The Carmelo Conundrum: What the Knicks Should Do


The New York Knicks are arguably in the worst position a team can be in as part of the National Basketball Association (NBA): neutral.

For the sake of the Knicks’ future, Carmelo Anthony must leave. (Courtesy of J. Conrad Williams Jr/Newsday via MCT)
For the sake of the Knicks’ future, Carmelo Anthony must leave. (Courtesy of J. Conrad Williams Jr/Newsday via MCT)

So how can the Knicks escape the purgatory of first round playoff exits and mid-teens draft selections that seem to loom in the team’s future?  The answer may be hard for the long-suffering fan base of the team to accept. But it seems to become more and more apparent as the team loses game after game.

The team must trade Carmelo Anthony.

Anthony is a member of a rare species, a genuine superstar.  He can score at will from anywhere on the court and has just come off arguably his greatest season, in which he led the league in points per game and was the focal point of a New York Knicks team that won a playoff series for the first time in almost a decade.  He has embodied the spirit of New York, full of the grit of uptown with the spectacle of Times Square.

He is also 30 years old and set to become a free agent.  Even in this season, with the Knicks at 20-30 and trying to steal a playoff spot from the Charlotte Bobcats, no one has blamed Anthony for the team’s struggle.

Instead, poor play from overpriced teammates such as Andrea Bargnani and J.R. Smith, coupled by Mike Woodson’s baffling coaching decisions (especially his refusal to bench Raymond Felton) have sunk the season.  So, the most logical scenario for the Knicks  is to send Anthony packing while his value is at its peak, especially in a year when they don’t appear to be contending.

Almost every team in the NBA improve instantly with the addition of Anthony, but perhaps, the Knicks don’t need to be better.  They need to be worse.  Trading away Anthony to an asset-rich, superstar-poor team such as the Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls or (gasp) the dreaded Boston Celtics could yield bountiful results for all.

The elimination of Anthony’s 21.5 million dollar salary, along with the young, inexpensive players or draft picks the Knicks would receive allows for cap flexibility in the future for New York.  Without the burden of the high contracts of Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, which both expire after the next season, the Knicks will hopefully be able to build a young roster in the same vein of the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Trading Anthony would essentially be like quickly ripping off a band-aid for the Knicks, accelerating the healing process of an ailing franchise.

A trade to a playoff bound team in need of a star, like Chicago or Phoenix, would allow Anthony to play for a team still competing in the postseason, even after the loss of Luol Deng to trade and Derrick Rose or Eric Bledsoe to injury. Moving him to the Celtics would give him a star point guard, in Rajon Rondo, to play with.

One of these teams would acquire a superstar in the prime of his career.  Carmelo would get to play for a well-built, well-coached team. He would no longer have to deal with the circus he has had to put on his back this season. The Knicks, in turn,  would gain the freedom to move forward.  Everyone wins.

As a diehard Knicks fan, I understand how this could be upsetting.  I survived the Isaiah Thomas and D’Antoni eras. Why on Earth would we want the only player to ever give us hope in the last decade to leave?  When you love something, you should let it go, especially if it might eventually cost $30 million a year to keep it around.

Madison Square Garden can once more be the mecca of basketball that is now just a fond memory. The house of Willis and Clyde can be rebuilt with sound drafting and fiscal responsibility as opposed to short-term thinking, such as signing players like Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari. It can also be the end to onerous money-spending on players like Eddy Curry, Stephon Marbury and Stoudemire. Trading Anthony won’t turn the Knicks into the Spurs overnight, but it is the start of a long-term plan and an actual future.