A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

7 Thoughts on the Melo Maneuver

with 5 comments

Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets

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Thank God, it *finally* happened. I say that both with the emotional inflection you think I’m using, and whatever the opposite is. Any big trade brings with it some fantastic new information to analyze which I love. At the same time Carmelo Anthony being traded means I don’t have to hear any more about the rumors and drama in Denver. Good times ahead. My initial thoughts on the trade:

1. Never been a huge Melo fan (as was clear in my Carmelo Conundrum piece). I remain steadfast in my opinion that however many tools are in his arsenal, he never came close to a consistent run at superstar levels. Now possibly that’s George Karl‘s fault. I doubt it, but I never say never. We’ll learn a lot more in the near future.

2. My thought for the Knicks about whether acquiring Melo was a good idea was always a mild yes, depending on the specific terms. I am however more positive about it with inclusion of Chauncey Billups. Seems to me what Mike D’Antoni really needs to make his scheme pop is a great point guard, and despite the fact that we keep seeing hype indicating that’s he’s turned another scrub point guard into a star, he’s actually been discarding point guards left and right in New York. Stephon Marbury, Nate Robinson, Chris Duhon, and now Ray Felton, all gone. Clearly they didn’t have everything he wanted. Now we get to see how Billups does. This will be the closest thing D’Antoni’s had to Nash, so we’ll have to see if that finally does the trick.

3. With a great point guard, and a proper attitude from Carmelo and Amare Stoudemire, I’d fully expect the Knick offense to start getting quite good. As with Melo, I’m not a tremendous Stoudemire fan (as you might have guessed from this article railing against his MVP campaign). I don’t think the Knicks have anywhere near the superstar talent on the team now as the Heat do, but I won’t be at all shocked if this Knick offense proves superior to the Heat’s.

4. Defense is another matter though entirely. Realistically, I still don’t know if I see these Knicks as a top 4 team in the East as long as the Celtics remain pre-sunset. The Heat will be better and the Bulls look dead solid to me. If the Magic self-destruct that’ll open up a slot for the Knicks, but I sure wouldn’t take that as any type of given. Yeah the Magic are extremely inconsistent right now, but still no one has an answer for Dwight Howard.

5. I look forward to seeing the Nuggets without Melo, however I’d have really like to have seen them without so drastic a change. The Nuggets have the best offense in the league this year, which they’ve never done before, and they were achieving even when Melo was playing terrible and missing time to injury. If the rest of the team had stayed intact, I’d have gone out on a limb that the world would be shocked at how well the Nuggets would do without Melo. As it is now, I do expect the Nuggets to trip at least temporarily. Felton could end up by nearly as solid as Billups, or he might not – he’s a question mark. I remain convinced that if Nene is given the greenlight in a well executed system, the man could hit 20 PPG and still be highly efficient, and I’m also a believer in Arron Afflalo. We’ll just have to see here, but I won’t be too shocked if the Nuggets still end up squeaking into the playoffs.

6. Let me take the opportunity to state definitively that if I could choose between the way LeBron handled The Decision, and the way Melo’s Denver exit went down, I’ll take LeBron. All well and good to say you’d rather be given the opportunity to trade the guy ahead of time, but the Nuggets were basically forced to trade to the Knicks and because of the way Melo handled all of this, the Knicks knew it, which resulted in both a worse trade, and a horrendous delay. I’m ridiculously impressed with the job of the rest of the Nuggets to keep their heads up this whole time they’ve spent in the waiting room. I could easily have seen them go into tank mode.

7. With Melo now officially throwing his whole career overboard to go to New York, the fear of several superteams is officially not paranoid. Personally, LeBron’s move to the Heat only bothered me slightly, but a more general trend I greatly dislike. If you truly think your ownership is incompetent, I’ve got no issue with you wanting out. However, if you’re in a place with solid management, a solid supporting cast, and a solid commitment to feature you, what the hell are you doing forcing your way out to go to a team known for ineptitude in recent years? Whatever happened to pride? If I’m the NBA, I’m now officially looking for ways in the new CBA to keep the league’s middle class of solid teams from being cannibalized.

5 Responses

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  1. I mostly agree with your analysis of the trade, but I’m not a big fan of Billups at this point in his career running the Knicks offense. I rarely agree with Rosen, but I think he was right when he said Billups in his old age has devolved into a shooting guard. I want to focus on your point about the Melo trade and what it means for the league.

    Melo leaving for NY is alarming for the reason you said. Denver has been a better run franchise than NY, and yet he still decided he wanted to play for the knicks. This is a significant problem for a majority of the franchises if mid-market teams can’t hold onto their players despite superior management and the ability to offer more money.

    Still, I hope people don’t overreact. Lebron left Cleveland, IMO, due to the awful job Cleveland did of building a supporting cast. Bosh left Toronto, IMO, because he realized he wasn’t capable of being the man. Amare only left Phoenix for the money as the suns had the ability to offer more money and choose not to. I have to believe most of the superstars of this generation have some ego and want to prove they can be the best player on a title team

    I’m hoping Melo really is the exception but it is reasonable to consider changes to the NBA economic system.

    A lot of posters on realgm want the NFL system because they think it has created parity in the NFL to a greater extent than the NBA. I think it is just the shorter schedule, superstar factor, and single elimination tournament that create the perception of more parity in the NFL. I also think the NFL system is popular with fans because of jealousy a lot of fans have for players. Many people resent star athletes who make millions and still try to control their career. I call these people the STFU and play crowd.

    I don’t like the NFL system.

    Unguaranteed contracts are unfair because teams can choose to not to honor a contract if they feel the player isn’t performing, but players can’t walk away from the contract if they feel they have over-performed.

    The hard cap forces teams to break up their cores in the NFL. This could be devastating in the NBA due to its smaller rosters.

    A franchise tag to me is inherently unfair because it treats the player as the property of the team they play for. In the NBA, it would be used to stop superstars from ever reaching free agency. Cleveland would have tagged him forever. I don’t like the idea of superstars being shipwrecked on a team they don’t want to play for.

    Under the current rules teams can keep the player they drafted for seven to eight years before they reach free agency. It is very hard for me to accept the idea that a player can’t become an unrestricted free agents after that long of a period of service. Finally, I don’t think the franchise tag can work in the NBA effectively. Basketball players have a lot more power over if their team wins or loses than football players. Hold outs in football are generally annoyances. Hold outs in basketball would be devastating.

    Finally, I don’t like the NFL system because it’s goal seems to be to punish well run organizations and reward poorly run ones.

    My idea to address superstar movement by thinking of ways to make players want to play in the city that drafted them. I think the simplest thing to do for the NBA would be to get rid of maximum salaries while keeping the soft cap and Bird rights. Under this scenario, Cleveland would have offered Lebron 40 million to stay in Cleveland giving them a huge advantage in free agency that no other team has. Most players under these rules will choose to re-up with the team that signed them. I don’t think anyone should complain about the players who did leave under these rules.

    Next is my radical idea. The NBA has too many teams in smaller markets. The NBA myopically moved to smaller cities because they could force those towns to build them stadiums. This is good in the short run but bad for long-term popularity of the league. Metropolitan Seattle is larger and richer than Oklahoma City. It hurts the league to be in these smaller cities.

    It also creates major problems with regards to the players. NBA players are extremely talented individuals. Literally they are in the 99.999 percentile of ability in their field. Individuals who are still talented and valuable generally will be able to get what they want. Smaller cities aren’t as attractive to players who would prefer to play in larger markets.

    One way to make it more likely that players stay on their home team is to have more large market clubs and less small market clubs. This would never happen but IMO would be better for the league. I found it a fun exercise to realign the league.

    Atlantic Division
    1. Boston Celtics (4.6 million people)
    2. New York Knicks (19 million people)
    3. Brooklyn Nets (19 million people)
    4. Toronto Raptors (4.6 million people)
    5. Montreal Hornets (3.4 million people)

    Central Division
    1. Chicago Bulls (9.5 million people)
    2. Chicago Jazz (9.5 million people)
    3. Philadelphia 76ers (5.9 million people)
    4. Washington Wizards (5.5 million people)
    5. Detroit Pistons (4.4 million people)

    SouthEast Division
    1. Miami Heat (5.5 million people)
    2. Orlando Magic (2 million people)
    3. Tampa Bay Cavaliers (2.7 million people)
    4. Atlanta Hawks (5.4 million people)
    5. Charlotte Bobcats (1.7 million people)

    Spreadout Division
    1. Vancouver Pacers (2.1 million people)
    2. Seattle Supersonics (3.4 million people)
    3. Portland Trail Blazers (2.2 million people)
    4. Denver Nuggets (2.5 million people)
    5. Minn. Timberwolves (3.2 million people)

    California Division
    1. Los Angeles Lakers (12.8 million people)
    2. San Francisco Grizzlies (4.3 million people)
    3. Golden State Warriors (4.3 million people)
    4. San Diego Kings (3 million people)
    5. Los Angeles Clippers 2.0 (12.8 million people) Stearling sells team

    SouthWest Division
    1. Dallas Mavericks (6.4 million people)
    2. Houston Rockets (5.8 million people)
    3. Phoenix Suns (4.3 million people)
    4. San Antonio Spurs (2.0 million people)
    5. St. Louis Bucks (2.8 million people)

    The players would love this. A far higher percentage of clubs are now in larger cities and the most popular areas of the country to live are significantly more represented. Southern California, NYC, Chicago, and the Bay Area now have 9 ball clubs instead of 5. I’m not worried about the market saturation issue. A lot of people think that because of the Clippers two teams in one city won’t work. I think the failure of the clippers is solely due to bad management. Baseball shows you can have two teams in one city and have both be successful.

    The realignment I’ve proposed also improves the size and quality of the mid-market clubs. I have dramatically reduced the number of cities in the NBA that would be unappealing to NBA players. Vancouver and Montreal are admittedly stretches but I still believe you can make those cities appealing to NBA players once they actually go there. As a result of this realignment, most players will get drafted into the types of larger cities that are appealing to players. My hope is that players would only leave if management stinks which is fine to me. Poorly run teams should lose their superstars.

    I think this would be a good deal overall for fans, but I’ll acknowledge it stinks for the cities the NBA would be leaving. Simply put more people would have access to NBA games live.

    The league benefits in a lot of ways. The TV deal is better because there are less small markets. I’ve also created more natural rivals. Chicago and NYC would now have true cross city rivalries and so would LA as Stearling no longer owns the team. The Raptors now have a natural rival in the Montreal Hornets. The pacific northwest rivalry is renewed and the California division would have cool state bragging rights.

    I tried to accomplish the goal of discouraging superstar movement by making players actually happy to play for the club they got drafted by rather than trying to figure out ways to force unhappy employees to work. Those players that did move probably had good reason to do so.


    February 22, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    • Wow. A torrent of thought there.

      -Agree with you that the notion of superior NFL parity is a bit of an illusion. The NFL playoffs are less predictable than the NBA only because they are one off, and the lesser predictability from season to season is mostly due to star football players not being as valuable as star basketball players.

      -Also hate how people naturally tend to side with the owners. Irritation with the players is fine, but similar vitriol needs to be spewed in the other direction.

      -Your ideas about fixing star team loyalty are interesting and insightful.

      Matt Johnson

      February 22, 2011 at 9:42 pm

  2. 3. Ray Felton’s actually a good PnR PG and he pushes pace hard. Billups I’m not sure about in that regard. I’m not sure how well he’ll fit in that role, so it will be interesting to see if D’Antoni changes it up a bit. Or maybe Chauncey will love PnR with Amare…

    4. Defense. I think they could be worse on this side of the ball. The question is, how much worse. Carmelo has some awful defensive habits.

    8. Center. I think NY’s had an advantage from Amare playing 5, and I’ve written about it before. Are they playing Turiaf at 5?

    Overall, I don’t see a rosy finish to this season for New York. I also don’t really see NY as a super team going forward, despite the national panic.


    February 22, 2011 at 8:06 pm

  3. ElGee,

    Good point about Felton.

    On the other side, I woke this morning realizing Ty Lawson had slipped my mind. Does Denver even want Felton?

    Yeah, I don’t see anything worth getting super excited about here. I listened to Cowherd briefly this morning and he was raving, raving, raving about the trade for the Knicks, before talking with a guest and agreeing they were still only a 2nd tier team in the East. WTF? If the trade can’t put them on the top tier, then why the hell do people think it’s so important?

    Matt Johnson

    February 22, 2011 at 9:50 pm

  4. I’ve never seen a trade of so little importance discussed so much. I thought about blogging about it, providing some numbers about the players involved, yada yada…and it just didn’t seem worth it.

    It’s nice to have excitement in NYC. It’s nice to have the Garden rocking. But I just don’t see how this makes New York that good. Now, or going forward. When talking heads are declaring Amare-Melo-Paul are better than Wade-James-Bosh, I have to wonder what’s going. (Meanwhile, Chicago looks awesome and no one is talking about them…)


    February 22, 2011 at 10:15 pm

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