Well, this didn’t take long.
Marc Berman of the New York Post is reporting that Carmelo Anthony would consider waiving his no-trade clause (for the right situation) just 24 games into his five-year $124 million contract. Of course, many reporters who cover the Knicks have come out to dispute this report. It is a bit ridiculous that Melo would give up on New York this early, but let’s roll with Berman’s story for argument’s sake.
Is Anthony a player worth pursuing if you’re Danny Ainge?
Strong arguments can be made for both sides.
WHY A CELTICS-KNICKS TRADE FOR ANTHONY MAKES SENSE
Ainge has been waiting for a big name to be made available, and Anthony would be the only one with trade speculation swirling around him … well, outside of Boston’s own Rajon Rondo. The Celtics are at a crossroads when it comes to the direction of the team. Ainge has been stockpiling assets for a youthful rebuild, but it has always been on his mind that he could turn those assets into win-now players if the opportunity presented itself, much like it did in the summer of 2007.
Boston would provide Anthony with a significantly better supporting cast than he has been given in New York, specifically Rondo. Ainge runs one of the only franchises with the combination of draft picks and expiring contracts to land Anthony, as well as persuade the star that the Celtics are a team worth his while.
Here’s an idea of what the Celtics could offer the Knicks: Jeff Green ($9.2M player option next season), Marcus Thornton ($8.6M expiring), Brandon Bass ($6.9M expiring) and a first-round pick in each of the next three drafts. Normally teams can’t trade picks in back-to-back drafts (let alone three in a row), but thanks to the C’s situation, they could offer their own picks in 2015 and 2017 (and the Knicks would have the right to swap picks with the Nets in 2017 if their pick ends up a better one than Boston’s) and the Nets‘ pick in 2016.
This would be a pretty nice haul for the nearly asset-less Knicks. At 4-20 entering Friday’s contest against the Celtics, New York is on track to land a top-five pick in June’s draft, and then would have the Celtics’ pick to pair alongside its own. The picks in 2016 and 2017 would give the Knicks hope of finding a young star in the draft that they haven’t had in ages.
Aside from the flurry of potentially high picks, New York would be getting three players whose contracts (likely) expire at the end of the season. Green does have a player option for 2015-16, but if he continues to have a career season, he may be better off opting out and seeing what the market has to offer. Green is playing well enough to get some trade interest across the league, meaning the Knicks could work on turning Green into even more assets. Same goes for Bass and Thornton. Both are solid role players who could provide a spark of the bench for a contender, but even if the Knicks failed to move them, their contracts expire at season’s end and give the Knicks some flexibility.
The Celtics’ mindset would be obvious: Win now! Ainge would be shipping away many of his future picks he worked so hard to gain, but at the same time, still own roughly as many picks as a normal team would have since he possesses two first-rounders in most upcoming drafts. So without sacrificing the entire future, Ainge gets his superstar to pair with Rondo.
Things presumably wouldn’t turn around right away in Boston. Rondo and Anthony would have to get on the same page and the young talent that remains (Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller, Marcus Smart and even James Young) would have to grow with the duo. Then Ainge would be faced with finding a way to re-sign Rondo in 2015, as well as find his James Posey/Eddie House-type role players to put the finishing touches on his work.
To dig even deeper, could Ainge find a way to build a new Big Three? Possibly a sign-and-trade with Memphis to get a player like Marc Gasol? It would require some serious work and parting with potentially the rest of Boston’s assets, but it could be worth it. Obviously I’m now way ahead of myself, but with the cap expected to rise significantly (thanks to the NBA’s new TV deal), this is not impossible to finagle. Prying Gasol from Memphis would be the hardest part, but just plug in “star player X” and create the same scenario.
But we would never find out if something like that could be if Ainge doesn’t start by going after Anthony with everything he has.
WHY A CELTICS-KNICKS TRADE FOR ANTHONY DOES NOT MAKE SENSE
Anthony is on the wrong side of 30 years old and already is battling knee issues at the very beginning of a deal that will pay him $124 million. He is considered one of the best players in the NBA, yet has “led” his team to a 4-20 start. And this is not just any 4-20 start, this is a 4-20 start in the East. The Celtics are a struggling, young team that is learning how to win, but they have held their own at 6-6 against other Easter Conference teams. Anthony has played in 21 of his team’s 24 games, and New York is just 3-12 against opponents from the East — 3-12! That’s more embarrassing than the overall record.
So, what does that record indicate?
Anthony is not a winning player. With just one appearance in the conference finals, he truly never has been. But with his age and his current production, he is nowhere near worth his contract.
The Knicks obviously felt he was worth the money and plan on building around him. He’s their problem now. Anthony committed to the Knicks and they have their plan going forward. The Celtics have a much better plan.
As I mentioned, Ainge has the assets to get a player like Anthony if he realistically wants to change teams. But those assets could be more valuable if Boston just invests in its steadily growing young core. The C’s already have Smart, Young, Sullinger, Olynyk and Zeller, then add on all of the draft picks that Ainge now keeps by holding off on a trade. The Celtics have a good track record with developing talent. With so many picks they would be practically guaranteed to hit on some of their selections.
Then there’s Rondo, whom Ainge likely hasn’t picked a direction on yet. But if the Celtics don’t chase a star player like Anthony this season, it only becomes less likely that Rondo is still wearing green next season. Although Rondo continues to tell the media that he likes it in Boston (and I believe him), it may just end up not being the right fit for him after this season.
If Rondo walks in free agency (the worst-case scenario), then Ainge simply gains the cap space to chase after a young free agent. Greg Monroe, anyone? However, if Ainge does decide to swing a deal involving Rondo before the deadline, he presumably would be adding even more assets to what would now only be described as an absurd combination of prospects and picks.
Rondo already rode the bench in Washington during an entire fourth quarter and two overtimes in favor of Smart. Smart had 23 points and the game of his young career, clearly showing the potential to one day lead a team. It was a performance that caught the eye of many Celtics fans and made some envision a future without Rondo for the first time.
So why waste time adding an overpaid player like Anthony who has never shown the ability to win? Ainge already has the future of the team at his fingertips with the young talent he has (and has the potential to gain more).
If it got to the point where Anthony would waive his no-trade clause to come to Boston (and it probably won’t), Ainge would be in a tough spot. Superstars are not made available in the NBA often, and there’s very few of them to go around. But is this really the right guy for Boston?
It’s easy to talk about trades and say what you would or wouldn’t do. We’re all guilty of it. But if a deal like this were actually on the table, I for one would be glad that I’m not the guy making the decision.