Evaluating the Nuggets-Knicks 2011 Blockbuster

A Look Back at the Melo Trade: Who's Coming Out On Top?

5/3/12 in NBA   |   Andrew_Ericksen   |   230 respect

Apr 30, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the second half of game two in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs the Miami Heat at the American Airlines Arena.  Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Yes you remember it.  It was the trade that seemingly solidified the East as the new power conference in the NBA, but in case you forgot some of the smaller details of the trade, here it is again in full:
 
New York Knicks receive:
 
Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter, and Renaldo Balkman
 
Denver Nuggets receive:
 
Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov and three draft picks: New York’s 2014 first rounder and second round picks from the Warriors in 2012 and 2013.
 
*As another part of the deal, the Knicks sent Eddy Curry’s massive (but expiring) contract and Anthony Randolph to the Timberwolves in exchange for Corey Brewer, who was bought out by the Knicks later in 2011 and is now, ironically enough, the backup small forward for the Nuggets.
 
And a couple more details:
 
- On the night of the 2011 NBA draft, the Nuggets traded away Raymond Felton for Andre Miller.
 
- Before the start of the 2012 season, the Knicks used the new amnesty clause to buy out Chauncey Billups.
 
The Nuggets finished 38-28 this season and the Knicks finished 36-30, but both teams are on the brink of elimination with 2-0 series deficits to the Lakers and Heat, respectively.
 
So now let’s break things down and really look at how this trade has morphed the two franchises both positively and negatively.  With both of their seasons all but over, which team is in the best shape going forward?
 
The Knicks
 
Positive:
 
The Knicks have one of the most offensively gifted players in the NBA locked up through 2014 with a player option for 2015.  Despite Amare’s recent feud with the fire extinguisher and his injury trouble this season, when on the court, the Knicks have one of the most dangerous duos in the league.
 
When you’re looking to build your team towards championships in the NBA, superstars are an absolute necessity.  The only championship team in the past 20 years (or maybe even longer) without a player undeniably better than Amare was the 2004 Pistons and that was a sort of anomaly where every player fit perfectly in the system.  With Carmelo, you can see that stepping stone towards the 2006 Heat or last year’s Mavericks.  Anthony has shown us he has the ability to take over games in the way Wade and Nowitzki can, but the question is whether he can do it when it matters most.
 
While not a direct result of the trade, the Knicks made two key offseason moves in making up for the depth they lost in the trade.  Signing Tyson Chandler through 2015 gives a great backbone to the team’s defense, while the drafting of Iman Shumpert gives the Knicks a great perimeter defender.  Then there was the midseason explosion from Jeremy Lin while the team’s stars were on the bench and we’ll see if he’s the long-term answer at point guard when he returns from injury next year.

Negative:
 
After the Carmelo-Amare-Chandler trio, the hopeful progression of Shumpert, and the glimpse of salvation seen from Lin-sanity, there really isn’t much to be excited about on the roster.
 
With Chauncey gone, the Knicks now only have Carmelo and Renaldo Balkman from the trade, and let’s again look at what they lost:
 
Wilson Chandler: 16.4 points per game, 5.9 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 34 minutes
Raymond Felton: 17.1 points, 9.0 assists, 1.8 steals, 38 minutes
Danilo Gallinari: 15.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.7 threes, 34 minutes
Timofey Mozgov: 4.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 13 minutes
*Stats from 2011 season pre-trade
 
Versus
 
Carmelo Anthony: 22.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 34 minutes
Renaldo Balkman: 3 points, 1.9 rebounds, 8 minutes (in only 14 games)
*Stats from this past season
 
Numbers can without a doubt be deceiving, but there was clearly a ton of production coming out of the threesome that was sent to Denver (Mozgov is more of a project, but an enticing one as a 25-year-old 7-footer).
 
Felton flourished under the D’Antoni system and played the best basketball of his NBA career as a Knick and he hasn’t been able to find his groove at all since leaving the Bronx.  But compared with over-the-hill veterans Baron Davis and Mike Bibby or trigger-happy youngster Toney Douglas, Felton looks like stud.  If Lin can return to 18-point/8-assist form, the loss of Felton will not seem to be much of a concern, however.
 
Fields is an undoubtedly capable player, but I’d much rather see him as an 8th or 9th man, a Luke Walton sort of role, than an every game starter.  Chandler and Gallinari, on the other hand, have the skill sets of NBA starters and while they are anything but superstars, you can’t just reach out and sign players like them at your convenience.
 
The Nuggets
 
Apr 26, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Denver Nuggets small forward Danilo Gallinari (8) dribbles against Minnesota Timberwolves small forward Martell Webster (5) during the third quarter at Target Center. Nuggets won 131-102. Mandatory Credit:  Greg Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Positive:
 
The condensed NBA season was a real test to the depth of NBA teams and despite frequent injuries and Chandler’s foray into China, the Nuggets proved to be one of the deeper teams in the league this year, thanks in large part to the Melo trade: Lawson, Afflalo, and Andre Miller in the backcourt; Gallinari, Chandler, Rudy Fernandez and Brewer on the wing or at the 2; Harrington, Faried, MGee and Mozgov up front.  And of all those players, only Miller isn’t signed on through at least 2013.  
 
It’s nearly impossible to quantify the value of a superstar player in today’s NBA, a concept that the Magic are currently struggling with mightily.  When you send away a top 5 to 7 player in the league, you’re giving up the face and identity of your franchise.  The Nuggets knew they would be losing Anthony in the near future and considering the circumstance, they faired pretty well.
 
Compare their situation to the one in New Orleans.  The Hornets will likely lose unrestricted free agent Chris Kaman this summer and could even lose the prize piece of the deal in restricted free agent Eric Gordon, who turned down the Hornets’ contract extension offer.  That leaves the underwhelming swingman Aminu and Minnesota’s 2012 draft pick in the other half of the deal.  While the draft pick could prove valuable, the Nuggets have clearly done a better job of securing their future, signing both Chandler and Gallinari to long-term deals.  Felton’s replacement Andre Miller has an expiring contract, but as the anchor to Denver’s bench (9.7 points, 6.7 assists) it’s quite possible he’ll return next year.
 
Negative:
 
Still, when compared with Carmelo Anthony, what kind of compensation is five years with Chandler and Gallinari and the expiring contract of Andre Miller?  No matter how difficult it is to find a deal for a superstar, you’d think that one of the elements in the trade would have to involve a potential star player, and neither Chandler nor Gallinari are that player – an Eric Gordon, on the other hand, is.
 
Had the Nuggets allowed Anthony to walk after the 2011 season, consider the amount of money they’d be able to throw to free agents in upcoming years.  They have a talented young backcourt in Lawson and Afflalo that only takes up about $10 million a year – Afflalo signed through 2015, Lawson through 2013.  Then there’s a pair of unique talents in Faried and McGee, who made a combined $4 million this season.  That’s a solid bang for your buck there in four useful players that only demand $15 million a year and can each play 25-30 minutes a night at the minimum.
 
Gallo is due to make $10 million a year for the next four years, while Chandler just signed a 5-year $37 million deal.  The latter isn’t anything outlandish, but Gallinari’s track record so far makes 10 million seem pretty steep.

The Verdict

Feb 7, 2011; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets small forward Carmelo Anthony (15) reacts with 5.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter against the Houston Rockets at the Pepsi Center. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 108-103. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE
 
I went back and forth at the time of the deal and even while writing all of this out, I’ve flip-flopped a couple times as to who came out on top.  But it all really comes down to how much you believe in Carmelo’s ability to lead a championship run.  The Knicks will live and die with Carmelo during his tenure in the Bronx, just like the pre-James Heat did with Wade (remember the horrid 2007 club?) and the Mavs have done with Dirk.  Miami gave their superstar a solid running mate in O’Neal, while the Mavericks did a nice job of supplying Nowitzki with a collection of championship-craving veterans, but neither team would have had anything resembling a chance if Wade and Dirk didn’t step their games up in the clutch.
 
Is Melo capable of making a run like Wade did in ’06?
 
If you believe he is, then the deal heavily favors New York’s side, but I personally don’t think he has it in him and right now it doesn’t even look like Amare has the physical ability to support Melo’s effort.  Even though it’s a superstar’s league and the Miami Heat have a very good chance of winning a championship with some extremely weak rotation players like Mike Miller and Joel Anthony, I’m taking Denver’s side of the trade because I think building a solid base will eventually lead to some deep playoff runs.
 
The trade raises some really interesting questions:
 
Would you rather have a team of role players seeking a superstar or a team with a superstar searching for the right role players? 
 
Is it more likely for the Nuggets to land someone like a Howard or the Knicks to find the types of players that can properly support Anthony?
 
Given a Paul Millsap-caliber player, I think Denver would instantly become part of the top tier of teams in the West, and given a more dominant player even, Millsap’s teammate Jefferson or if there’s any chance Howard’s interested, then Denver could have their vision set on something even bigger.
 
Meanwhile, I think the Knicks are on a tougher search.  Anthony and Stoudemire are due to make a combined $40 million a year through at least 2014, and while Anthony has been at the top of his game at different moments throughout the season, Amare has had the worst season since his rookie year (not including his 3-game 2006 campaign).  So the job for New York is either to use the rest of their cap space to support this twosome, or possibly consider shopping Amare.
 
We saw Denver struggle in trying to find the right running mates for Anthony, and we all witnessed LeBron refuse to sit around and let the front office find him a match so he took matters into his own hands.  As rare as it is for superstars to come along, that’s still only one step towards that championship.  Although it may be the most important step, that doesn’t mean the other steps are any easier to come about.
 
While the effects of the trade will continue to constitute both franchises for at least the next 5 to 10 years, I think Denver fans have more to be optimistic about heading into the offseason.
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5/3/12   |   scquwi1   |   1231 respect

Dan_B wrote:
I agree with you entirely, and while I don't have it in writing here, I said the same thing at the time. Plus, I'd be lying if their wasn't a personal issue with 'Melo too. There was the the brawl at the Garden where he threw the sucker punch then ran away like a pansy. Also, I'm a Kansas basketball fan, so I've hated him since his Syracuse days beating the Jayhawks in the 2003 Final (plus I hate all things Syracuse). 

Yeah, he buster move with that punch and run to Collins, wonder what would have happen had Robinson or Jefferies would have gotten ahold of Melo. Now I am wondering what the Knicks will do to hopefully win next season.  

5/3/12   |   Dan_B   |   1067 respect

scquwi1 wrote:
People love the trade when it happen, and I said it on here and to any one else who brought it up, it was not a smart trade. Yes Melo can score, I will give him that, but there is not one player in the NBA past or present and I am sure there will not be one in the future that won the NBA championship. A team needs to be able to move the ball, so the other teams defense will make mistakes and get tired, more important you need to play defense. Having Tyson Chandler is not playing defense, there is other players on the floor which need to step up. Having a coach, GM and owners that also seem weak, meaning where they let the players walk around and complain not respect the name on the front of his jersey is also part of the problem. When you watch players like Magic, Bird, Isiah, Jordan play not only could they score they also played defense which turn into score, and toll the game over. It was not lets just shoot and see who can take the last shot. So to answer your question, Denver got the better of the deal because with Melo there or not the Nuggets still won the same amount with less talent. As for the Knicks they have far more talent and look like a second tier time which is really sad. Mark my words the Knicks will not make it to the Finals till they put to gether a team which can play hard nose defense and moves the ball better on offense. Jordan who may not be a great GM, said it after he won his 5th tiltel with the Bulls, by telling Phil Jackson put aside your differences with Roman and sign him. We cannot win a sixth tilte without him. Jordan understood how import defense was and role players are to a team winning the championship.

I agree with you entirely, and while I don't have it in writing here, I said the same thing at the time. Plus, I'd be lying if their wasn't a personal issue with 'Melo too. There was the the brawl at the Garden where he threw the sucker punch then ran away like a pansy. Also, I'm a Kansas basketball fan, so I've hated him since his Syracuse days beating the Jayhawks in the 2003 Final (plus I hate all things Syracuse). 

5/3/12   |   scquwi1   |   1231 respect

People love the trade when it happen, and I said it on here and to any one else who brought it up, it was not a smart trade. Yes Melo can score, I will give him that, but there is not one player in the NBA past or present and I am sure there will not be one in the future that won the NBA championship. A team needs to be able to move the ball, so the other teams defense will make mistakes and get tired, more important you need to play defense. Having Tyson Chandler is not playing defense, there is other players on the floor which need to step up. Having a coach, GM and owners that also seem weak, meaning where they let the players walk around and complain not respect the name on the front of his jersey is also part of the problem. When you watch players like Magic, Bird, Isiah, Jordan play not only could they score they also played defense which turn into score, and toll the game over. It was not lets just shoot and see who can take the last shot. So to answer your question, Denver got the better of the deal because with Melo there or not the Nuggets still won the same amount with less talent. As for the Knicks they have far more talent and look like a second tier time which is really sad. Mark my words the Knicks will not make it to the Finals till they put to gether a team which can play hard nose defense and moves the ball better on offense. Jordan who may not be a great GM, said it after he won his 5th tiltel with the Bulls, by telling Phil Jackson put aside your differences with Roman and sign him. We cannot win a sixth tilte without him. Jordan understood how import defense was and role players are to a team winning the championship.

5/3/12   |   Dan_B   |   1067 respect

As a huge Knicks fan, I can say, unequivocally, that the Carmelo trade is up there with any move Scott Layden or Isiah Thomas made in terms or horribleness.