Carmelo Anthony may want a trade, but the Knicks can’t do much at this point
With just over a day left until the N.B.A.'s trade deadline, it would seem to be time for the New York Knicks to make another deal.
They have lost eight of ten, and are currently tied with Milwaukee for the final playoff spot. Missing the playoffs, given the current roster and the highs experienced during Linsanity, would be a public-relations catastrophe and would likely cost coach Mike D'Antoni his job. Already, the long knives are out, with Carmelo Anthony in particular said to be looking for a way out.
In any case, the Milwaukee Bucks, with whom the Knicks are now competing for one of those last playoff spots, are moving fast, completing a five-player deal Tuesday night that brought scoring guard Monta Ellis and solid defender Ekpe Udoh into their rotation. It’s debatable whether the deal will help the Bucks over the long term, but given that the major player they gave up, center Andrew Bogut, may not play again this year, the move certainly helps them in their playoff push.
So how will New York counter? What’s their next blockbuster move? The answer is: There’s probably nothing to be done.
The Knicks’ roster at this point is spectacularly unsuited to any significant changes. These are, as the Madison Square Garden public address announcer says it, your New York Knicks. (Unstated: For better or worse.)
The Knicks' highest-paid players aren't going anywhere. Tyson Chandler is certainly valuable, but the Knicks aren't likely to want to deal the one player standing between them and complete defensive collapse.
Amar'e Stoudemire, with another three years left on a deal paying him a total of more than $100 million, is probably untradeable, since his contract was uninsured (due to past knee problems) and he hasn't played well enough this season to justify the risk.
And Carmelo Anthony, with a shooting percentage of just 40 percent this year, would net surprisingly little for someone who cost the Knicks a ton in treasure just a year ago. Anyhow, it is that very fact that would probably keep New York from seeming to acknowledge that the deal was a mistake by jettisoning him.
Together, those three essentially prevent New York from adding any other salary of significance, especially in-season. Because trades also need to be even, salary-wise, the absence of expiring contracts or overpaid veterans means the Knicks couldn't add another team's salary-dump. For instance, take Boston's Ray Allen, at ten million dollars for this year. New York would need to trade at least nine of its bench players to match Allen's salary in a deal. Neither side would do such a thing.
So the Knicks would need to add at the margins instead, but how? J.R. Smith, recently signed, has little trade value given his poor play since arriving. And since he was acquired so recently, the Knicks cannot trade him anyway.
The two players that teams would be most interested in—Landry Fields and Jeremy Lin—make up New York's starting back court. So it is precisely the teams that would have potential replacements for New York—teams with young, starting-caliber players at shooting guard or point guard—that wouldn't be looking to deal for Fields.
And Lin, who despite the Knicks' recent slide has continued to play well, particularly for a rookie point guard, is simply too valuable to deal, both on the court and off.
In other words, it is up to the Knicks to straighten out whatever is going on in the locker room, in terms of offensive spacing and defensive rotations, among the current group. Help probably isn't even coming this summer, when New York will need to use their mid-level exception to the salary cap to sign the would-be free agent Lin.
This is the group, give or take a spare part. Playoffs or bust.