The Knicks are back at the crossroads with Carmelo Anthony

Dec 12, 2015; Portland, OR, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) smiles after drawing a foul on the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 12, 2015; Portland, OR, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) smiles after drawing a foul on the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports /

The Knicks are at a crossroads with Carmelo Anthony, his and Kristaps Porzingis’ time frame just does not line up for the organization.

Over the All-Star break, Carmelo Anthony was supposed to be looking towards playing in another game, one that was overshadowed by Kobe Bryant and his pending retirement. However, the Knicks forward had to deal with rumors of trade speculation, highlighted by a rumored three-team trade  from NY Daily News writer Frank Isola between the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, and New York Knicks, with Anthony landing in Cleveland to join forces with LeBron James.

While Anthony pooh-poohed the idea of a trade, and his no-trade clause assisted him in such efforts, I don’t know why the Knicks should be at least entertaining the idea of trading Carmelo Anthony. It makes sense for both sides.

The Knicks are at a crossroads, which feels like exactly where they’ve been the last 15 years. They have Carmelo Anthony – a good player, but 31 years old. They have Kristaps Porzingis, a nice young big man, but he’s 20 years old. Everything else in between is tricky. They don’t have a first-round pick in a potential lottery season, nor do they have a second round pick (potential cheap labor).

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The odds of Kevin Durant coming to New York are slim. LeBron James probably isn’t opting out to join Carmelo and the Knicks. Nicolas Batum is an excellent option for the Knicks and would be a wise move, so would Al Horford and Mike Conley, but the Knicks don’t have max cap space and would probably have to do a handful of maneuvers to make the space.

You’re then shifting to 2017 free agency and begin to ogle over Russell Westbrook. That also means you are now pushing the Knicks potential contention window another 16 months. At that point, Carmelo Anthony will be 33 years old and making a ton of money as his skills continue to erode as your potential star turns 21 and continues to improve.

The best move for the Knicks, in my opinion, is to move Carmelo and acquire an asset or two. Something or someone who can be placed with Porzingis and are both in the same time frame. From there, you move Anthony’s money off the books, allowing you to go after some of the younger players in this free agency class – Orlando’s Evan Fournier, Portland’s Allen Crabbe, etc.

Create a small group of young guys to work with, combined with good draft picks, should be able to entice both big free agents and the right free agents as they move into Porzingis’ prime.

For Carmelo, it’s about those final years of his career. We’ve struggled to truly understand how minutes affect a player, but let’s look at Carmelo’s career. Since joining the league in 2003, Anthony has played 13 seasons in the league and in 11 postseasons. Kareem has registered over 54,000 minutes. Carmelo is at 31,936 plus an additional 2579 playoff minutes. The next phase of his career is closer than you think.

Still, Anthony is an excellent basketball player. He’s been a solid offensive player – both as someone who can be relied upon as the main scorer and as someone who’s been an excellent distributor in the offense. He’s having his best rebounding season this year and yet, we haven’t seen him much at his best position – an inside out, floor spacing power forward. Moving him to a small-ball lineup allows him to cover his defense.

Back to the rumored trade – I thought it made sense for all parties involved. Boston gets Kevin Love to be their main offensive player on the inside, New York gets a slew of draft picks and expiring contracts and Cleveland gets Carmelo, allowing them to put together a lineup of Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Tristan Thompson. A smaller lineup who can score with the Warriors. Defend? I don’t think so, but hey.

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The point is: Carmelo is at this stage in his career where players want to start considering going to the ring. Anthony is one of the premier scorers in the last decade and has most of the accolades the league provides like All-NBA, Olympic spots, All-Star, scoring title – you name it, Carmelo has it. The only thing he doesn’t have is that championship. Something that separates him the likes of Dominique Wilkins and George Gervin (not slouches) into another stratosphere.

At this point, can the Knicks do that? Kevin Durant has already come out shocked about the Knicks firing Derek Fisher, do you think he’s coming? At this point, the focus has shifted to Russell Westbrook in the 2017 offseason, but can Carmelo wait another year, give the Knicks another chance to attempt to entice (and probably fail) to attract a star talent to New York?

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Based on Carmelo’s recent comments, he’s going to give the Knicks another chance to find him a head coach, to get one more player to join he and Porzingis and try to bring a championship back to New York. Even if it isn’t the best move for the franchise.