A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Grading the Carmelo Anthony trade: Missed opportunity and opportunity cost

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The day we waded through months of painstaking trade rumors for finaly came. Carmelo Anthony is a Knick and will get his 65 million extension. For Carmelo and Chauncey Billups, the Knicks traded Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danillo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, a 2014 1st and two Golden State 2nds to Denver as well as Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph to Minnesota for cap reasons. With the history of stars who want out getting traded for pennies, the Nuggets have to happy with their return. Not only due to the valuable talent coming back, but they also saved about 23 million by cutting enough salary to get under the luxury tax.

What about the Knicks? Despite the apparant leverage of Carmelo wanting to play there, they ended up mortgaging the entire farm. The threat of Carmelo going to the Nets apparantley pushed them towards it. Rumors of James Dolan and Isiah Thomas taking the negotiations from Donnie Walsh are in the air.

But there’s no denying the allure of two all-NBA scorers in Carmelo and Amare together. Stars are impossible to get and the Knicks have two. The question is how the Knicks improve going forward, since not even diehard Knicks optimists can pretend this team will contend without a serious depth upgrade. Cap flexibility will be limited to MLE signings for the remainder of Melo and Amare’s maximum contracts – if MLE contracts still exist in the new CBA. The Knicks lack their 2012 and 2014 picks, making them unable to trade picks in 2011 and 2013. Those rookies and Landry Fields are their best spare assets. Thus not many deals will be available for the Knicks the next few seasons. Even dealing Eddy Curry’s expiring contract hurts them, as it could feasibly be offered for expensive players like Rip Hamilton and Chris Kaman. The argument in favor of the Carmelo-Amare pairing is that stars are hard to get and role players aren’t. But it’s not that simple. Good players take value. Melo and Amare needs more good players to compete. Plenty more. Without trade assets or cap room, they won’t have the figurative money in their pockets to get more value players.

Is the Carmelo trade a bad value trade? Not entirely. The Knicks will be hard pressed to be anything more than a 2nd round team, but going forward with Amare and Felton, Gallinari, Chandler didn’t present a much more promising future against the Heat and Bulls in the East. The trade is more of a lost oppurtunity. If the Knicks had acquired Carmelo as a comparatively small cost like say, Wilson Chandler and a 2nd and thus keeping Felton, Gallinari, Randolph, Curry’s expiring and their picks – then they’d be in a very good position going forward. The Knicks could turn their trade asset base into the right supporting players for Melo and Amare, including a badly needed defensive center. The analogy is the Knicks are now playing poker with a very small stack compared to the Heat and Bulls and it will be very hard to turn that stack into a winning position. Whereas stronger negotiating getting Carmelo for pennies would’ve increased the size of that stack to a respectable level where eventually competing is at least within the question.

But the real reason I believe this is a negative trade for the Knicks is the opportunity cost in relation to 2012 free agency. Despite the media’s insistence on New York planning for Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard’s free agencies in 2012, the Knicks simply won’t have the capspace to sign one. The combined salaries of Carmelo, Amare and minimum salary capholds for the remaining roster spots will combine for about 49 million salary in 2012, leaving about 9 million in caproom which will not be nearly enough to sign a 3rd maximum contract. Getting an MVP candidate like Howard or Paul may have been the best chance for the Knicks to contend. Especially if they kept the assets they gave up in this trade. This also makes the Knicks apparant desperation to lock down Carmelo by overpaying bizarre. Losing Carmelo to the Nets wouldn’t have been the end of the world. The Knicks could’ve simply keep their assets and looked to sign one of Howard or Paul in 2012.

The Amare signing and Carmelo trade have brought the Knicks from embarrasment to relevancy. But I believe aspirations of contending for a title after this trade will not be any more met than it was for Denver when they paired Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony.

One Response

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  1. A terribly inefficient trade. They played a game of liar’s poker with the New Jersey Nets, and in the end they couldn’t identify the sucker at the table.

    There’s an old adage in poker that epitomizes the Knicks situation here; “If you can’t find the sucker at the table, he’s in your seat.”


    February 24, 2011 at 10:15 pm

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