The New York Knicks are 9-6 in their last 15 games, losing to two of the worst teams in the NBA in the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Sacramento Kings. Teams so terrible that they have yet to win 10 games this season. The Knicks are only 4 games above .500, currently holding the 6th seed in the East. Just 5 games ahead of the 76ers and Pacers, and only 6 games from missing the playoffs all together, but 4.5 games removed from the 4th seed. The Knicks are a middle of the pack playoff team at the moment, that’s just one injury away from being a lottery team, or one player away from being a top 5 seed.
Back in July, during Carmelo Anthony’s wedding reception in NYC, LeBron James is reported to have made a comment that should become a rallying cry for Knicks fans everywhere. “If you want any chance against us in Miami, you’d better team up with Stoud in New York.” LeBron might be a fool but he was right about that. The Knicks cannot hope to challenge the top teams in the East as they are currently constructed.
40 games into the season the Knicks must tread carefully, as they are just one losing streak away from falling out of the playoff picture. Their defense is so terrible it’s allowed over 120 points twice over the last three games. They cannot just stand pat though, one player can potentially elevate this team to a 4th or 5th seed and a favorable first round matchup with the Bulls (I don’t expect Chicago to finish higher then 4th). Ideally the Knicks would improve themselves by addressing their head coaching issue, their complete lack of defensive intensity and their height/rebounding issues in the front court. Half way through the season, and with no quality centers available, it appears addressing the coaching/center deficiencies will have to wait until the off-season.
The Knicks are scoring 108 points per contest, scoring having been their strength all season, but with Raymond Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire logging too many minutes (showing sluggishness in recent games) it’s become clear that pressure must be taken off of them. Enter Carmelo Anthony and his 23.1 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game. Having played with the distractions of trade talks for months has not done wonders for Melo’s stats, but a change of scenery should motivate him to elevate his game, as it did for Felton and Stoudemire.
Melo has the skills to be a late game assassin that can dribble out the clock in ISO and hit a game winner with ease. It’s a skill set that Knicks fans know all too well, having seen Paul Pierce do that to the Knicks several times over the past couple of seasons. Carmelo has never played alongside a talent like Stoudemire, which has forced Melo to shoot over the heads of multiple defenders far too often as he was the only superstar threat on the Nuggets roster. In New York’s offensive system, Melo should get a lot more one-on-one looks in isolation, which should conceivably lead to an improved field goal percentage.
The Knicks’ need of an elite scorer like Carmelo Anthony might become more glaring after the next 8 games, where New York will have to face off against 5 teams with winning records, two of which (Spurs & Heat) have won at least 30. The way they’ve been playing recently, the Knicks might come out of this stretch 3-5, which would leave them at just 2 games above .500 at 25-23. The Knicks must beat the Rockets, a team they previously lost to, in Houston tonight otherwise they risk losing ground to Atlanta, which currently holds the 4th seed in the East. The Hawks only face 3 teams with winning records over their next 8 games, including a game against the Knicks in Atlanta on January 28th.
As Carmelo Anthony continues to show a resistance toward signing with New Jersey, the Knicks should begin to apply pressure in an attempt to force Denver’s hand. The New York Knicks clearly have abandoned the Anthony Randolph experiment and moved on from Tony Douglas, two players that can be moved for 1st round picks, so the possibility is there for New York to make a trade without losing Wilson Chandler. Just two days ago Donnie Walsh mentioned the ability to land multiple 1st round picks if need be. Well Donnie get ready to pull the trigger because there is definitely a need.
With the situation between Denver & New Jersey having reportedly become so bad that the Nets are considering renting Carmelo for the remainder of the season, decreasing the value of their offer in the process, the time seems ripe to engage the Nuggets with a reasonable offer. Fortune favors the bold and with the #4 seed in sight, the time has come to be bold.
UPDATE: ESPN has just reported that the New Jersey Nets are out of the Carmelo Anthony chase, their meeting with Melo has been canceled and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov himself has said they’re done.