When Donnie Walsh joined the New York Knicks his intentions were clear. Form a Big Three in New York. With Amar’e Stoudemire already in NYC, Carmelo Anthony’s continued desire to play in New York, the ongoing turmoil in New Orleans and rumors that Dwight Howard might want out of Orlando, Donnie may still get his wish.
From rumors swirling around over the course of the past two seasons, the plan seems to have been to free up cap space and sign both LeBron James & either Dwyane Wade or Crish Bosh, then sign Tony Parker the following off-season. That all infamously blew up in his face but he did secure a franchise forward in Amar’e Stoudemire who has made the Knicks an attractive team to potential free agents again, something Mike D’Antoni was brought in to do and failed miserably at. Thanks to hometown ties for Carmelo Anthony (& his wife) and a toast by Chris Paul, the new plan seems to be to trade for Carmelo this season and attempt to trade for CP3 next season or sign both as free agents.
With the unstable state of the league, will we have a hard cap, will it be tougher for players to become free agents, etc., how can the Knicks firmly cement their plans to unite those three players? They don’t have enough talent on the roster to pull off trades for both so at least one if not both need to be signed as free agents. If the salary cap stays the way it is then New York can’t afford to sign both as free agents, not without letting Chandler walk this off-season, and trading away Felton and Gallinari the following season.
The question here is not only if the Knicks can pull off the unification of these three stars but should they pull it off? Dwight Howard has made it known to those close to him that his ties to Orlando are not rock solid anymore. The Magic have been reported to be in title or bust mode, with the fear that if they don’t win now, by this time next year they’ll be in the same boat that Denver is currently in. That’s the same boat that New Orleans will be in, that of a city whose star wants out and theirs nothing its’ franchise can do to keep him.
The Knicks must consider the potential impact each player can have on the team. Raymond Felton is a very good point guard though Chris Paul is clearly better, no one is denying that, but Felton has made it so New York no longer has a hole at point. The Knicks however do have a pressing need at center and a starting 5 of Felton, Fields (if they don’t trade him), Melo, STAT, and Howard leaves no, save for that on the bench. A starting 5 of CP3, Fields, Melo, STAT & Turiaf leaves them vulnerable in the front court and seriously lacking in the rebounding department. Ronny Turiaf is a good center but he is injury prone and functions best as a spark plug off the bench. I believe Ronny deserves consistent minutes but only off the bench, in the starting 5 New York needs someone who can put up elite numbers at Center.
So what are the odds that New York can land any of these three very talented soon to be free agents? Well it seems clear to everyone that Carmelo Anthony wants out of Denver and his destination of choice is New York. That’s NY not NJ, sorry Nets. At this point it seems a safe bet that Melo will force Denver to trade him to the team of his choosing, and it has to happen via a trade so New York can re-sign Wilson Chandler in order to have a chance of featuring him in the roster or trading him next season in a package for either Chris Paul or Dwight Howard, which will be difficult considering what New York has to give up for Melo. The asking price from Denver is Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Landry Fields, a 1st round pick (via an Anthony Randolph trade) and Eddy Curry’s expiring contract. The Nuggets are not going to get Wilson Chandler in this deal, not when everyone knows Carmelo’s wish list consists of only the New York Knicks, but it’s more then likely that everyone else mentioned above will be relocating to Denver.
While the Knicks will be much improved with the addition of Carmelo Anthony and his 24 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, the trade will leave New York with only Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Tony Douglas and Timofey Mozgov as trade chips. Unless New York can pull off another stellar draft selection late in the first round or somewhere in the 2nd, they will not have enough assets to land Superman or CP3 come next season. What New York must do is fire Mike D’Antoni this season or this off-season (at the latest), attempt to lure Carl Landry (or a young player like him) to the team with the mid-level exception, and expand their rotation in order to create trade value for Douglas, Mozgov and 23 year old Bill Walker. If somehow New York can round up a package of three quality players, whose production or potential gives them value, along with a first round pick then they’ll have a chance of trading for another superstar next season. They’ll have a chance that is, if the rumors about Chris Paul and Dwight Howard turn out to be as true as the rumors swirling around Carmelo Anthony’s desire to come to New York. With the right leverage in trade negotiations, anything is possible, and the Knicks will need the right amount of leverage.
So exactly how strong is the desire for Paul and Howard to relocate? Well New Orleans point guard Chris Paul has been unhappy with the Hornets since last season’s stellar collapse, a season in which ownership seemed more interested in cutting salary in preparation of a potential sale then it was in spending to win titles. His displeasure seemed to hit a boiling point in the off season when the All-Star guard toasted to an eventual union of Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and himself in New York. This toast led to reports of Chris Paul demanding a trade from the Hornets from office, reports that were later denied by all parties involved.
Since then the New Orleans Hornets have gone on to spend money in an attempt to build a winner now, trading for Trevor Ariza, Marco Belinelli and Jarrett Jack. The Hornets won 11 of their first 12 games to start the season and hope was high that the team would eventually be sold to someone that would spend the money to win and do so in New Orleans. Since then the Hornets have come crashing down, going 5-10 in their last 15, including humiliating loses to the Jazz, 76ers, Clippers and Pistons. They now stand at 16-11 which is right about where the New York Knicks stand, at 16-12. The prospects of the Hornets remaining in New Orleans has also taken a fatal blow, with the only man who seemed interested in keeping the Hornets in New Orleans, Gary Chouest, bowing out. The NBA has now taken hold of the reigns and everyone from New Orleans to Seattle is seeing flashbacks of the sale and relocation of the Supersonics.
To many it’s now a question of when not if the Hornets will be bought and moved out of New Orleans. Without his ties to New Orleans community holding him in place, Chris Paul is very unlikely to remain with the (insert name here) Hornets. What is viewed as one of the very best point guards, if not the best, can force his current team to trade him by next years’ February trade deadline, as he can opt out of his contract at the end of next season.
Over in Orlando, the Magic seem to be reliving the exodus of Shaquille O’Neal all over again. They also seem to be living a rerun of the Cleaveland Cavaliers, pre-LeDecision, as the team scrambles to make desperate moves to upgrade the roster in an effort to appease an uneasy superstar. Reports are coming in that star center Dwight Howard demanded that the Magic upgrade their roster, specifically asking for Chris Paul, so that he may have a real chance of winning a title in Orlando. When the front office failed to deliver on CP3 they went ahead and traded for Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu, trading away Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat. Arenas and Richardson are reportedly players that Dwight approves of, while Hedo is someone they had no choice put to take as part of that Richardson deal.
While the Magic’s struggling offense has now clearly improved, their defense has taken a serious hit. Recent reports suggest that Howard is viewing his future with the Magic as title or bust. If they don’t win a title this year then he’s likely to force the team to trade him next season with the threat of opting out of his final year (which he can do at the end of next season) and entering free agency.The recent trades support these rumors as the moves reek of desperation. The trades still do not make the Magic better then the Boston Celtics or LA Lakers/San Antonio Spurs, teams that they may have to face and defeat come playoff time if they want to retain Howard. The odds are higher then anyone ever imagined they would be that Dwight Howard will not end his career in Orlando Magic white & blue. The teams on Howard’s wish list should he opt out? The Lakers and the Knicks, allegedly.
Looking at the current landscape of the NBA it seems more likely then ever that New York can see their plan through, though it won’t be with the players they imagined, and it won’t be easy. The cost in players and dollars will be very high if the Knicks want a big three of their very own. So much still depends on events that are out of the Knicks control. I’m not just talking about the state of the Hornets and Magic worsening (very likely) but also on the new collective bargaining agreement leading to a more favorable climate for big money spenders like New York.
All this big three madness would be made much easier if the league adopted the MLB model and allowed for free spending but David Stern is one stubborn mule and while Major League Baseball’s model has led to more teams winning a title over the last eleven years then in the NBA (9 vs just 5 in the NBA), it’s unlikely to happen. I mean it’s possible but … when exactly does hell freeze over?