Analysis on NBA Blockbuster: Carmelo Anthony Being Traded from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks

Carmelo Anthony has finally been traded to the Knicks. While this is great news for Melo himself who has been outspoken about his desire to join his hometown club, there are many dissatisfied parties after the way things played out. Let’s take a look at the various parties involved in the trade and decide if they’re winners or losers. I’ll be avoiding utilizing advanced metrics, or, at least, going into detail about them so as to keep this article easier to digest. If you want an excellent article about that with a bit more from the advanced metrics, try HoopSpeak.com. The trade, in its entirety according to ESPN.com, is as follows

Denver trades Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman to the Knicks for Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, a first-round draft pick (2014 or later) and cash. Knicks also send Anthony Randolph and Eddy Curry to Minnesota for Corey Brewer.

The Knicks Outlook:

The Knicks, after being spurned by Lebron James and Chris Bosh, have now got two star players who absolutely want to be in New York. That’s the good news. The bad news is how they fit. Amare and Carmelo are both amazing offensive players, amongst the tops in basketball, but it’s unclear just how much that helps the Knicks. In Mike D’Antoni’s system, they were already a top 3 offensive team in the league. Melo certainly makes them more potent offensively, especially when combined with the efficiency of the backcourt of Chauncey Billups and Landry Fields. This is a team that will score buckets of points with great floor spacing, even though that’s what they were already doing before the blockbuster trade.

The major improvement for the Knicks with this deal is, surprisingly, rebounding. Amare is a great offensive force, but for his size and usage, only a good rebounder, especially at the 5. So, how is this deal a strength? The top rebounding 3 in the game, right up there with Lebron at that skill, is Carmelo Anthony. The top 2 guard in rebounding is likewise a Knick, Landy Fields. If Ronny Turiaf is healthy and just eats up space, we’re looking at a clearly great team rebounding unit. Combined with a fast-paced offense, sure to attack before defenses are set, you have a team that will be especially effective on second chance baskets.

The Knicks weaknesses after this trade, however, likely outweigh the new strengths. The major and obvious weakness is defense. D’Antoni’s system is much maligned for poor defensive results, but when adjusted for pace, his Phoenix team ended up at or above average almost every year of his tenure. No, system won’t be the problem, but subpar defenders will. Carmelo is now the Knicks best defensive option, as frightening as that seems. Amare is a solid defender, but overmatched as a center. Turiaf is good, despite constant foul and injury trouble. Billups is a good team defender much slowed by age, and Fields gives great error but is still prone to rookie mistakes. Add in a basically invisible bench (defensively, besides Corey Brewer, they’re just floor spacers) and the team is left with no one to clog the lane when drives happen and no one at all on the wings to prevent the initial drives. Without a center magically falling into their laps, the Knicks will remain a terrible defensive unit, but, then, they were already pretty bad there.

So far, the net of this trade has been a positive. The Knicks are better offensively, better rebounding, and just as bad defensively. This is still a bad trade for them. The major problem with this deal is an utter lack of depth. The Knicks slowed down from a hot start because playing starters such huge minutes lead them to slow down. Now, their bench is non-existent. Put bluntly, the bench is far, far weaker after this deal. Everyone they received from the Nuggets can play a bit, but at the minutes they will be asked to perform, they will be severely exposed. Now the old Chanucey Billups will be expected to play huge minutes with only Tony Douglas as a backup. Amare is already breaking down and now doesn’t have Mozgov or any other center on the roster to help him rest. Fields will have Brewer backing him up and Melo will end up at the 4 a lot for Shawne Williams to help spread the floor, but either that lineup or using Shelden Williams at the 4 leaves the Knicks absolutely irrelevant defensively. This team will need to play it’s starters into the ground and are one injury from irrelevance.

Knick fans have been talking themselves into this as the second move of getting their own big three, expecting Deron Williams, Chris Paul, or Dwight Howard to join the Knicks after next season. Think again, Knick fans. Not only did the Knicks gut themselves of young players and expiring deals in order to get Melo, they’re also paying him max money. What that means is with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement set to lower the salary cap, the Knicks will not have enough for another max player and, as much as I consider Chris Paul a top 5 player in the league (advanced metrics again), putting him at the point still doesn’t solve the defensive deficiencies this team faces and put them above the Bulls, let alone the Heat or Celtics. They’d need Dwight Howard (maybe Al Horford, although that’s quite the step down, no disrespect to Al) to fix their defense and have no money or assets to make that happen. They could have had Melo for cheaper this off-season, only giving up Wilson Chandler, but, instead, they gutted the youth of their roster, losing trade chips Timofay Mozgov, Anthony Randolph and Danillo Gallinari. Those pieces could have been used next year to help pair Howard with the Knicks two-some of Amare and Carmelo or, if Carmelo left, the cap space could have been saved and they could have aimed at Dwight and either Deron or Paul. Now, they will have to make it work with their current big two, without help on the way.

The Nuggets Outlook

Denver made out like bandits. People have been complaining about Melo holding them hostage, but what he really did was allow them to play the Knicks and get far more than the Raptors or Cavaliers got for their departing superstars. If they stand pat now, they are still likely a playoff caliber team. With Gallinari and Chandler replacing Melo and Felton replacing Billups., they still have offense to be competitive. More, they still have enough cap room to pay Nene over the summer and remain under the cap, with the assets to make a splash in free agency and the draft.

Should they wish to immediately build for a championship contender, Mozgov and Gallinari to the Nets for two #1 picks is not a bad deal at all. Add in the ransom they could command from the underrated Aaron Affalo (a sweet shooting and defending two) and the enigmatic JR Smith (an amazing, but sometimes disruptive scorer) and the Nuggets aren’t in bad shape at all, especially with George Karl at the helm. I know the Nuggets are upset right now, but Gallinari is 22, Mozgov is 24 and holdover Ty Lawson, the team’s point guard of the future, is 23. That’s quite the young core, even in the west.

The Timberwolves Outlook

The Wolves have been consistently half-effective. Last year, they tried out Darko Milicic, fell in love with his middling production, and overpaid him. Still, he’s a big body who can fill it up and help make up for the defensive shortcomings of Kevin Love and Michael Beasley at the forward spots. The Wolves, with this deal, took another step towards becoming an effective defensive team in acquiring a potential Marcus Camby clone (with better ball-handling) in Anthony Randolph. The Knicks were mysteriously unwilling to play the twenty-one year old despite him potentially being the frontcourt player they need. Well, in exchange for letting Melo work under the Knicks cap and helping the Nuggets save some cash, the Wolves got that rare shot-blocking talent that Randolph possesses. This is a team that has already shown that they are willing and able to develop young talent in the frontcourt. Paired with Love and costing only Corey Brewer (free agents aren’t exactly beating down the door to play in Minnesota), the Wolves got a low-risk chance at a special frontcourt.

The New Jersey Nets Outlook:

So, Melo spurned them after all. C’est la vie in New Jersey, right? Upon closer inspection, this is not remotely bad news for the soon to be Brooklyn Nets. While the Knicks have taken themselves out of the running for the 2012 free agent class, the Nets have put themselves in prime position to nab a top talent. In addition to a plethora of draft picks and tradable assets, they will also likely have a budding star in Derrick Favors. Favors is only 19 and has taken a lot of heat for not being special yet, but fans need to calm down and realize that he’s of similar age to Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki when they came into the league and then look at their rookie numbers. Favors matches up just fine. Further, the Nets can move Devin Harris, seemingly to Portland, and use a draft pick or two for Gallinari and Mozgov. That would give them a young, deep team.

Assuming the nets make the proposed deal for Gallinari and Mozgov, they would have Brook Lopez, who finally looks like himself again, backed by Mozgov, Favors backed by rebounding beast Chris Humphries, Gallinari at the 3 backed by Travis Outlaw, floor spacer Anthony Morrow, and, at worst Jordan Farmar at the 1, all with the team ready to head to Brooklyn that Summer. Add in a draft pick or two and you have a team in prime position to claim Dwight Howard and either Chris Paul or Deron Williams. Even if Dwight goes to LA as rumored, Brook, Favors, Gallinari, Morrow and Paul is a top 5 team in the East with seasoning, especially when adding in a top pick this year. The Nets, despite not getting Melo, are a team on the rise.

Final Points

The Nuggets, Nets and Wolves all got out ahead on this big Melo deal. Sure, Denver would be better off if Melo just stayed, but with that not an option, they did far better than any other team shedding a superstar mid-season has done in recent memory. The Wolves have given them a chance for a special frontcourt, while the Nets have a ton of assets and Brooklyn looming. The Knicks, unfortunately, got what they wanted, but in doing so were played into both giving up and paying too much, making them a sure playoff team for years, but one it’s hard to see as a championship contender without some extreme luck in their favor.

If you want more detail on how the Knicks might work with Melo check NBAPlaybook.

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