No matter how you wish to see it, the 2017 offseason has been among the most exciting in the recent past. The East vs West debate continues to rage as some of the NBA’s biggest stars have shifted conferences. Paul George, Jimmy Butler, and Paul Millsap have all moved West. None are title contenders, but with some luck could find themselves at the Western Conference Finals. Gordon Hayward has moved East, to a potential NBA Finalist.
Stars like Chris Paul, have stayed put in their own conference, becoming the captain of a ship that will usher in an offensive revolution to the NBA.
The Warriors got better.
The Cavaliers are confused.
And Carmelo Anthony, one the greatest scorers in NBA history, has yet to find a home.
How did it get to this?
To be clear, Anthony is still on the New York Knicks. The ten-time All-star signed a five-year $125 million contract in 2014. The contract seemed fair at the time, except for one not so little detail: a no trade clause.
“I am a New York Knick at heart,” Melo said at the time of signing the renewal. “I am looking forward to continue my career in Orange & Blue and to work with Phil Jackson, a champion who builds championship teams. Madison Square Garden is the mecca of basketball, and I am surrounded by the greatest fans in the world.”
Those fans are now left high and dry. Those dreams, unfulfilled.
After Kristaps Porzingis’s public season-ending interview, and Jackson showing signs of senility, the Knicks decided it was time to rebuild. They drafted well(ish), have not renewed Derrick Rose, who they brought on with much fanfare last season, and most importantly, hastily fired Jackson. But how are they to rebuild, when their biggest star, who wants to win a championship and does not want any part of a rebuild, has a no trade clause in his contract?
Earlier this year, I wrote about how his legacy will be in jeopardy if Anthony does not win a title. And as good as he is, his peak at which you could win a title if he were your best player, has long gone. When he signed with the Knicks, instead of the Chicago Bulls or Los Angeles Lakers in 2014, experts wondered if he even cared about winning a championship. His 2013 Knicks team that did make the playoffs did not feature a second star to complement him. Amare Stoudamire was washed up, and JR Smith was the second best player on that team.
Sure he has been cursed with horrid higher management, passable teammates and some bad luck. But If Anthony has to get that ring, he needs help. Better yet, he needs to help someone else.
Trying everything to no avail
It is now public knowledge that Anthony wishes to be traded. He offered the Knicks the option to buy him out; an offer the Knicks shot down last week. He then reportedly agreed to drop the request for a buyout, and waive the no trade clause, if he could get traded to either Cleveland or Houston.
As enticing as the Cavaliers situation would be, a third (maybe fourth) team would have to be involved in the trade. It would also mean offloading Kevin Love to fit Anthony’s salary under the current salary cap. However, both the Knicks and Cavaliers have no other assets (players or picks) to offer a third party who may wish to sit at the negotiating table. With just a year left on his contract and the mess that is unfolding in Cleveland with owner Dan Gilbert, LeBron’s future is uncertain in Cleveland. Anthony has two more years on his contract.
LeBron may decide to pack up and leave, Kyrie Irving, has already decided. This leaves Anthony with a bunch of ragtag teammates and a clearly incompetent owner. Not much different from the position he is in at the moment. And definitely not the ideal situation for a 32-year old forward who hit his peak four seasons ago.
The more interesting scenario involves the Houston Rockets. Anthony has reportedly told the Knicks organisation that he is willing to waive the no-trade clause if they trade him to Houston. The move will unite him with close friend Chris Paul, and Olympics teammate James Harden. It will also unite him with coach Mike D’Antoni, a man he famously clashed with when D’Antoni coached New York.
This trade won’t be any easier than the one involving the Cavaliers; a third team would have to be involved, only this time Ryan Anderson’s undesirable three-year $60 million contract will be on the table. Anderson isn’t half the player Kevin Love is.
His legacy depends on it
For Anthony, however, this is a better long term solution. Even if Chris Paul, who has one year left on his current contract, decides to bolt, Anthony still has James Harden, Eric Gordon and a savvy General Manager, Daryl Morey who is the key differentiator here. He is a shrewd negotiator. Not only did he orchestrate the Paul trade, but he also locked up Harden with the biggest contract in NBA history. This gives Anthony a two-year window to decide on his next move.
The worst case scenario is that he has Harden and Paul this season, and just Harden next season. Best case scenario – and here is where it is important to remember how smart Morey is – the Rockets taste success (NBA Finals calling?) and Morey convinces Paul to re-sign with the team. With a core of Harden-Paul-Anthony, the Rockets add their name to the list of title contenders that solid veterans could sign with in the hopes of chasing a ring.
With Kevin Durant, LeBron James and now Chris Paul, paving the way for superstars to shift teams in pursuit of a championship guiltlessly, Anthony has realised it’s time for him too.
It’s high time. His legacy depends on it.