The World Is Waiting for a Carmelo Anthony Trade

One of the NBA’s biggest offseason deals is still up in the air. When will the almost inevitable deal be completed, and how will Anthony fit on a star-driven Rockets team?

@eddieetdavid — Twitter

We are about to enter the NBA offseason lull period. Most of free agency’s dominoes have already fallen, and the hottest acquisitions have been officially announced. As we hit the middle of July, the last piece of the expected offseason madness is Carmelo Anthony’s 2017–2018 team. ESPN’s The Jump has “Melo Watch” entering Day 15.

We know. Even with Phil Jackson no longer in the captain’s seat, the Knicks will continue to be the Knicks. Tim Hardaway Jr. was signed to a restricted free agent offer sheet (4 years, $71 million) that would make the Nets (current champions of bloated offers) blush. Their current starting point guard will be either Frank Ntilikina or Ron Baker. The re-signing of Baker, who shot below 40% from the field and below 30% from three, essentially drained the rest of New York’s remaining cap space.

And still, Carmelo Anthony remains a Knick. The rumblings of Anthony’s move to Houston have gone on since the Chris Paul trade at the end of June. That, essentially, is an eternity in the ShamsWow and WojBomb era. As recently as July 12, the Carmelo Anthony deal was at “the 2-yard line,” per the New York Daily News. But still, we wait.

Here’s what we know about the deal. Carmelo will become a Rocket, with Ryan Anderson of the Rockets likely to be dealt. There are other moving parts that could be included in the deal, including non-guaranteed contracts, draft picks and possibly Trevor Ariza. The deal itself, if completed, will likely be complicated.

The Knicks are unlikely to take back the 3 years and $60 million left on Anderson’s deal. So both parties are looking for a fourth team willing to swallow the Anderson contract in exchange for assets. Unfortunately, Houston has few assets after the Paul trade, forfeiting several young pieces and their 2018 draft pick. And of course, Houston GM Daryl Morey is notoriously stingy. The Knicks, led by Scott Perry (no, not the singer from Journey), may throw in some assets just to get the deal done.

But who are the third and fourth teams in the deal? The ESPN Trade Machine has gone wild with screenshots of potential trades seemingly everywhere since the Anthony trade has been discussed. There are a few teams that could swap a smaller contract to absorb Anderson’s deal. The Nets, Mavericks, Suns and 76ers have the most cap space in the NBA, per Albert Nahmad. But the Mavericks may have their books tied up, depending on the deal given to Nerlens Noel. The Suns can just absorb Anderson as well. Brooklyn and Philadelphia have made a living off of salary dump style deals, but Anderson’s contract is a huge burden that could eat into the extensions of both team’s younger players in the future.

It’s understandable that the Anderson contract is a sticking point. Can we call him the “Melo Stopper?” Maybe. But seemingly, Anthony will find his way to Houston. The worst case scenario (for the Knicks) is that Anthony demands a buyout if a trade agreement cannot be made. That would likely leave oodles of dead money on the Knicks’ books, set to receive $54 million in the next two seasons.

New York’s hiring of Scott Perry to be the new General Manager may further complicate and delay any major transaction. Carmelo Anthony may be a sitting duck right now.

The Fit

I know. This point has been driven to death, even before Anthony’s name was floated as a potential Houston acquisition. The trio of Paul, Harden and Anthony are all ball-dominant players. Harden, in particular saw a major spike in production last season, with an increased usage rate (he has had a usage rate of over 30% the past three seasons). Anthony’s reputation as a ball stopper in the NBA is well known. His jab steps and pump fakes may kill ball movement, but it has led him to become one of the best scorers in NBA history. Paul, while not as prolific a scorer of Harden or Anthony, is the heartbeat of a team because of his orchestrating abilities.

So…sounds like a crash course for disaster, right?

But talent should find its way to fit. Players will have to sacrifice for the sake of winning. Paul and Anthony, the two banana boat brothers, have seen their fair share of playoff losses. To sacrifice and defer to Harden may be a given. But the sheer geometry of the hypothetical Rockets may indicate future success. Anthony thrives as a midrange scorer, and could be the exhaust valve if Harden or Paul struggle probing the lane. Just take a look at his shot chart.

Morey-ball hates this, but Anthony will surely find a way to adapt; whether it’s becoming an assassin from corner threes, or playing more as an interior forward. Harden will continue to draw lots of free throws. Paul may be the one setting the offense, but expect him to find Anthony and Harden in stride. The former Clipper/Point God would ideally lessen the physical toll of Harden’s game and cut down the monotony of Anthony’s.

Of course, Mike D’Antoni, the reigning and defending Coach of the Year will still be at the helm in Houston. D’Antoni and Anthony didn’t really mesh well in New York. D’Antoni’s pace-and-space philosophy and the influences of Morey-ball directly clash with Anthony’s style of basketball. But again, winning (or beating the Warriors) is about sacrifice. Rather than trying to play his game, we could see Team USA Carmelo, a brilliant stretch forward with exquisite ball handling abilities. It’s a Jekyll and Hyde story for Playoff Anthony and Knicks Anthony.

But of course, these are all hypotheticals. Carmelo Anthony is still a Knick — and the “2-yard line” seems more like a long drive rather than a short carry. (I don’t watch football often.) The backcourt of Chris Paul and James Harden is probably the best in the NBA. The addition of a star, although less bright, in Anthony is what Daryl Morey has dreamed of. But still, we wait for the Wojnarowski or Charania tweet. Any day now, general managers!