and visas who were traveling abroad to those countries, and who were simply seeking to return home -- is shameful. It echoes the worst of our nation’s history, not its best. It is about paranoia, not hope; ignorance, not knowledge; fear, not love. This isn’t about whether Thon Maker or Luol Deng can play games in Toronto, even though that would be horrible; they will be okay missing a game. But our nation must be better than stereotyping and blame. We’ve done that too much in our past, and the results still harm us. (That none of the seven countries under the ban sent any of the terrorists who carried out 9/11 and most of the other major attacks on our homeland seems not to matter.) You can, as always, unfollow me on Twitter or not read the Tip if you like. I will not stick to sports. This is my column.
2) I’d never tell a team not to win games, but the Heat’s seven-game win streak is putting a cramp in all their, um, planning for next season.
3) RIP, Charles Shackleford. The former NBA player (Nets, 76ers, Timberwolves, Hornets) was found dead at his North Carolina home at age 50 on Friday.
4) Mary Tyler Moore meant more to women in the 1960s and ‘70s than she did to me. But respect to her for creating a character on her iconic sitcom in the ‘70s whose sole purpose in life wasn’t the pursuit of a husband or the need to start a family. Mary Richards was a career woman who became an executive at her Minneapolis TV station, and was judged on competence as well as appearance. That was a decidedly different trajectory than almost all women on TV had at the time. In addition, MTM was one of the first women to have a career long enough to have been on two hit shows, having gotten her first crack at stardom as Laura Petrie on “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” (Speaking of which: D-Wade? This is how you rock capri pants.) She was funny and a hell of an actress and it still seems like 80 was too soon for her to go. RIP.
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