Oct 17, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) waves to the crowd after the game against the Washington Wizards at Baltimore Arena. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Why Carmelo Anthony Leaving May Not Be The Worst Thing: Part 2

In case you missed it, here is part 1.

The New York Knicks rebuilding philosophy for the last decade has usually gone in either of two directions: Acquire bad over paid players (the Isaiah Thomas era) or acquire older/injury prone and over paid players (everything since) with one constant, trading away draft picks. The latter strategy has proven to be about as effective as one would hope, leading to a pretty decent team but nothing more and Isaiah Thomas’s Knicks were so bad that losing a $12 million sexual harassment case isn’t the first thing to come to mind when thinking of them.

The Knicks philosophy of signing older and not very good players to add to their core group of guys is akin to repainting and buying new tires for a car that has a near shot engine. It may seem nice in the short term but crux of the problem is still being ignored.

The list of players on the Knicks roster who have yet to reach their primes (and may have worthwhile primes, so not Chris Smith) are Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr., and maybe Tourre’ Murray. Everyone else on the team is at the point in their career where they are what they are or they’re in decline. Those two and maybe (but doubtful) three players represent the future of the team.

Most projections this year have the Knicks finishing 5th in the East and it’s easy to see why. They’re offense last year thrived on small ball and ball movement, two things lacking from this year’s starting lineup, and used those factors to overcome a below average defense that may in fact be worse with Andrea Bargnani and Stoudemire ready to get at least some of the minutes down low.

The Knicks put all their chips in the Lebron James basket leading up to the 2010 free agency and came out with Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. Sooner or later the team will have to face the fact that while the plan of two max spots for Lebron and friend was a good one at the time, the consolation prize isn’t likely to bring a title. Resigning Carmelo only delays the inevitable rebuilding process that will follow.

If Carmelo Anthony stays the Knicks will be locked up with salary for this offseason and would likely have enough salary cap room for one max player the year after if they renounce bird rights on both Iman Shumpert and Tyson Chandler. So even if they could sign Rajon Rondo, Lamarcus Aldridge or Marc Gasol (quite literally the three best players who will be unrestricted free agents that season as of now) they would lose two of their best four players on the roster in the process.

Since none of these players are likely to bring a championship to New York, especially when factoring in the aforementioned necessary departures, what is the logic in bringing one of them in to couple with Anthony? More second round exits? Wouldn’t the team be better off letting Anthony walk, rebuilding through the draft, and snatching up one of those free agents (or waiting until 2016 when the list could be as rich as Eric Gordon, Nic Batum, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, and Al Horford among others) to become the veteran presence of a young team on the rise?

Since 1980, one team has won a championship without a top three player that they drafted (or acquired on draft day) on the roster and that was the 2004 Detroit Pistons (who did draft Tayshaun Prince). That means that 32 of the last 33 NBA Champions at least in part built their title teams through the draft. While Iman Shumpert may have a bright future as a Bruce Bowen type player in this league, it remains to be seen whether he can be a top three player on a title contending team.

If the Knicks let Anthony walk, clearly they will be worse next year. Their offense may consist of head scratching JR Smith jumpers, Andrea Bargnani’s attempts at playing basketball, and Amar’e Stoudemire’s knees once every so often. The thing is, the Knicks were just as bad for almost the entirety of the last decade and have a 7-14 playoff record with one series win to show for it.

The Knicks never really bottomed out or even attempted to. They just kept trading away draft pick after draft pick for guys like the Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury or offering huge money to Jared Jefferies or Jerome James and then had to deal more draft picks to get rid of them. That is precisely why the only player the Knicks drafted that made the All-Star team as a Knicks since Patrick Ewing was David Lee who made it as an injury replacement.

The team could blow this whole thing up, let their big contracts come off the books in 2015, draft well with their likely lottery pick in 2015, maybe trade for a pick in 2016 (thanks to Glenn Grunwald and his “steal” of a trade for Andrea Bargnani), and then gear up for that potentially vaunted 2016 free agent class.

One other effect Carmelo Anthony being here has on the team is CAA’s huge influence on it. Netw3rk wrote a brilliant piece for Grantland.com explaining just how much power CAA has over the team (they represent Anthony, both Smith brothers, and Mike Woodson among others) and how it may have effected decision making since around when Anthony became a Knick.

Letting Anthony walk would deliver a huge blow to their role within the organization and would allow the Knicks to build a team with success in mind rather than taking care of CAA clients.

The Knicks for years have tried to take shortcuts to pry themselves back into title contention and failed in every attempt. Maybe it’s time to try and build a title team the traditional way. It’s not that Carmelo Anthony can’t be on a title team it’s that at this point it’s hard to believe he can be the best player on one.


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