Who's It Gonna Be?
THE SMART MOVE
Let's be clear, though. Ever since the Knicks stumbled out of the gates on the heels of Anthony declaring his intentions to lean toward free agency this summer, trading Carmelo Anthony has been the smart move.
The question now is: Do the Knicks have the constitution for such a maneuver?
When a billion-dollar renovation happens at the world's most famous arena, the easy thing to do is stand pat and be an early playoff exit each year. The tough thing to do is to identify that you will never win with this group of Knicks, and that a rebuild without Carmelo Anthony is the prudent thing to do.
Why? Because Melo is entering the end of his prime, and five more years will only be five more years of diminishing returns.
Kudos to the Knicks, though, for at least reportedly exploring life without Anthony. But they'd be fooling themselves if they think the Clippers would be interested in swapping Blake Griffin for Carmelo. Griffin is five years younger and has four years remaining on his current contract. Assuming the Clippers don't do the Knicks any favors, the next-best option for New York is to see if there are any takers for Anthony in return for draft picks. Due to numerous ill-advised trades, the Knicks have a paucity of picks. Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. are proof that when you have picks, you can actually draft helpful pieces.
If all that's not enough to convince the Knicks to deal Carmelo Anthony rather than wait on his decision this summer, they should look no further than the Cleveland Cavaliers as an example of what happens when you gamble and lose. Once upon a time, Cleveland had a superstar whom they let walk for no compensation. They haven't won four consecutive games since LeBron James left town.
So the Knicks have two options. They can part with Anthony and have a clean slate to build from in July 2015. Or they can re-sign him and hope another star wants to chase a championship with a ball-stopping underachiever.
Jon Winthrop produces the "Stephen A. Smith & Ryan Ruocco" show on ESPN New York 98.7 FM
BUILD AROUND HIM
Here's my problem with trading Carmelo Anthony: If the Knicks were to go this route, would they have a plan in place for basically rebuilding either around another star or through future assets? And do you trust that all the right things would happen and the Knicks would make all the right moves to rebuild after Melo?
If you are going to trade Melo, the Knicks had better get back a young star who hasn't realized his full potential yet and can build around or get a bundle of picks, future assets and cap flexibility to be able to retool with.
But who is going to give the Knicks a bunch of picks, especially a high first-rounder in the upcoming draft? And let's say the Knicks do get a bunch of future picks, there is no guarantee that those picks are going to be studs or that the Knicks will even pick the right guys? Drafting is risky business, and it's hard to predict who will pan out.
With Carmelo, you already know what you have. Melo is a legitimate star who can lead the league in scoring and still draw fans to the Garden. Yes, he has his flaws like anybody else not named Jordan. He needs to make those around him better and he hasn't yet lifted the Knicks above the mess that they are currently mired in.
But I would simply rather re-sign Melo and keep trying to add complementary pieces around him if possible. At least you have a top-10 player to build around. We've seen last season that if you have some of the right players around him, Melo and the Knicks are capable of winning over 50 games and the division.
Trading him for say Blake Griffin doesn't necessarily equal 50 wins. You still need to add more pieces. Getting a bunch of picks and more cap flexibility means you will have to wait a few years to become a contender, and plenty has to go right in order for that to happen.
I'd be willing to go that route if you believe Knicks ownership and management will make all the right moves in finding talent via the draft and the right pieces in free agency.
I feel more confident building around Melo provided he wants to remain a Knick. If Melo wants out, then you have to trade him. But there are $129,135,806 reasons he would want to stay.
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Knicks and the Nets for ESPNNewYork.com