Recently a story came out that the New York Knicks were hoping players like Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, and Lamarcus Aldridge would decide to join Carmelo Anthony in New York in the next few offseasons. For that to happen, one of them would likely have to take a small pay cut to join a team with Anthony, Tim Hardway Jr, Ray Fetlon, Jr Smith, Pablo Prigioni, the Knicks 2015 first round draft pick, and league minimum guys.
The Knicks would have to renounce the rights to Shumpert and Chandler in order to make the signing for a big time free agent to work. This could be the summer of 2010 all over again based on these facts. If Smith and Felton opt out of their contracts and become free agents that year prospects grow a bit brighter of making a splash but that is unlikely as both probably would see their salaries drop on the open market (Felton-$4.5 million and Smith-$6.4 million).
When looking at those big three free agents though, if the Knicks bring back Anthony, would those guys really be the way to go?
Rajon Rondo, a player some Knicks fans have convinced themselves will inevitably be donning the orange and blue sooner rather than later, seems like the most obvious fit. He is a pass first point guard who can defend and the Knicks have Ray Felton. But would Carmelo really mesh with him?
The only point guard Anthony had real team success playing with, Chauncey Billups acquiesced a lot of ball handling duties when he got to Denver. His assist rate went down and three point rate went up when playing with Anthony. These because he played a lot of off ball and did a lot of spot shooting, allowing Anthony to still handle the ball a lot. The thing is Rondo, is a bad shooter and a more ball dominant player. Billups Ast% is 28 for his career and was about 25% when playing with Anthony. Rondo on the other hand, has a career rate of 40.9 and hasn’t been below 40 since 08-09 when he was at 39.7.
Now this doesn’t mean Anthony and Rondo can’t work together but there is one other point guard who had a very high assist rate that played with Carmelo and famously mixed like oil and water, his name is Jeremy Lin. Lin had a 40.1 Ast% on the Knicks, most of that coming in that wild Linsanity run when both Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire were hurt. When the Knicks tried to work in the ball dominant point guard who excelled at getting shots for his teammates with Carmelo, both he and Melo played worse.
When looking at Love and Aldridge, you first have to reconcile that both would push Anthony back to the small forward where he is less effective and his defensive deficiencies can easier be exploited.
For Aldridge he, like most scorers, is not a huge passer and when he gets the ball he intends to shoot. Now it just so happens that other than right by the basket, Aldridge and Anthony share the exact same zones where they like their shots, on the left wing and left baseline. Also, both players have their best FG% from those areas. So taking a player who likes to set up in the same place as Anthony and likes to mainly score and sticking him on the Knicks should make Knicks fans nervous. If it doesn’t I have two words: Amar’e Stoudemire.
STAT was excellent offensively for the Knicks leading up to the trade to land Carmelo. He was the focal point of an offense that predicated on Stoudemire pick and rolls and open threes. Once Anthony showed up and the offense had to feed two players who preferred similar areas on the court and neither inclined to pass much, the offense went into the tank. To this day Anthony and Stoudemire can’t really play well together for that (and because neither is even remotely adequate defensively) reason.
As for Love, aside from him sliding Anthony to the small forward, playing Anthony and Love together would leave a giant hole in the defense that would be almost impossible to compensate for. Neither Love nor Anthony really cares about defense and it shows. Opposing offenses would have a field day exposing both players on pick and rolls, isolations, post ups, etc.
It would require Bill Russell to find the fountain of youth and play for the Knicks in order to make that situation work. Teams can typically hide one defensive liability and still contend (with the caveat that the player will at least slightly improve over the course of the season, something that just won’t happen with Love and Anthony) but not two. Think about how good Indiana looks when Roy Hibbert is man handling Chris Bosh down low in Pacers wins over the Heat, any power forward with a decent post game can do that to Love.
The Knicks are in an interesting position this offseason. They likely will offer that mammoth 5 year $129 million contract to Anthony but if they do they have to be very careful who they pair with him. This isn’t fantasy basketball and he isn’t Lebron. You can just get good players and assume it will all fall into place.