Well that didn’t take long.
The New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony, who have been feuding publicly for weeks, appear to be headed for a divorce. And although Anthony is one of three NBA players in possession of a no-trade clause, he has reportedly agreed to waive it in order to be dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers or Los Angeles Clippers. The Cavs were smart to reject a Kevin Love for ‘Melo swap, but a deal with the Clips could be in the works.
This is extra-newsworthy because the Knicks are willing to deal their star forward without receiving DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul or Blake Griffin in return. Could a new super team be formed before the trade deadline, just down the 101 Highway? And as always, should Golden State Warriors fans care?
How it would work
Both teams are over the salary cap, so any legal trade would require the Clippers to send out close to $24.5 million (Anthony’s 2016-17 salary) worth of players. If we’re excluding Paul, Griffin and Jordan, that leaves Austin Rivers and J.J. Redick as the only other significant salaries; one of them must reasonably be the centerpiece of an offer. (Note: If a third team gets involved, the parameters of this deal change entirely.)
Rivers is the son of the Clippers’ coach and general manager — which probably sounds very surprising if you’re not familiar with the Clippers’ front office. Given daddy Doc Rivers’ positions within the front office, we should probably exclude the young Rivers from the deal. That leaves the extremely talented Redick as the centerpiece of our hypothetical deal ($7.4 million). He’s an expiring contract, so he could easily be bundled into a follow-up trade or he could be an extension candidate for the Knicks.
Jamal Crawford has a great reputation as a microwave scorer off the bench, but he’s really fallen off lately. He’s turning 37 in March, and he’s currently rocking near-career lows in true shooting percentage and free throw rate. At his best, he was never very effective at anything besides scoring — now he’s not even doing that well. The Knicks shouldn’t want anything to do with Crawford and his three year deal, but he makes $13.2 million this season, which means he’s all but required to complete this deal. And taking one crummy contract may be a requirement to pick up another asset in this deal — such as...
Mo Buckets! Warriors fans don’t need to be told how awesome Marreese Speights is. But at $1.4 million, he might also be the most underpaid player in all of the NBA, relative to his objective value. Dude is fourth in total RPM among NBA centers, including positive scores on both offense and defense. His true shooting percentage currently sits at .608, which is elite. And he even has a 20.5 PER, the highest of his career.
Despite all of that, he’s somehow making less than Raymond Felton. Go figure. Speights has a player option for next year, but who cares? When a guy like this is treated like a spare part, you scream fire, shove women and children out of the way and do your best George Costanza impersonation. Just pray the general manager on the other side is that much of a bozo.
From here, any other throw-in player will meet the requirements for the deal. Without Speights, another combination of low-salary rental players could be dumped in from their permanent seats on the Clippers’ bench.
Why it won’t work
For the Knicks, the goal is closing the book on the Carmelo Anthony era. And this will get that done, at least. And this deal will accomplish that with a minimum of collateral damage (Crawford is your collateral damage).
For the Clippers, this would be one of those headline-snatching deals that managers dream about. Only it wouldn’t work very well at all. It may sound absurd, but Redick is more valuable to the Clippers than Anthony.
The Clippers are perpetually starved for spacing. As good as Jordan and Griffin are, they’re both near-worthless away from the hoop. So when playing together in lineups, finding three other shooters becomes a top priority — otherwise one or two guys can guard two or more Clippers in the paint at all times. This is why the league’s best teams (Houston, Cleveland, San Antonio and Golden State) always endeavor to fit as many shooters into a lineup as is reasonable.
What’s more, a clogged painted area prevents ball handlers like Chris Paul from driving the lane, or even making entry passes. Long story short, a lack of spacing in today’s NBA basically grinds an offense to a halt.
Their best shooter by far is Redick, an elite long range threat who — when teamed with Chris Paul — gives the Clippers two credible threats from range. After that, the fifth guy, a small forward, hides in the corner and takes an occasional three to keep defenses honest. This spacing gives Blake and DJ the room to work, and dominate, inside.
Taking Redick out of the equation makes a star-studded Clippers team much more defensible. But worse still, is the fact that this trade would pair Carmelo Anthony, a ball-dominant isolation player, with Chris Paul, perhaps the best floor general the league has ever seen. And those two things don’t really go together! The Clippers, and Chris Paul, thrive with players who can play without the ball, be it diving for alley-oops (Jordan) or cutting off the ball (Redick).
Sticking Anthony in the lineup would be the equivalent of the New England Patriots signing quarterback Matt Ryan — an offense with that much firepower sounds cool in theory until you realize that having a second quarterback on the field who doesn’t have the ball is kind of stupid.
Yes, Carmelo Anthony could play small forward within the offense, and man his post in the corner shooting threes. And yeah, maybe he could spell Griffin at power forward or even allow Griffin to play center in a beefy small ball lineup. But to make a super-trade on this basis is the height of naiveté.
Anthony has gone on record as saying he doesn’t want to play in the post, despite being supremely good at it. It’s painful and difficult — most guys wouldn’t want to. And Anthony is 32 years old; at some point people need to stop hoping and wishing and start acknowledging and understanding that he is who he is and he’s not going to magically morph into Paul Pierce in his prime just because his team thinks it would be a good idea.
It’s going to sound more than a little arrogant, but the Warriors shouldn’t be too concerned about a major move involving Carmelo Anthony and the Clippers. Despite his reputation, Carmelo Anthony isn’t the kind of needle-moving superstar that could legitimately change western conference landscape. Further, such a deal might actually damage what little hope the Clippers have of winning a championship with their current core.
- Over/under on how many times in NBA history a player has specifically requested a trade to the Cavaliers or Clippers: 1.5
- A stipulation of the collective bargaining agreement holds that no team may have two or more rookie-max players. That means Griffin and Derrick Rose can not play on the same team, which means that you can give up on that D-Rose and Carmelo super-trade.
- Depending on your point of view, either LeBron James understands and agrees that the Cavaliers shouldn’t want (or can’t afford) Carmelo Anthony or the Cavaliers ownership pulled rank by rejecting Anthony against James’ wishes, thus increasing animosity with LeBron.
- ESPN also reported that the Boston Celtics also turned down a Carmelo Anthony deal. Are all of these rejections more embarrassing for Melo or Knicks boss Phil Jackson?