Lost in the drama of the NBA Finals are the fates of players in the rapidly approaching free agency and NBA Draft. Carmelo Anthony, the much-maligned All-Star is at a crossroads with the New York Knicks. What happens next can shape the destiny of both parties in dramatic ways.
Though not in his prime, the 33-year-old Anthony proved this past season that he can still provide plenty of scoring punch when called upon. He went for 22 PPG in the 2017 campaign on 43% shooting. We saw his 3-point percentage fell slightly to 35%, but slightly lower percentages are to be expected from a volume shooter carrying the load for his team. He had 15 games with 30+ points including a 45 point game in Atlanta at the end of January. His isolation mastery and ability to still grab rebounds (6 RPG this season) give Melo the ability to contribute to many teams this year and possibly push a contender over the top.
Should He Leave The Knicks?
The Knicks and Carmelo have not quite been on the same page this season. Phil Jackson has repeatedly expressed desires to move away from Anthony in the media. The Knicks and Phil do not deserve Melo at this point nor will they be a contender if he returns. Kristaps Porzingis is already frustrated with the team as well. This does not bode well for an aging superstar that wants to compete to close out his career. The stories and rumors will pick up once the finals are over, but here are a few early potential landing spots for Melo
Regardless of how the rest of the Cavs/Warriors series goes, the LeBron James and Cleveland will be looking to add firepower this offseason. The Warriors’ addition of Kevin Durant has caused a major power shift and teams will be looking to load up and keep up for the next 2-5 years.
The Kevin Love deal was already rejected by the Cavs before the trade deadline so those rumors swirling around social media are not going to happen. There are other obstacles as well. Cleveland boasts the highest paid roster in the league for the second straight year. Carmelo Anthony would have to be paid a veteran’s minimum of $3.5 million per year in addition to accepting a reduced role for the Cavs. Anthony still views himself among the elite in the league and his ego will probably not allow that to happen.
Melo holds the power over his contract with the Knicks and could only be signed if he waived his no-trade clause and got waived. Despite their differences is Phil Jackson willing to lose his best player for nothing? Do the Cavs even get good enough with the addition of Anthony to overcome golden state? My vote is no in both cases.
Before you say no, think about it. The Timberwolves have plenty of talent but are lacking valuable veteran leadership in their locker room. They grossly underachieved in their 2016-17 campaign as many of us expected them to at least be in bottom tier playoff contention.
Karl-Anthony Towns is a future superstar in this league and the Zach Lavine/Andrew Wiggins combo have yet to hit their ceiling. Adding Anthony gives the Wolves an opportunity to keep up with the rest of the league and play small ball. Anthony played 31% of his time at power forward last year. This could be a great adjustment for him to take advantage and cause matchup problems on offense against bigger and slower forwards.
Melo is strong enough to hold his own on the low block defensively and is an adept rebounder as previously discussed. How fun would it be to have KAT locking down the middle with Wiggins/Lavine on the wings and Melo at the high post? Ricky Rubio is a capable floor general and can get this engine to go.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers showed capabilities to compete last year especially with the addition of Jusuf Nurkic. However, Nurkic went down with injury for the playoffs and despite the best efforts of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, they did not have enough firepower from the bench or their other starters to overcome the Warriors.
Portland has draft picks and the Knicks need them. Any deal involving Anthony to Portland would favor the Blazers on the talent end, but if New York is going for a true rebuild around Porzingis there can be an outside shot at this happening.
Unfortunately, I am not sure how this deal would work out on the court. Carmelo Anthony is a liability on the defensive end and Portland needs defenders desperately. Similar to Cleveland, they can use a 3 and D player that can keep up athletically with the wings of Golden State. Carmelo does not fit the bill. Does adding an iso heavy player to the team that runs more isolation sets than anyone make any sense? We are going to have to lean no on that one as well.
However, Portland can use the offensive juice from the forward position and the Knicks can use the draft assets that Portland has. Stay tuned.
Who Really Knows?
Melo can go to any place that can use a veteran productive presence. Other names such as the Lakers or Bucks have floated out there but I chose not to break those down due to the lack of sense it would make for all parties involved. Both of those teams have young players and ownership with a strong vision that would seem to move away from adding a high profile and sometimes high maintenance player like Anthony.
Phil Jackson and the Knicks could always opt to hold on to Anthony for one more year and extend sports’ most miserable marriage. Whatever they do, they need to appeal to Kristaps Porzingis as other teams have smelled blood in the water and reached out for trade deals amidst rising frustrations from Porzingis and other players within the organization.
A lot of the criticism for Carmelo Anthony was brought on by himself but that has made his career also slightly underrated. He is one of the greatest pure scorers in NBA history and just never seemed to find the correct niche to fit in with a team to get over the top. I am looking forward to seeing if he can squeeze out the juice he has left to make a team into a contender to finish his career. Do not count out Melo just yet.