By John Schmeelk
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I started this story ready to be very negative about the trade the Knicks made for Carmelo Anthony. As I kept writing, I started to change my mind. This is my 3rd and final rewrite and I’m still torn. This thing is bittersweet. I honestly think the Knicks overpaid for Carmelo. He isn’t as good as LeBron James but the Knicks traded away that type of package. If Donnie Walsh was allowed to negotiate his way that wouldn’t have happened. Now, that doesn’t mean this was a terrible trade that has irreparably ruined the franchise. The Knicks gave away a lot, but there’s a lot to like.

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The Knicks are a better team today than they were yesterday. They are either the 4th or 5th best team in the Eastern Conference, and will win between 50 and 55 games. They will now be an ultra dangerous team in the playoffs and give their opponent a real scare in the 1st round of the playoffs. A top ten player became available, which rarely happens, and the Knicks got him. It’s way too risky to pass on a player like Anthony and wait for another star that could be acquired for cheaper down the road. They have two stars that can be cornerstones for future championship runs. The Knicks are better than they have been in ten years.

But it’s not enough. The goal is to win a championship. The Knicks need to be better than Boston in the short term and Miami in the long run and I’m having a lot of trouble figuring out how that’s going to happen.

With the Knicks trading away too much, they now have virtually no assets remaining to improve their roster. They can’t trade a 1st round pick until 2016. Their pick this year will be around 17 in a weak draft. There are no players besides the top four (Billups, Anthony, Stoudemire, Fields), and the newly acquired Corey Brewer, that anyone would want. Plus, Brewer is a restricted free agent this offseason and probably won’t be back (don’t be surprised if the Knicks repackage him before Thursday). The Knicks have no 2012 1st round pick.

With the new CBA it will be unlikely the Knicks will have enough cap room to bring in another max free agent in 2012. Besides, much like Carmelo, there’s a good chance potential future free agents Chris Paul, Deron Williams and/or Dwight Howard will be traded if their team sees they won’t be able to resign them. The Knicks have few assets to make a trade like that other than Chauncey Billups’ expiring contract. Or, perhaps, those players could be kept via a potential franchise tag that could be in the new CBA. Not to mention the fact Landry Fields is a free agent in 2012 and the Knicks will have to spend money to resign him.

If I knew what the new CBA was going to look like, and how much money the Knicks had to spend in 2012 I might feel differently about this trade. But right now, it doesn’t look like the Knicks will be in position to add another star. Best case scenario is there being no hard cap, no franchise tag and a slightly reduced total salary cap. The chances of that are slim. All exceptions, like the mid-level might eliminated as well. Where are the support players coming from? Heck, if the 2012 season is cancelled it changes things too. I’ll re-analyze this after we see what the new deal looks like. I might just change my mind.

If they can’t add another significant player, the Knicks could be setting themselves up to be a bridesmaid for a long time. Carmelo is probably at best, the ninth best player in basketball behind Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Dwight Howard. I can argue others but that’s a good list. In Carmelo’s seven seasons he has won a grand total of two playoff rounds (both in 2009) and has been knocked out of the first round of the playoffs six times. He has never won 55 games. Granted, he never played with someone like Amar’e Stoudemire but the trend isn’t great. By the way, Chauncey Billups is averaging 5 assists on the best offense in the league. Not impressive. His shooting, however, will help the Knicks spread the floor. Those three players do not equal a championship. There are huge holes at center and on the bench.

Knicks fans need to understand the assets the Knicks surrendered in this trade:

1. Wilson Chandler – A free agent after this season, limiting his value, but a former first round pick and 23 year old averaging 16 points and 6 rebounds. A good defender.

2. Danilo Gallinari – A 22 year old former first round pick that’s averaging 16 points per game and constantly improving with potential to be a borderline All-Star. He’s a restricted free agent in 2012.

3. Raymond Felton – The first person off the Eastern Conference All-Star team having a career year averaging 17 points and 9 assists. Only 26 years old. He’s a former 1st round pick and a good defender whose contract is up in 2012.

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4. Timofey Mozgov – A raw rookie center with bad numbers but showing a lot of recent improvement. Talent of a late first round pick with great athletic potential.

5. Anthony Randolph – Not working out for the Knicks but worth a 1st round pick.

5. 2014 1st round pick.

6. 2012 2nd round pick.

7. 2013 2nd round pick.

8. Eddy Curry’s expiring contract.

9. 2010 offseason cap space. The Knicks would have had a ton of cap space this offseason to use on a very good player if they hadn’t made the trade. Do not under-estimate this aspect of the trade. It’s a huge loss.

The price was high, too high. The Knicks overpaid, though Corey Brewer coming back helps soften the blow. There’s no guarantee Chandler, Gallinari or Felton would be back after their contracts expired but they could be used as assets in trades through the summer of 2012 to get players like Dwight Howard, Chris Paul or Deron Williams. I believe if Donnie Walsh was allowed to negotiate the deal his way, the Knicks would have given up far less. It didn’t have to be this way. That, above all is, is the center of my frustration.

That brings us to the other bittersweet part of this trade. Walsh clearly didn’t pull the trigger on it. No doubt it came down to James Dolan, who acted on the advice of Isiah Thomas. This means that Walsh probably won’t be back next season. The man who put the Knicks in this great position will be pushed out or leave on his own accord. Who will be brought in to take the Knicks the rest of the way home? We’ll see. I’ll have more on this in the next couple days. By the way, you can’t give enough credit to Frank Isola of the Daly News for being all over the fracturing of the Knicks front office since Day 1.

I’m torn. I’m excited to see the new Knicks with a second star as their foundation. The city will feel like the 90’s again. However, they overpaid to get it. Is it worth the pain? We won’t know until the new CBA is agreed on and we hit the summer of 2012 to see who else the Knicks can add to the roster. I’m feeling the pain with this trade. It’s bittersweet. With most fair trades, that’s the way it goes.

Finally – all Knicks fans should send out their appreciation to the job that Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler did in making the Knicks respectable again. They will be missed, and I will give each a standing ovation next time they walk on the Madison Square Garden floor. I will not do that for Eddy Curry. HE’S GONE! Now that’s something we can all celebrate together!

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