It would be an understatement to say the Knicks season hasn’t gone according to plan thus far. The team sits at 16-27, which is good for third place in the weak Atlantic Division. They are also currently tied for tenth in the conference with Cleveland, and two games behind the Bobcats for the eighth and final playoff spot. Even if the Knicks have a second half surge up the standings, they would be looking at a probable first-round matchup with either the Heat or the Pacers. The Knicks chances of advancing past the opening round would appear slim, given the depth and talent of those two opponents.
So the Knicks are at a crossroads, one that is vital to the team’s long-term outlook. It was only a short time ago that the Knicks traded for Carmelo Anthony. Here was the star player that they craved so badly, and even more important, he wanted to be a Knick. The Knicks had missed out on LeBron James after clearing the dead weight from their salary cap to make a run at him, and ended up with Amar’e Stoudemire instead. That rejection definitely stung the organization. So the team tore up its roster in order to make the trade with the Nuggets. After last year’s 54-28 record, with the team, and Melo, making it past the first-round of the playoffs, big things were expected this season. But the loss of some key veteran players in the offseason, a slew of injuries, and many players not meeting expectations, has Carmelo re-evaluating if he wants to remain with the team long-term.
Anthony can opt out of his deal at the end of this season and become an unrestricted free agent. It is a given that he will do so, but what isn’t so sure anymore is him re-signing with the Knicks. They own his Bird Rights, and can offer him the most money in a new deal. But many experts believe that Melo is tired of the losing, and will seek a better situation for himself. Coach Mike Woodson disagrees with that assessment, and stated, “Melo I think is on board. I know he’s on board…He’s going to be there to the bitter end if it’s a bitter end. But right now he’s going to be there. I trust he’s going to stay there. we got to make sure everybody else is on board.” Woodson though, might not be the most reliable source, as he’s been rumored to have lost the locker room, and is firmly on the hot seat as far as his job security goes.
Anthony isn’t the reason for the Knicks woes, as he’s having a very solid season. He’s currently averaging 26.1 PPG, 9.0 RPG, and adding 3.1 APG to those numbers. His slash line is .438/.412/.847. He’s also logging 39.2 MPG, and not receiving much help from the rest of the roster. He also just broke Bernard King‘s team single-game scoring record, dropping 62 on the Bobcats tonight. This total also eclipsed Kobe Bryant for the Madison Square Garden scoring record, which was previously 61.
So the big question is: Should the Knicks trade Carmelo Anthony? If he leaves after the season, the team gets nothing in return. This would not only set the franchise back in terms of on-court talent. It would also make the trade for him seem like a terrible deal in retrospect. The other factor to consider is if Anthony is worth re-signing to what is sure to be a max contract. He turns 30 this May, and has quite a bit of mileage on him. He’s never proven that he’s capable of leading a team on his own to a title, and the Knicks would be paying max dollars for his declining years. Re-signing Anthony would severely limit the other moves the team could make, and possibly prevent them from acquiring the pieces he would need around him to win. He wants to play with another star or two, and his salary would make it difficult for the team to accommodate that wish.
So the Knicks could decide to cut their losses and try to jump start their rebuilding process. That could be easier said than done, however. The first obstacle they will face will be finding a team that can take on his $21,388,953 salary. The Knicks would have to take back a large contract or two to make the trade work. They could trade for an expiring contract, but unless the deal was sweetened with a young player they could add to their core, or they receive a first-round draft pick, they wouldn’t gain anything by trading him. Teams may balk at that price for a player who could end up a half-season rental.
The second major issue would be finding a team that Melo would be willing to re-sign with. The Clippers, Lakers, and Bulls might fit that need. There were rumors about the Clippers having internal discussions about trading Blake Griffin for Melo, but the team dismissed them as false. The Clippers might not want to disrupt their roster in the middle of the season. They also might figure they could try and sign Anthony after the season, and not have to surrender any assets now. The Lakers don’t have much to offer outside Pau Gasol‘s expiring contract, and the Bulls could offer Carlos Boozer and another player. Neither of those last two scenarios would improve the Knicks fortunes.
It’s time for you to play general manager. After examining the situation, what would you do? Would you hold out hope that Melo will stay, either because the Knicks can offer the largest contract, or out of loyalty? Or would you try and find a taker, and hope that you could get something useful for your star? Vote below, and feel free to comment on why you made that particular choice.