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Who Won What?!? The Knicks, Anthony, and all those Nuggets…

January 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Chris Bernucca of Sheridan Hoops postulated in an article yesterday that if the Knicks lost last night’s affair against Denver, it might be coach Mike D’Antoni’s last game at the helm of the listing ship SS Knickerbocker. Much like the Italian captain who this week spurned the nobility of captain going down with his vessel and instead leapt straight into the nearest life raft, getting off the boat right now might just be opportune.

After all, the highly lauded Knicks are 6-9, and 9th in the middling Eastern Conference. As a point of contrast, their opponent last night, the Denver Nuggets are 12-5 and 2nd in the Western Conference. This only really matters in that the Nuggets seem to have a roster mostly made up of D’Antoni’s castaways: Danilo Gallinari, Tomofey Mozgov, Corey Brewer, and Al Harrinton all suited up for the Nuggets last night, and each in turn suited up for the Knicks. Well, actually that’s not entirely true, Brewer was acquired by the Knicks as part of the Den-NY-Minn. Anthony trade, but they thought he wasn’t even worth a roster spot and just waved him. He signed with the eventual champs in Dallas.

And this is the problem for the Knicks as they look to turn around their season, they’re a misshapen roster lacking the requisite parts  – cough guards cough – to win games in the NBA. And while D’Antoni’s certainly not helping matters, can the blame for the roster really be laid at his feet? In acquiring Anthony, the Knicks swung for the fences and seemingly came up lame. Since the trade New York’s 20-24, the Nuggets are 30-12, that probably has something to do with coaching, but it also has something to do with roster construction and the value placed on the star player.

Last night Carmelo Anthony scored a very respectable 25 points. Of course, he required 30 shots to get those 25, and he only made it to the line 6 times. His counterpart scored 37 points (in two overtimes), on 19 shots. With 20 – yes, TWENTY – attempts from the charity stripe. Galinari took bold advantage of the free shots too, converting 18 of them. Now, it’s one game, and Carmelo has done a lot for the Knicks, but remind me which player was the premier piece of that trade?

Conventional NBA wisdom says that the team that acquires the best player in a trade won that trade, but in the case of that deal eleven months ago, I’m not so sure. I think the writing’s pretty clearly on the wall, the New York Knicks lost the Carmelo Anthony trade. Acquiring Anthony cost the Knicks cap room, it cost them flexibility, and it cost them four players. It also, seemingly, will cost them Mike D’Antoni (which most knicks fans would probably chalk up as a win). When this trade was made, I listed the Knicks as both winners and losers of the deal, writing,

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.

It hasn’t made New York better, but it has improved the Nuggets. Armed with a roster of ex-pat Knicks, the Nuggets sit in the NBA’s penthouse; the perfect place to watch the SS Knickerbocker list and sink…

Winners and Losers of the Carmelo Siege…

February 22, 2011 Leave a comment

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.

Opening the floodgates of the 2011 NBA Trade Season…

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Last weekend the Raptors and Hornets completed a five player deal that sent Peja Stojakovic and Jerryd Bayless to New Orleans for Jarret Jack, David Anderson and Marcus Banks. I would spend some time breaking it down, but ahhh, seriously the trade involved Jack and Peja, who cares. If you really want some analysis, here’s John Hollinger’s take (insider, sorry).

No, what interests me isn’t the trade itself, but rather that it was the first deal of the NBA season, which is exciting because the NBA is a trade happy league and it usually requires one deal to break open the flood gates. This year should be a particularly interesting trade campaign, as the looming lockout means teams have divided into two camps: prepare for the lockout by minimizing salary and shedding long-term contracts. On the other side of the ring, are those teams that have decided “F*** it, they’re still awarding a title for 2010 and we’d like to win it…”

We all know that Carmelo Anthony might be moved, but also look for Philadelphia to strongly consider dumping Andre Igoudala, watch for Orlando to be aggressive in upgrading their roster, Dallas and Houston cannot help but make an in-season trade, and with the luxury tax expected to be around 68 million, you have 12 teams that will be looking to shed some salary. So, with all of that in mind, it’s time to do my first trade column of the season. As usual, these are based on nothing but the strange voices in my head; they aren’t rumors; they aren’t whispers; they probably aren’t even good ideas, but now, thanks to magic of the interweb, they’re being read by you.

Trade 1:

Philadelphia sends A. Iguodala and L. Williams to Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma City sends M. Peterson, J. Harden, and E. Maynor to Philadelphia.

Why it Works For Oklahoma: The framework of this deal was proposed by Simmons in a BS Report chat with Joe House a few weeks ago. What the deal does, is give the Zombie Sonics that legitimate third piece around which a championship squad can be built. It’s the piece that most observers think that the Zombies missed out on when they picked Harden over Steph Curry. Of course, as I’ve pointed out in the past, it’s also the piece that they missed out on when they took Jeff Green over Joakim Noah. Iguodala is a great defender, he can score, but in Philly he’s been pressed into being a number one option, which he isn’t. For Team USA this summer, Iggy showed what he can do when a team has a clear number one option and he’s only required to defend and make open shots. And, of course, I don’t need to tell you who Team USA’s number one option was…

Why it Works for Philadelphia: This deal saves Philly 8 million dollars in what is shaping up to be a long, lost season in the City of Brotherly Love. It also sets them up well for a post lockout league with a reduced salary cap, as they shed two deals worth a combined 56 million past this year. Finally, the 76ers get two young pieces to add to their developing nucleus of Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday, and Thaddeus Young. So, if the cap is prohibitively decreased, they would be in good long term shape.

Why it Doesn’t Work for Anyone: Despite their early season struggles, I doubt that Oklahoma executives want to take on any salary that might complicate their post lockout future. And, despite their early season struggles, I doubt that Philly executives want to tell fans they’ve traded their best player for James Harden. Even if it does make long term sense.

Trade 2:

Memphis sends O. Mayo to Chicago
Chicago sends K. Thomas, K. Bogans, Chicago’s #1 this year, and the #1 Charlotte owes the Bulls.

Why it works for Memphis: Well, I wouldn’t do it, but then I think Mayo’s got a solid career in front of him as a strong defender and shooter. Memphis probably does too, but they did drop him from the starting lineup, so who knows… What this trade gives them, is a veteran presence in Thomas who might help their youngsters. Likewise, Bogans is a tough defender and has played for Stan Van Gundy and Greg Popovich, two coaches who know a thing or two about winning. So maybe they help bring some accountability and toughness as the Grizz try and make their first playoff appearance since 2006. Then there’s the money, this deal saves Memphis 2 million this year and chops about 3 million off of next year’s cap. And, we know that Memphis’ owner Michael Heisley is cheap, so that might get the deal done by itself. Finally, there is the picks. The one from Chicago isn’t of much value, but that one from Charlotte has decreasing protection which leaves it unprotected in 2016. With Charlotte, that could turn out to be of real value.

Why it works for Chicago: Hundreds of words have been spilled over the Bulls bringing in Carmelo Anthony, but I don’t think they need Anthony. When Carlos Boozer returns, the Bulls will be able to generate enough offense from him, Derrick Rose, and Luol Deng, that I don’t see the need of upgrading Deng to Anthony. What they do need, is to upgrade at shooting guard, where right now Bogans and Kyle Korver are the primary players. Mayo is exactly the type of guy the Bulls want. He’s capable of being a good defender and while he’s not always that right now, with the help of Tom Thibodeau, I imagine he’d get there, plus he can shoot. The Bulls already look formidable, but with Mayo, I’d give them a real shot of knocking off the Celtics or Magic in the Conference finals.

Trade 3:

Orlando sends M. Gortat, M. Pietrus, V. Carter, and a future #1 to Denver.
Denver sends C. Anthony, K. Martin, and R. Balkman to Denver.

Why it Works for Orlando: It might only be a rental for the playoffs, but this deal upgrades the Magic from Vince Carter to Carmelo Anthony. Making that upgrade costs Orlando a lot of money (see below), but doesn’t cost them much off their actual roster.

Why it Works for Denver: This deal saves Denver six million in salary, which since Denver is well into tax territory, means that it actually saves the team 12 million. If Orlando tossed in the maximum 3 million in cash considerations, Denver has now saved 15 million, basically meaning that they get Vince Carter free for the rest of the season. Marcin Gortat is seen as a young center with great potential who’s only major fault is that he isn’t Dwight Howard. This probably isn’t a deal Denver makes today, but if in February the Nuggets know that Anthony is gone, then they will probably look to get something, anything, for him. Each day that passes, the offers for Anthony lose a little value, especially if he’s unwilling to sign an extension when traded. So, by February it will be about who’s willing to trade for Anthony even though they know he might leave in four months.

What makes it even better: This trade is a win for Orlando and it’s something Denver would never consider if they weren’t staring down the barrel of the losing your star for nothing gun, but think about how much better this deal would be for Orlando if they followed it up with this move…

Trade 4:

Orlando sends J. Nelson, R. Anderson, D. Orton, Malik Allen and the draft rights to F. Vazquez to Phoenix.
Phoenix sends S. Nash and G. Hill to Orlando.

Why it works for Orlando: Duh…

Why it works for Phoenix: It doesn’t, I mean not really. If I were on PTI playing odds makers, I would put the odds of Phoenix trading Nash this season at less than ten percent. I understand that they’ve made terrible moves that have relegated them to somewhere between the 7th and 9th seed in the West and that Nash is really the only asset they can move to jump start their rebuilding, but… I just don’t think that Robert Sarver signs off on trading his golden ticket this year. Maybe next summer, but even then I think it’s more likely that a trade comes sometime next season. Still, if they did decide to take the plunge and shop Nash, this isn’t the worst trade in the world. It gets them a good young forward in Anderson and two projects with upside in Orton and Vazquez.

Why those moves would just be insane: Just put aside reality and picture it for a minute: After those two trades, Orlando would have two months to get all those pieces on the same page, it might be too tall a task, but if they pulled it off then their lineup would look like this:

Starters:
PG – S. Nash
SG – G. Hill
SF – C. Anthony
PF – R. Lewis
C – D. Howard

Bench:
Guards: C. Duhon, J. Williams
Wings: J. Reddick, Q. Richardson, R. Balkman
Bigs: K. Martin, B. Bass

Since teams in the playoffs only ever go eight deep anyway, then the Magic would have Duhon spelling Nash for 15 minutes in the playoffs, Reddick coming in to spell Hill and Anthony (with Hill slipping to the three when Carmelo sits), and Martin covering the minutes of Howard and Lewis.

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