By John Schmeelk
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Since the Kevin Love-for-Carmelo Anthony trade rumors resurfaced Wednesday, the focus has been on whether the deal could still happen, rather than how it would help the Knicks.
The concern is certainly understandable given Anthony’s no-trade clause and the reported disinclination of the Cavaliers to pull the trigger on such a move. In the end, both of those issues could sort themselves out.
Anthony’s no-trade clause might not even be the biggest obstacle. No one would doubt that he would want to play with one of his best friends on a team that has as good of a chance as anyone to win a title. Anthony has also indicated he would consider waiving his no-trade clause if the Knicks asked him to.
One question is whether Knicks president Phil Jackson has the guts to come out publicly and say he wants Anthony gone. The bigger issue is likely whether or not he has the permission from James Dolan to go out there and execute a trade for Anthony. There has been no indication the team’s owner would be amenable to trading the team’s star away as part of a rebuilding process.
As for the Cavs, if they keep losing, the odds of a trade increase. LeBron James has forced the front office’s hand before on moves, and if this trade were to happen, he would no doubt once again be the impetus. I’m not sure I would consider that likely at this point, but it’s certainly not impossible to imagine.
Putting those potential roadblocks aside, what does a trade like that do for the Knicks? On the surface, it doesn’t solve a ton of their problems. Like Anthony, Love is a poor defender. He is also on nearly as lucrative a contract (Love makes about $2 million less per year) that extends a year longer than Anthony’s. Both players can opt out of the final years of their deals. Love is also not nearly the offensive player Anthony is, though he is a better rebounder.
Here’s where the trade would work for the Knicks: Love is much younger than Anthony, almost four full years. He could be a teammate of Porzingis for a while if the Knicks choose to retain him. He is a true power forward and would make it necessary to move Porzingis to his eventual permanent position at center. Love would be able to stretch the floor along with Porzingis, allowing the Knicks to play some really nasty spread offense if they can find a play-making point guard who knows how to move the ball to open shooters.
From a business perspective, he would also be someone the Knicks could more easily move in another deal if they decided. He doesn’t have a no-trade clause, nor does he have a trade kicker. If the Knicks decided to completely blow the team up and rebuild, he could be moved in another trade far easier than Anthony could given his no-trade clause and small list of teams he would reportedly be willing to be moved to.
Unfortunately, if the Knicks also demand a first-round pick for Anthony, the earliest they could get one from the Cavs would be in 2020, which is far down the road. By that time, however, Cleveland might be breaking down as a championship contender, which would make the pick far more valuable than one in the next couple of years.
In the end, it is a trade the Knicks would have to make since it gets them a younger and more flexible piece for future moves. It isn’t the ideal return for Anthony, but given his salary and no-trade clause, it is probably the best they could do.
If the Cavaliers refuse to part with Love, there really is no other way to make a trade work if the Knicks are to get back anything else that seems close to equal value for Anthony. Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye all make decent money, but none of those players would be a fit for the Knicks or be a good enough return.
Trading Anthony was never going to be easy as he grew older, especially with his no-trade clause allowing him to choose his suitors. It was why the Knicks should have tried to make this deal when they could have gotten a better return. But they are where they are right now and have to make the best of it. Unfortunately, Jackson’s trade history leaves a lot to be desired.
It is time for the Knicks to start Willy Hernangomez at center. He is young, can score around the basket and is becoming an excellent rebounder. He is still learning on defense, but the drop-off from Kyle O’Quinn and Joakim Noah to him is not drastic. It needs to happen now. The Knicks are better when Hernangomez plays, and he is a low-cost piece for the next four years who can learn and grow with Porzingis. He is the only Knick who has been a regular part of the rotation this year and has a positive plus/minus. He is the future and the present. At this point, it doesn’t matter how much Noah makes.
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