Home > Uncategorized > Winners and Losers of the Carmelo Siege…

Winners and Losers of the Carmelo Siege…

Finally, the endless siege is over.  The poor, deprived hostages in Denver can return to their normal lives, a little scared, a little worse for wear, but ultimately capable of a full recovery.  The rest of us, held hostage waiting for a resolution, can turn our attentions to other teams, other players, and other potential trades.  But first, before their can be healing, their must be closure, which means it’s time to proclaim some winners, deride some losers, and just generally come to understand what the heck happened over these last 7,894 days.

Winner – New York Knicks

The NBA is a fairly straight forward league.  If you have one of the five or six best players in basketball, you can win a championship.  If you don’t, you can’t.  It’s why every year there are five or six teams in contention and then a bunch of also rans in the middle fighting for some room to dance.  In my lifetime (a shade or two over 30 years), there has been only one exception to this rule: the 2004 Detroit Pistons.  Yes, they lacked a top five talent, but they probably had four guys in the top twenty and their fifth might have been top forty.  Plus, frankly, they only won because the Lakers allowed the Shaq-Kobe turmoil boil over.  So, yes, that’s the exception, but it’s the only one and it took some pretty exceptional circumstances.

Yes, the Knicks are a winner, because of the 12 players being exchanged in this trade, only one is the type of talent that could propel a team to a championship.  And that man, landed with the Knickerbockers.

Loser – New York Knicks

On the other hand, this deal cost the Knicks two starters (Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari), six million dollars cold hard cash, four draft picks (three picks and Anthony Randolph), and a boatload of flotsam in salaries.  The swap from Felton to Billups is a wash, but Billups is eight years older and significantly more expensive.  The roster outside Carmelo, Amare, and Billups makes the Miami Heat look like the 86 Celtics, and despite what everyone is salivating about, this deal basically eradicates any chance the Knicks had of acquiring Deron Williams, Chris Paul, or Dwight Howard.

Still, the Knicks do have that scintillating Carmelo-Amare front court.  Of course, even within that there are questions.  How will those two co-exist?  Are either of them really capable of leading a team to the promised land?  Is Amare going to resent being a second banana?  Can the Knicks, with Mike D’Antoni as coach and Carmelo-Amare as their core, play enough defense to topple the Heat, Celtics or Bulls?

On its face, this is a slam dunk win for the Knicks, but it also has the hollow ring of a flashy deal that garners BIG headlines but doesn’t actually make the team appreciably better.  Which brings me to the real reason this trade seems like a loser for the Knicks…

Winner – Isiah Thomas

With word flooding the inter-web that the disgraced former Knicks GM was at the forefront of this trade, Knicks fans had better be terrified, I mean Return of Chucky scared.  Whether or not you like the Carmelo deal, if it was brokered in any fashion by Thomas, that is a harbinger of doom for the franchise.  That will ensure that when his contract expires at seasons end, Donnie Walsh will resign and Thomas, the man who traded away half the franchise for such star talents as Eddy Curry, Steve Francis, and Jalen Rose will be walking back through the MSG door.  Any guesses how that one will work out?

Loser – Donnie Walsh

Whether or not Thomas was involved in this deal, it’s clear that Walsh was overruled.  That his strategy of waiting out the season to see what happens was deemed flawed and with it, Donnie quite possibly irrelevant.  Frankly, I’m not sure that his strategy was wrong.  Basically, Walsh was calling Anthony’s bluff:  That Carmelo truly wanted to play for the Knicks and that he intended to sign there no matter what.  Why give up three or four future rotation players to get a player you were going to acquire anyhow?  What made Walsh’s strategy sage, was the probability the even if Carmelo took the sure money with Denver (or New Jersey), Paul, Williams, and Howard weren’t just fallback options, but superior options.  Each pairs better with Stoudemire and each is more likely to lead his team to a title.  While it would have required another year of waiting, the Knicks would have been stronger for the deferment.

Winner – Denver Nuggets

Look, did they want to lose Anthony?  No, not really.  But the writing wasn’t just on the wall, it was the wall.  The Nuggets’ only hope of keeping Anthony would have been to hold on to him into the Summer and then push for a Franchise Tag in the labor negotiations.  Of course, then they’d have had to live with a cranky, pouting Anthony.  Considering that when James left Cleveland and Bosh Toronto, all those teams were left with was a giant (useless) trade exception and a couple crappy first round picks,* Denver worked New York like a champion boxer; using the interest of New Jersey and the possibility of keeping Carmelo to extract an extremely favorable package from the Knicks.  Are they better today than they were yesterday?  No, but they’re certainly better off than Cleveland and Toronto.

*Incidentally, we need to stop talking about 1st Round picks as though they are all the same thing.  The picks that Miami gave up for Bosh and James will never be higher than 28th.  Mostly they’ll probably be 30th.  This isn’t the same thing as getting a lottery pick.  And getting a lottery pick at 8-14 isn’t the same thing as getting a pick in the 5-7 range, which isn’t the same as a top 4 pick.  Know what I’m saying?

Loser – Mikhail Prokhorov and the New Jersey Nets

When he came into the league, the Big Russian arrived with a bang, toting hot women, private jets, and a swashbucklers mentality.  Now, a year later, he’s swung and missed on LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Amare, and Carmelo.  Maybe it’s not his fault, maybe it’s the stench of Jersey.  Heck, maybe his – and his team’s – fortunes will improve when they relocate to Brooklyn, but right now you have an underachieving center who forgot how to rebound; you have a mercurial point guard who isn’t much of a passer; you have a young power forward who has promise, but also is averaging 6.3 points and 5.3 rebounds, and you have a roster full of rejects you overpaid after being spurned by James.  So, the Russian Mark Cuban Prokhorov is not.

Winner – Phoenix Suns(maybe?)

Right now, with the stretch run about to begin, fifth through tenth in the West is separated by a measly four games>  The Suns sit at the bottom of that pack but there is cause for hope.  Directly ahead of the Suns are the Memphis Grizzlies, who just lost their best player for a month.  Ahead of them are the Utah Jazz, who after the shocking resignation of some coach who wasn’t particularly well known are in free-fall.  Above them are the Nuggets who just acquired Timofey Mozgov.  Above them are the New Orleans Hornets, whose best player acutally only has one knee.  And, finally, above them and sitting fifth are the TrailBlazers, who despite churning out win after win after win, are actually a travelling MASH unit.

The Suns have played better lately, going 12 and 6 to close out the break.  If they could get anything, ANYTHING, out of the corpse that used to be Vince Carter, then they could make a serious push, not just to the playoffs, but to a top six seed (the top four are beyond their reach).  Considering where things looked on the morning that they pulled off the Jason Richardson-Hedo Turkoglu trade, this is a surpirsingly rosy outlook.

Loser – Steve Nash

The Suns still aren’t title contenders (despite what I tell myself at night), but this trade ensures that whatever slim chance there was of the Suns moving Nash to a title contender has evaporated.  There’s no reason to trade him when you have a realistic shot at making the playoffs.  Even if your chances of surviving to the second round are pretty slim.

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