Cognition & Reality

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Melodrama Will Have Sad Ending For Knicks

Filed under: Sports — drtone @ 6:29 pm
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The trading deadline in the NBA brought a number of big trades, but none was bigger than the one that sent Carmelo Anthony, one of the league’s brightest stars, from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks. Anthony’s desire to go the the Knicks had been talked about since last season, and the many recent stops and starts in his journey to the Big Apple have distracted the entire NBA since at least the beginning of January. Now that it’s over, I predict the trade will be a disaster for New York, no matter how well Carmelo performs on Broadway.

The reason I say this is based partly on the outsized expectations placed on a team with two superstars, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire–and no bench–but mostly on an assessment of what Denver received in return for Anthony and the great Chauncey Billups. Anthony is that rare superstar who can score with ease either facing the basket or with his back to it, and score in bundles. Nevertheless, he is a poor defender and something of a head case. Billups, a favorite in his native Denver, is on his way to the Hall of Fame, meaning that he’s far from the player he once was, and was in the middle of a productive but, for him, somewhat down season.

It is notoriously difficult for a team to get value for a star player who is playing out his contract with no intention to remain with the team, as was the Nuggets’ situation in Carmelo Anthony’s case. Nevertheless, in addition to draft choices, they received three players who could start with pretty much any team in the league, and another who could be a significant back-up big man. Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari are both guys who can get you 16 points and 8 rebounds night after night; either can occasionally go off for a lot more, and both are good defenders. Raymond Felton is in the midst of a career year that, although he plays in NYC, has been overlooked on account of the gaudy numbers being put up by some other point guards in a league presently rich in artists at that position. Although no one could replace the leadership of Billups in the short term, Felton will eventually wrest the starter’s role from fellow North Carolina alum Ty Lawson, and could end up being an upgrade from Billups over the long term. Timofey Mozgov has performed well for the Knicks in limited minutes at center, starting over a dozen games for them.

Setting aside some more marginal players involved in the deal, which included a trade-within-a-trade involving Minnesota, Denver got a hell of a lot from the Knicks, who could have signed Carmelo in the off-season without sacrificing a clutch of excellent players had they taken the minor gamble of waiting until then. The Knicks also gave Denver the opportunity to improve itself greatly later on, giving up a first round draft choice this year, as well as second round choices in the two succeeding years. Even if it does not land a superstar with one of those picks, Denver, under George Karl, one of the elite coaches, has a chance to become a team like the league-leading San Antonio Spurs, an efficient unit of excellent players with no superstar. Few trades improve both teams as much as that. Furthermore, unless the Knicks start winning big soon, unlikely considering what they had to give up to get Carmelo, they are in danger of melting down under the megawatt spotlight of the New York media. Time will tell that, having made Denver one of the deepest teams in the NBA, the Anthony trade was too lopsided a deal to have been good for the New York Knicks. The “Melodrama” will turn out to be a tragedy for Knicks fans.

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