The Definitive Melo Analysis

Photo courtesy of ESPN.com
UPDATE (2/23 5:00 PM EST): Multiple reports have confirmed that the Nets have traded for Deron Williams, sending Devin Harris & Derrick Favors and other considerations to the Utah Jazz. That makes the Knicks’ plans to acquire a point guard in the future slightly difficult, as you can see why when you read.

So, after a three-month game of chicken, the Knicks stopped three feet short of the cliff (read: three days before the NBA’s Thursday trade deadline) and pulled the trigger to bring Carmelo Anthony to New York. The trade 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. Minnesota also acquired a future second-round draft selection from Denver and Denver acquired Kosta Koufos from Minnesota.

While most New Yorkers are giddy with delight that the Knicks now have two top-15 players, I am slightly guarded, to say the least.

In fact, I think they gave up too much for ‘Melo.

(And this is coming from someone who a) has been a Knick fan since 1992 and b) is forever grateful to Carmelo for bringing my school, Syracuse, its only national championship in 111 seasons.)

And this is because, simply put, I don’t believe this team, as currently constructed, can win the NBA title. Ever.

Since the trade was first reported, I’ve read a lot of fan comments about this trade that are similar to, “At least the team will be more exciting and can make a deep playoff run!”

Well, I spent nearly a decade watching the Knicks “make a deep playoff run!” That includes two Finals appearances, four Conference Finals appearances and reaching the second round every year from 1992 through 2000. It’s time to start thinking about championships.

(Side note: Do you think the Yankees would be 27-time World Series champions by just thinking about making “a deep playoff run?”)

Now, to be fair, at the outset of the season, I saw New York as a 42-win team, good enough for a No. 7 or No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, which I could accept after nine straight losing seasons and, more importantly, the assurance that the front office would build the team into a legitimate championship contender in a year or two.

And, unfortunately, this looks to be easier said than done. A LOT easier said.

If and when this trade becomes official, here are the salaries for the players under contract through their entireties (this includes Carmelo signing the three-year, $65 million extension he so coveted). (click here to view)

As of right now, the Knicks are $9.3 million over the current salary cap of $58.044 million. After this season, they’ll have $60 million in salary with 10 players, plus whoever they draft in 2011 (teams can go over the cap to sign their drafted players, which have slotted salaries). If we agree that the team as currently assembled will not win a title, then the key here is not the summer of 2011, but the summer of 2012, when guys like Chris Paul and Deron Williams are free agents. Acquiring either point guard, two of the three best in the Association, would give the Knicks a formidable 1-2-3 combination that would challenge any other team.

However, looking at the first chart, after the 2012 season, the Knicks have about $42 million committed to only four players (plus $2 million for their 2011 draft picks). At a projected salary cap of $61 million, (on average, the cap has increased 3% since 2005-06)

The Knicks would have about $18 million in cap space. Listed above are Paul’s & Williams’ salaries through 2012 (they both make the same amount), along with projected salaries if they get a max contract. (Under the current collective bargaining agreement, a player with their tenure can receive up to 30% of the cap, or $11 million, whichever is greater). The cap space should be enough to sign either Williams or Paul… except for two issues.

First, after signing another max player, the Knicks would be just at the salary cap ceiling with eight players under contract at most. Count them. Amar’e, Melo, Renaldo Balkman, Toney Douglas, Paul/Williams, the two rookies they drafted in 2011 and maybe a third in 2012 (the Knicks only have a second-round pick 2012). I know Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni likes an eight-man rotation, but that’s with having more than eight guys (out of a possible 15) on the roster. They possibly could sign two more players with a mid-level exception and a veteran’s exception, but that’s it.

Second – and more importantly – the current CBA expires after this season. The owners are said to have asked for a 30% rollback in salaries or they will lock the players out. Let’s assume that they meet in the middle and agree to a 15% rollback. The salary chart would then look like this: (click here to view)

Unless either Paul or Williams takes a 50% pay cut, neither will be coming to New York.

And if the owners get their way (which they really might, because the players always cave), then it looks even worse with a 30% rollback: (click here to view)

The Knicks couldn’t even beg either point guard to take a pay cut, because they would be over the cap by close to $1 million. And in all three CBA scenarios, the Knicks would have, at most, ten players under contract. And under a new CBA, those two salary cap exceptions may not even exist.

I am sure one of you intelligent people looking at these charts said, “But hey, Chauncey Billups is an expiring contract at $14 million after 2012! Surely the Knicks could do something with that!”

They could do something… but it probably won’t help them get CP or Williams. For New Orleans or Utah to trade their respective star point guard to the Knicks, they would want a package of young players and picks in return, something the Knicks will have very few of when the summer of 2012 rolls around

Now, of course, there are a lot of factors than can tilt in the Knicks’ favor. They could hit the jackpot on one of their draft picks; a guy we don’t look at as a star now could become one in 2012 and cost less money (hello, Kelenna Azibuke?); a CBA may provide a loophole the Knicks could exploit, and so on. At the same time, a lot of factors could tilt away from the Knicks, excluding all the scenarios previously mentioned earlier, but including the one question everyone many have failed to ask:

What have we seen that tells you that Carmelo and Amar’e even co-exist?

I’m not saying they cannot…but no one can definitely say they can.

This is going to be interesting.

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10 thoughts on “The Definitive Melo Analysis

  1. This was a pretty solid breakdown.

    The main thing I would note is that it’s really impossible to project anything about who the Knicks will be able to pursue next year until we see what the new CBA looks like. That’s going to determine how all of this works out. The owners want 30% on player salaries, a franchise tag, and a hard cap. There’s no way they get all of that. I think they’ll end up getting 15-20% on player salaries including max contracts. The hard cap and the franchise tags may be the biggest points of contention and might just cause a work stoppage. We’ll see.

    So all that said, as far as this year is concerned, there are 2 questions that can be asked. 1: Did the Knicks do everything they possibly could to put themselves in a position to reestablish their relevance? and 2: Does this trade make them a better team than they were before it happened.

    The answer to both questions is a resounding yes. For the first time, in a long time, the Knicks are making all the right moves. I understand your desire for a championship as a Knicks fan. I have it too. I been a Knicks fan for as long as I’ve watched basketball. So yeah, I wanna see a chip in my lifetime. But, Rome aint buit in a day – the Knicks are doing what they need to do to build it long term.

    And by the way, Deron Williams just got traded to the Nets… wow.

  2. Mr. Equis,

    Agreed, my projections are merely that, projections, and it’s impossible to figure out what the numbers will look like in 2011-12, not to mention 2012-13. I think the trade off will be the players will accept either a hard cap or a reduction in max salaries, but not both, or they’re just one step away from becoming the NFL.

    As for your two questions, you’re exactly right. However, my concern is that while the Knicks took two steps forward yesterday, they may not be able to go any further, which is why I illustrated all the salary cap options. They will need that third guy to win a title, and this trade may have severely limited their options to do so, unless Landry Fields becomes the man or they hit it big in the draft.

  3. And that’s my other contention with the trade. I believe that Danilo Gallinari could be the third best player on a championship team. I don’t see anyone on the Knicks right now that can fill that role. Let’s see if they get him.

  4. I can dig it. Now with reports of NJ getting Deron, I have to think that NY had tunnel vision missing other opportunities possibly out there. All in all, it was a good move on NY’s part. “You can always find role players, but superstars are hard to come by.” That quote had me sold on this deal. Well done Knicks. Welcome back.

  5. When assessing whether you think the Knicks gave up too much ask yourself this question. What did the LA Lakers give up for Kobe, Bynum and Gasol? What did the Boston Celtics give up for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen? Now, before you answer, stop and think about it.

    LA Lakers – Divac. Nothing. and Marc Gasol and Kwame Brown.

    Boston Celtics – Nothing. Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair and two first round picks (irrelevant to championship teams), Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and Jeff Green … and they got Big Baby too.

    So do you think the Knicks gave up too much now?

    Also, here’s what folks don’t say, the Knicks are doing all of this so that they can be the #4 team in the East. Are you serious? You just traded to HOOD to be the #4 team in the East? Oh my bad, not this year, but next year. Because in the next three years the Knicks could become potentially better than the Celtics, Heat, Bulls or the Magic?

    Think about that. Think about it.

  6. In my opinion, the Knicks did what they had to do. If you look at league history in the last 22 years (because this is how far back I can speak to), championships are won with superstars (one at least, often two), and rolls players who can play off of those superstar(s) strengths.

    Did the Knicks give up a lot of players? Yes. In all honesty though, it may play out that they took the “sell high” approach. Who the hell knew who Timofy Mozgov was before the season? Wilson Chandler started the year playing very well, but if you’ve watched him lately he has hit a bit of a wall.
    I like Gallinari, but he is not Carmelo, will never be Carmelo, and should not be the reason to not bring Carmelo to New York. He is replaceable. And everyone knows the Knicks are after the elite PG in 2012, so Felton should not be a sticking point either. Let’s also not forget that all of these players are products of a run-and-gun offense so I think there talent is skewed even further. Carmelo is a top 15 (maybe to 10) talent in any system you put him in, that just doesn’t grow on trees.

    Will the Knicks win a title based off of this move? Only time will tell. Unfortunately there can only be one champion each year, and a lot of teams have made great moves but still don’t win. You have to be in it to win it though, and this move puts the Knicks in that type of discussion. Kudos to NY.

    .:DCD:.

    PS – A lot of people are caught up in this fact that the Knicks made a move of this magnitude to only be a Top 4 team in the East. Unless they traded for Kobe, Durant, or a player off of the Top 3 teams, could they move any higher in peoples eyes?

  7. @DCD – When it’s not your time you wait. That’s originally what the Knicks were trying to do. Put it to you like this, when Magic left the Lakers it was bad. Van Exel, Jones, and Campbell just were not going to get it done. But they didn’t prejac… they waited. They noticed that in all reality they were not going to be good enough to beat the NBA elite teams with the talent available on the free agent market. They remained competitive, they worked through the draft and free agency. They brought in Shaq, drafted Derek Fisher, and traded Vlade Divac (A center they no longer needed) for a SG from Lower Merion. Still, they waited. They needed to develop Kobe into a superstar without him experiencing too much failure, they also needed to move Eddie Jones, and Del Harris was not the answer at coach. They waited until Phil Jackson became available and then they pounced. CHAMPIONSHIP.

    Of course the Lakers could have sent the HOOOOOD to Phoenix to get Barkeley when he was a free agent. That would have made them competitive. They probably could have even went after Larry Brown, that would have made them competitive, but it wouldn’t have made them a champion. And when you look at it by being patient and sustaining a certain level of competitiveness the Lakers got Shaq, Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, and gave up nothing. Then later on after stinking it up in 2004, they were patient and got Phil Jackson back, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol for Caron Butler, Kwame Brown and Marc Gasol.

    Patience is virtue when winning championships, but if you want to be the #4 team, you go out there and you try and score some points.

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