With more and more talent leaving the East for the West, the Knicks could actually have a shot at the playoffs next season if they hold on to Carmelo Anthony. But understandably, the front office is thinking long-term, valuing dumping Melo’s contract and starting fresh over getting swept by the Cavs or the Celtics in the first round.
Early Monday morning, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski dropped another offseason bomb, reporting that Melo would waive his no-trade clause for the Rockets or the Cavs. Anthony has two years and $54 million left on his contract, but both teams are willing to shell out that cash in order to compete with the Warriors dynasty.
A move to the Cavs makes sense. For a long time, Anthony and LeBron James have expressed an interest in playing together. But a trade to Cleveland could send Kevin Love to New York in return, and that’s making many Cavs fans reluctant. But aside from Love, the Cavs don’t have any worthwhile assets.
After (Phil) Jackson’s firing last week, the Knicks have maintained a stance of wanting significant assets back for Anthony in a trade and have resisted the idea of a contract buyout, league sources said. Sources said the Knicks are trying to avoid long-term salary commitments to older players.
The Rockets make sense in that newly-acquired point guard Chris Paul has expressed a similar interest in Anthony. However, Houston would be running a risk by bringing Melo into the fold. Mike D’Antoni, who just won Coach of the Year with the Rockets, recently admitted that his coaching tenure with the Knicks came to an end because Melo forced him out. Anthony said he no longer wanted to play for D’Antoni, so D’Antoni quit.
In New York in 2012, after Anthony said the team needed to choose between him and D’Antoni, Mike made it easy. “I just went in and quit,” he says. “Don’t say ‘quit,'” Laurel says. “I hate that word. You resigned. You walked away. Mutually walked away.” Mike rolls his eyes and turns to me. “I quit,” he says.
Melo has had some effort and ego issues in the past, but for anyone questioning Melo’s motivation, here he is working out at 1:49 a.m. in Manhattan.
Clearly, both Anthony and D’Antoni have put that era behind them now. But that’s easier to do now when they haven’t been working together for the last five years. And D’Antoni would also have to find a way to share one basketball between Paul, James Harden and Anthony.
The Rockets want to part with forward Ryan Anderson, but that’s not what the Knicks are looking for. Even though Anderson is a matchup problem at 6’10” with incredible shooting range, the Knicks don’t believe he’s worth $61.3 million over the next three seasons. (Of course, they believed Joakim Noah was worth a four-year, $72 million deal, but that was under recently-fired president Phil Jackson.) Veteran shooting guard Eric Gordon, the 2016-17 Sixth Man of the Year and the team’s second-leading scorer, could be a good fit for the Knicks. But after dealing bench scorer Lou Williams to the Clippers in the Paul trade, the Rockets’ depth would take a big hit if they gave up Gordon as well.
Melo isn’t the superstar he once was. But he could still be a deadly scorer as part of an offense where he is not the focal point. He averaged 22.4 points for the Knicks last season.
Even though Melo has a high level of interest in Houston in Cleveland, it will be tough to find a deal the Knicks like. The Knicks hold little leverage thanks to Anthony controlling trade talks. And if the Knicks get the assets they want in return, Melo may decline to waive his no-trade if he thinks the trade would hurt his new team’s chances of winning a title.
Until a third team gets involved, it’s tough to see these trade talks actually leading anywhere meaningful.