It’s been a busy few weeks for Carmelo Anthony.
He’s stated an implicit willingness to leave the New York Knicks, which is a real break from the past. With that, we should expect to hear his name talked about a lot before the February 23rd deadline.
But leaving the Knicks is one thing. Finding a destination that fits is another. Which teams fit the best?
How plausible would a trade to Cleveland be? What about Los Angeles? Which smaller-market teams have the assets to get Carmelo, and would he ever go there? Do the Celtics have the assets to finally upgrade their offense?
Why might these teams work? What are the potential drawbacks?
What are the five best trade fits for Carmelo Anthony prior to next month’s NBA trade deadline?
Why it works: On the offensive end of the floor, it’s a darn good fit.
Acquiring Carmelo would help Cleveland maintain a respectable offense when LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are on the bench. That’s important because, as the Cavs prepare for the playoffs, resting LeBron and Kyrie will be important. LeBron is first in the NBA in minutes per game, while Kyrie is 15th. As a point of reference, Kevin Durant leads the Golden State Warriors in minutes per game and checks in at 28th.
Unfortunately, when those two gentlemen are on the bench, Cleveland doesn’t have much of a playmaker on the floor. That’s where Anthony would step in.
He can create his own shots, which would limit the necessity of playing James and Irving so much. When the three are on the floor together, Carmelo would become the NBA’s best spot shooter.
Unless Cleveland is willing to break up the existing big three (which it shouldn’t do), the options are limited.
Tristan Thompson would have to be involved and paired with Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, or some combination of players to make the salaries work. That would hamper the Cavs bench (a place that’s not a strength anyway), and would take away the team’s best rim protector. Additionally, the value isn’t exactly great for New York, considering what they’d have to give up.
Elements of this deal are interesting. But on balance, it doesn’t work especially well.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Why it works: Carmelo is not Kevin Durant. But he is still a top-tier scorer who could help ease some of Russell Westbrook’s burden.
Additionally, the assets line up well.
An Enes Kanter for Anthony trade doesn’t add up. But the Thunder have several players who can be paired along with Kanter to make a deal work. Mixing in draft picks to even out any discrepancies makes Anthony to Oklahoma City a good fit in a vacuum.
What’s the problem: The trade won’t be taking place in a vacuum.
Carmelo has a full no-trade clause. And in the past, it’s been pretty clear that he wants to play in a city like New York or Los Angeles.
That’s an exception he may make for Cleveland to play with LeBron. Unfortunately, OKC just doesn’t have the same draw. Despite the recent struggles, it would still be a major upset if anyone but the Cavs represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Even with Anthony, the Thunder would still be a longshot to even make the Western Conference Finals, let alone win a championship.
The assets do line up reasonably well, so it’s worth exploring. Still, convincing Melo to take this trade is easier said than done.
Los Angeles Clippers
Why it works: In a sense, the Clippers are the polar opposites of the Thunder. While the Knicks have reportedly reached out to the Los Angeles, lining up a trade is no easy chore.
But given the market and skill of the team, it’s easy to see Carmelo taking this trade.
Pairing Anthony with the current big three of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan would make Los Angeles a formidable team come playoff time, assuming all of the big guns are healthy by then. Carmelo would work great on the offensive end. On defense, many of his shortcomings would be hid by Jordan in the paint.
It certainly fits well on the court. Unfortunately for those wanting this trade, that’s not the only consideration.
What’s the problem: There are two big ones.
One, as exciting as the Clippers have been in recent seasons, it hasn’t translated to any playoff success. Los Angeles has never made it to the Western Conference Finals. Putting Anthony — a guy who’s had his own playoff failures — on that team could be potentially disastrous. What kind of backlash would there be if the Clippers acquired Anthony, he played poorly in the playoffs, and the season ended in another first or second round flame out?
The second problem is the greater one. A report came out on Thursday saying that Anthony could be had without having to give up Paul, Griffin, or Jordan. It’s hard to make any sense of that report because frankly, unless it’s willing to break up the big three, Los Angeles doesn’t exactly have a lot to offer New York.
An Anthony for Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers trade works with the salary cap. But even if we ignore the problem coming with Doc Rivers trading his son, that’s terrible value for the Knicks.
Now, what if the Clippers did something radical and broke up their big three? Unfortunately, Paul is the only member of that group who could be traded one-on-one for Carmelo in a salary cap compliant trade. Either Griffin or Jordan would not work; Los Angeles would need to add salary on its end.
Why it works: Similar to Oklahoma City, it’s not hard to piece the assets together to make a trade to Memphis work.
Over the last few seasons, the Grizzlies have been consistently done in by offensive shortcomings in the playoffs. Melo would be a huge shot in the arm in that regard. He can create his own shots and would also be someone capable of scoring with some of the top players in the Western Conference.
If Memphis is going to make any real noise in the playoffs, that needs to happen. So, the Grizzlies front office should definitely be researching the possibility, if its not already.
What’s the problem: Imagine the most Memphis friendly legal trade possible. Would it help put the team in position to beat the Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, or Houston Rockets? Because to really make sense, the trade would have to at least land the Grizzlies in the Western Conference Finals. To get there, Memphis would likely need to beat two of those three, meeting the other in the conference finals.
It’s possible, but awfully hard to imagine.
Also, much like the Thunder, it’s hard to see Carmelo signing off on this trade. Anthony clearly prefers the big markets. Memphis is a fine city, but without the appeal of playing with someone like LeBron, it’s hard to see Carmelo letting this one happen.
Why it works: Boston would be aided in a big way with Anthony. Aside from the 5-foot-9 Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics don’t have many reliable offensive players who can create their own shots and score.
In fact, landing a big-time player is a real necessity if Boston is going to reach the next level. Right now, the Celtics are one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams, but are a tier below the Cavs and Toronto Raptors. Without a top-tier scorer, it’s hard to imagine that ever changing. Carmelo is certainly a big time scorer.
Additionally, it’s not terribly difficult to line up the assets here. The Celtics have guys like Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley, plus numerous draft picks to send New York’s way. From there, adding some fillers to make it work with the salary cap is not especially challenging.
What’s the problem: Again, would Anthony accept the trade?
The problem isn’t quite as glaring as with Oklahoma City and Memphis. Boston is a much bigger market and geographically, is much closer to New York. So, it wouldn’t require him moving his family around as much, if at all.
Still, this trade would likely take some convincing. At this point, it’s not hard to see Carmelo staying in New York, accepting a trade to Los Angeles, or to Cleveland to play with LeBron. Boston is probably the most likely exception, but should still be considered an uphill battle.