I have been intending to write about the Knicks trade activity around Carmelo Anthony for a while - but after watching yesterday's 4 overtime game I felt compelled to follow through.
Yes - Melo can be exasperating. The ball does tend to stop when it gets to him. And he is not a top notch defender. But really, will the Knicks be better off without him? Let's examine the case against him.
1. Melo is a ball stopper.
Well, yes, kind of. But in all fairness to him, if you watched the game yesterday you saw that the current incarnation of Iso-Melo is a team thing. It seems that every play in 4th quarter crunch time and in the overtimes (before he fouled out) were designed isolation plays. Here is how each play unfolded:
- The guard dribbled just long enough for Melo to get free to receive the ball.
- Once Melo got the ball, everyone else on the team stopped moving and watched.
Is this Melo's fault? I don't think so. Does he relish the opportunity to be the hero? Absolutely. But it is hard to tell if this is what the Coach called, or if the other players just concede the offense to Melo. But if you are going to throw him the ball, with the shot clock running down and the stand around and watch him then you can't kill him for taking the shot.
It was only last year that Melo averaged over 4 assists per game. He has shown that he can move the ball within an offensive system where players are working to get open for a shot. I don't recognize any effort on this year's team to do that (except when the 2nd unit is in). Is this by the Coach's design, or are the players just freelancing? I can't tell, but it is an ugly offensive system and it does not look to be Melo's fault (entirely).
2. It is time to make Porzingis the centerpiece and build around him.
Really? KP will one day be a stud - but he is not there yet. And even he says that he benefits from playing with Melo and watching how he shoulder's the load.
3. Melo is not a leader. He has not won any championships.
Carmelo has been a standup guy throughout this ordeal. He clearly and truly wants to be in NY. He has not cut-and-run when the going gets tough. He shows up everyday, plays hard and makes himself available to the media.
As for the championship knock on him, the guys he gets compared to in his draft class are LeBron and Dwayne Wade. Let's see:
- LeBron. 2 Championships with Wade and Chris Bosh. 1 Championship with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.
- Wade. 1 Championship with Shaq. 2 Championships with LeBron and Bosh.
Melo has never played with talent like that around him. Really, how far was he going to go with JR Smith and Raymond Felton.
What this Melo-drama really points to is that Phil Jackson is a mess as President of the Knicks.
It pains me to say this, because I had such high hopes for him in this role. But he has blown the roster up twice already - and all indications are he is about to do it again. That is not a plan - that is throw shit against the wall and hope it sticks.
- He hired a rookie head coach who hadn't even organized a practice yet.
- He gave away assets like Tyson Chandler and JR Smith and got very little in return.
- He signed Melo to a long term max contract with a no-trade clause.
- He refused to talk to established coaches like Thibs - who was available - when searching for a coaching replacement.
- He signed Noah to a long term contract when no one else was even bidding on him.
- Now, the rumor has it, he is looking to trade Melo - a top 10 player and a hall of famer - for, essentially, Austin Rivers.
Jackson could have easily rid himself of Melo 3 years ago when his contract was up for negotiation and gone through a true rebuild process. But no - he caved (or Dolan caved) and tied the ship to Melo. Not sure what the thinking was there - but it looks like he is regretting it now.
So...what to do now?
1. Personally, I think I would stick with Melo. He is not perfect - but he is yours. He provides air cover for Porzingis to mature into the star we all think he will be. And if Melo is your 2nd best player you probably have a decent team.
2. I would trade Derrick Rose and look to get back more young assets (or draft choices). Rose is tradeable. He has proven himself healthy. He is putting up decent numbers. He is on an expiring contract. There is value there.
3. Steady the ship. There are some good young players on this team. Porzingis, Holliday, Hernangomez, Kuzmingus are all players. Letting them learn the game with some veterans like Melo, Lee and Noah is a good thing.
This seems like the Zen-thing to do. Your move, Phil.