By John Schmeelk
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With the trade deadline only a little more than a week away, the Carmelo Anthony story has reached a fevered pitch. As more specifics get brought up, especially with the potential inclusion of Chauncey Billups and Raymond Felton in trade discussions (Frank Isola had this Monday in the Daily News, Alan Hahn of Newsday brought it up a couple months ago), let's go over some details people might not realize when analyzing potential trades.
THE CBA CONFUSION
The NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement expires at the end of June – and no one knows what the new one will look like.
The Knicks will likely have enough money to sign Carmelo to a "max" deal in the offseason, but there's no way to know for sure. The future salary cap and its nature is a huge unknown. Odds are Anthony will lose money by passing on an extension and going to free agency, but if existing contracts are rolled back as a provision in the new CBA, he might not lose any money at all. No one even knows what a max deal will look like. There's also the possibility of a franchise tag in the next CBA that would allow Denver to retain Anthony's rights even if he opts out of his contract. At this point, it's all guess work. These are all dangers if the Knicks decide to decline a trade, and simply pursue Carmelo as a free agent in the offseason.
Denver can hold onto Carmelo and put the pressure on him to sign an extension there, using guaranteed money under the old CBA as leverage. Anthony recently said that he would consider staying in Denver, but he then added he has no interest in being involved in a rebuilding situation. It appears that is the direction the Nuggets are heading. Remember that Carmelo started this entire process by indicating he had no interest in remaining in Denver. Why would he change his mind now?
Denver can also try to trade Anthony after the season before he opts out of his contract, perhaps on draft night. But this will be extremely difficult since contracts expiring this summer (like Eddy Curry's) can't be involved in the trade. This is an unlikely scenario. As I mentioned above, Denver might also cross their fingers and hope they can apply a franchise tag to Anthony and keep him that way. The downside, obviously, is the possibility of Anthony opting out and losing him while getting nothing in return.
It's clear that Carmelo wants to be in New York. It's not as clear where else he would be willing to sign an extension. The Bulls would be one option but they aren't willing to move the pieces necessary to secure Anthony. The Lakers will not deal Andrew Bynum for Anthony. Would Anthony settle for the Nets if he gets an extension, rather than go into free agency and deal with the CBA? Will the Mavericks or Rockets make a run at him? These are all legit questions, and the answers aren't clear.
In terms of his skill set, Anthony is one of the best all around scorers in the league. He can hit the jumper, drive, and post up. He's an average three point shooter at best, but is smart enough not to shoot a lot of them. Carmelo is an average to subpar defender, but he is one of the best rebounding small forwards in the league. He is also widely regarded around the league as one of the toughest players in the NBA. Can he play in Mike D'Antoni's system or will he be a ball stopper that disrupts the flow of the offense? He likes to shoot so it remains a question. Can he play with Amar'e Stoudemire, especially with both players not being known for their defense? The two should be able to work well together offensively, but the Knicks defense will take a hit. There's also something to be said for the fact Anthony wants to play in New York, something LeBron James and company wanted no part of.
KNICKS/NUGGETS CONTRACT SITUATIONS
Wilson Chandler is a free agent after the season and if the Knicks sign Carmelo in the offseason, they will not have the money to retain Chandler. Danilo Gallinari and Landry Fields will be potential free agents at the end of the 2011-2012 season. Like Chandler, depending on the CBA, they will demand high value contracts. Raymond Felton's deal expires the same offseason as Gallinari and Fields, as does Chauncey Billups' contract. Billups can be bought out after this year for 4 million dollars. Felton is 26 years old and makes 7.5 million a year. Billups is 34 years old and makes 13 million this year, and 14 next.
This is a lot of projection, but if the Knicks do obtain Carmelo Anthony, his salary, along with Stoudemire's will make it extremely difficult for them to afford one of the potential marquis 2012 free agents. (Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard). There would be no way to retain Fields and Gallinari while signing one of those three superstars. Even without those two players it could be impossible if the salary cap dips too much. Of course, none of those players might even be available. It all depends on the CBA. Pipe dreams of Knicks fans looking forward to a dream trio (or any of those players in 2012) are likely doing just that, dreaming. Don't count on it.
If the Knicks do not wind up with Carmelo, depending on the CBA, they will have some amount of cap room this offseason. There aren't tons of options. Marc Gasol is a restricted free agent but Alan Hahn and others are reporting that the Grizzlies will do everything they can to keep him. DeAndre Jordan is a restricted free agent and should get a pretty good payday. Kendrick Perkins, Jamal Crawford, Nene Hilario, Caron Butler, Shane Battier, Zach Randolph, and Andrei Kirilenko are all unrestricted free agents. They are decent players but there are no difference makers.
As for the trade deadline, the Knicks can move Eddy Curry's expiring contract, though its value is reduced with an uncertain CBA on the horizon. Anthony Randolph could get moved for a draft pick or another young player at a different position. Kelenna Azubuike's insured contract might have value as well. Those assets are unlikely to net an impact player.
That's where the Knicks stand with all the options, permutations and possibilities in front of them. Expect things to remain relatively quiet until the entire league comes together at All-Star weekend. That's when more rumors will go public and it will feel like the summer when the LeBron James saga hit its fever pitch. The Nuggets will wait as long as possible for a 2nd offer to come in so they can force Donnie Walsh to improve his. Walsh will wait to the last moment until the Nuggets realize the Knicks offer is their best or only option. The question remains, who will blink first?
It's a lot to analyze and keep in mind with 8 days remaining until the trade deadline. Follow it all right here on WFAN.com and on twitter at twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk.
Will New York pull the trigger on Carmelo? Sound off in the comments below!
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