The Knicks Need Another Superstar But Not Carmelo

The Knicks defeated the Nuggets on Sunday 129-125 extending their winning streak to 8 in a row now as they continued to roll behind an offense that is firing on all cylinders.  Amar’e Stoudemire set a new franchise record with his 8th consecutive 30-point outing and Raymond Felton continued his excellent play adding 19 points and 17 assists, his 11th double of the season.  Wilson Chandler added 27 points and Landry Fields and Danilo Gallinari both chipped in with 18 and 16 points respectively. 

The Garden was rocking by the end of the night and, as is becoming routine, serenaded Stoudemire with chants of "MVP" after every basket he buried in the fourth quarter.  Basketball is back in New York and with every victory the Knicks are breathing life into a fanbase that suffered through the misery of the Scott Layden and Isiah Thomas eras.

As impressive as this Knicks team has been in recovering from a dismal 3-8 start another matter garnered all the headlines heading into Sunday's clash with Denver. 

The future of Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony.

Rumors have been floating since the Superfriends got together in Miami that Carmelo was looking for a trade that would send him to the Knicks to team up with Stoudemire.  At the beginning of Sunday’s game the Garden crowd showed him much they want to see him in orange and blue by giving him an ovation during lineup intoductions and starting a "We Want Melo" chant.

More fuel was added to the fire immediately following the game when both ESPN and CBS Sports reported that Anthony had informed Nuggets management that he would only sign an extension if he was traded to the Knicks. 

Trading for Anthony would accomplish the goal that GM Donnie Walsh had when he initially took the job in 2008 which was to pair together two superstars that could help bring championship basketball back to the Mecca.  Never has that dream been closer to becoming realized than it is now.

Is it really worth gutting the roster?  On paper pairing together two studs like Anthony and Stoudemire seems like a no brainer, but teams' successes and failures have more to do with cohesion and chemistry rather than just star names.

For two years we watched D’Antoni’s offense sputter as the lack of roster stability made it impossible to form a cohesive unit.  With the specter of the Summer of 2010 having passed and the acquisition of STAT we are beginning to see what D’Antoni was hired for.

In Amar’e the Knicks have a fulcrum to work around and as a result we are seeing Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Landry Fields flourish as secondary options rather than flop as leading men.  Raymond Felton’s play has also been impressive, but make no mistake this offense is run through Stoudemire and his ability to make plays for himself and others. 

What makes the Knicks so difficult to contain offensively is that their offense is predicated on filling open spaces left by collapsing defenders on Stoudemire, floor spacing and quick, precise ball movement on the perimeter.  Over their past 14 games, of which they have been victorious in 13, the Knicks have operated with perfection offensively. 

Now what would happen if the Knicks traded Fields, Gallinari, Eddy Curry’s expiring contract and a first round pick they would theoretically receive in return for Anthony Randolph for Carmelo?

Let’s take a look.

 

 

The starting lineup would be Felton, Chandler, Anthony, Stoudemire and Ronny Turiaf with Toney Douglas, Timofey Mosgov and either Bill Walker or Shawne Williams to fill out rotation off the bench. 

With that starting lineup there are a number of problems.  The Knicks are currently starting three swingmen in Gallo, Fields and Chandler all viable deep ball threats whose shots for the most part are assisted, with Stoudemire manning the center spot.  This has helped create space for Stoudemire to operate in the paint and when extra defenders are sent his way, the Knicks have been able to burn the defense by cutting weakside to the rim or rotating the ball on the perimeter and finding the open man. 

With Carmelo, this would change drastically. 

Anthony is great player no doubt and is one of the biggest mismatches offensively in the league with his combination of size, power and skill.  However, the Knicks' currently have the 2nd most efficient offense in the league and are averaging 108.5 points per game.  Scoring and doing so efficiently is certainly not their problem and the addition of Anthony might hamper them in that aspect.

Anthony has always been the No. 1 option on his team without question.   Since his second year in the league, Anthony has used over 30% (31.5% this season) of his team’s possessions on the offensive end in line with the amount of possessions used by other franchise players around the league use, including Stoudemire. 

However there would be a significant adjustment process as both Anthony and Stoudemire would be forced to share the ball and play off of each other.  In short Melo would have to become a more effective player off the ball, something he has not shown the ability to do in Denver.

Courtesy Mike Prada SB Nation:

Anthony is the kind of guy that needs shooters surrounding him. He's not the kind of guy who merely stands around as a shooter alongside someone else. Here's a look at how many points he's scored off the pass over the past three years, thanks to 82Games.com:

  • 2010-11: 46 percent
  • 2009-10: 42 percent
  • 2008-09: 48 percent
By contrast, here's how the Knicks' starting wings rank in that category this season

On top of that Anthony has never been a great facilitator for an offense.  He is a scorer that can fill it up when he gets hot, but he needs somebody else to give him the ball to do that.  He is not a LeBron-type hybrid point forward that can dictate the tempo of the game.  In acquiring Anthony it is imperative to recognize that he can finish your offensive sets, not initiate them which must be a priority when looking to pair a dominant wing with Amar'e.

Anthony’s addition would also hurt the team’s floor spacing as he is shooting an atrocious 28.6% behind the arc this season.  The court essentially shrinks in size as defenders could collapse on both players with greater ease with only two shooters in Felton and Chandler with the ability to really hurt them from distance. 

Anthony operates more from the high post where he uses his advanced mid-range game and drives to the rim to score.  However the Knicks utilize the pick and roll often from the top of the key to free up Amar'e and initiate their offense.  Late in games they have also been looking to isolate Amar'e at the high and mid post areas.  Obviously if Carmelo made the move to the Big Apple the offense would adjust accordingly, but it seems that Carmelo and Stoudemire's offensive games are more redundant than they are complementary.  

You may point to the success Miami has finally found in incorporating Dwyane Wade and LeBron James offensively, two players used to dominating the ball and being the go-to playmaker.  There is one main difference however.

While the success of the Heat's offense was always a question mark, the fact remains that defensively the Heat were always going to be successful.  Both James and Wade have earned their plaudits as two of the league's best perimeter defenders who stuff the stat sheet with steals and blocks with their ability to rotate quickly, provide weakside help and overplay passing lanes.  Neither Anthony or Stoudemire has ever been mistaken with a competent defensive player nevermind an elite one.

This is where this trade really struggles to make sense to me as it does little to address the Knicks' need for defensive help inside or on the perimeter.

The Knicks' main problems lie on the other end of the floor where they are 20th in the league in terms of defensive efficiency giving up 106.5 points per 100 possessions, something the addition of Carmelo would not cure.  In a trade for Carmelo, the Knicks would gut their roster of their most valuable trade assets that could be used to add much needed frontcourt depth at the trade deadline come February.  A more beneficial acquisition might be Samuel Dalembert from Sacramento.  Dalembert can come in when the Knicks need help defensively and on the boards and is athletic enough to move up and down the court to fuel the secondary break. 

This trade would also hurt the Knicks on the glass significantly. 

-via Probasketballtalk.com

No center in the league can stay in front of Amar’e, and Gallinari’s ballhandling and three-point range make him a nightmare cover for any power forward. However, both Amar’e and Danilo have some issues with rebounding and defense, and that’s where players like Fields and Chandler come in. Fields is the best rebounding guard in the league, and the Knicks need every one of those rebounds. Chandler’s "rebound rate" of 14.0 is easily leads all other guards in the NBA, and Dominic McGuire is the only small forward with a better rebound rate than Fields. Given that Danilo Gallinari is dead-last among power forwards in rebound rate and Stoudemire’s rebound rate is the exact same as Fields’, it’s a good thing that Fields is such a prodigious rebounder. (If ‘tweener forward Wilson Chandler is considered the Knicks’ de facto power forward his rebound rate would be 61st out of 73 qualified power forwards.)

As it is the Knicks are currently 22nd in the NBA in rebounding differential per game.  Losing Fields, the top rebounding guard in the league by quite a distance, would leave the Knicks with not one player better than league average at their position on the glass.  Both Stoudemire and Turiaf are below average rebounders and while Anthony is averaging a ridiculous 8.5 boards per game this year, more than a full rebound more than his career high, it is likely he will regress back closer to his career average as the season progresses.

While the Knicks must certainly find another superstar to compete with the likes of the Celtics, Heat and Magic in the East come playoff time it must also be a good fit.  Unfortunately Carmelo's desire to play in New York does not make him a good fit especially when considering the pieces that have been critical in the Knicks' resurgence this season that would be heading to Denver.

If the Knicks were instead to hold tight and make a play for Anthony in free agency.  Depending on the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement after this season the Knicks could still sign Anthony and keep their stable of young wing talent intact to space the floor for both Anthony and Stoudemire in which case the duo could be devastating.

Walsh has done a fantastic job of acquiring players that fit the system and has built a cohesive unit that will at least make it to the playoffs with a chance to address their most pressing needs via trade or offseason free agency.  It would be a shame to throw that away on a superstar experiment that won't solve the problems the Knicks now face while creating new ones that don't currently exist.

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