With the All-Star starters announced, we’ve leapt another hurdle as we race full speed toward the trade deadline. That means rumours are coming fast and furious, and even the least reputable can gain a bit of attention. This is a necessary precursor, because I know the headline indicates something a bit far-fetched.
Remember, I said at the outset of this column: we wouldn’t always be dealing with the probable in our search for a power forward. Writing a weekly column about trades for one specific position doesn’t leave a lot of breathing room, unless you get a bit weird.
The truth is this: in researching this column, a “Carmelo Anthony Raptors” google search didn’t reveal a whole lot. The fourth result was this HQ article from 2011, when then-editor Adam Francis was mulling Melo as “this generation’s Shawn Kemp”. It’s a well-thought out rebuke of Anthony as an MVP candidate and a franchise cornerstone, someone who can make a team great but not necessarily lead them to the title. It’s prescient stuff - considering what Anthony has done in the six years since, and where he’s at now as a member of the struggling New York Knicks.
Today, Anthony is one third of the Knicks Tire Fire Holy Trinity, along with the disappearing Derrick Rose and the already-shadowy Phil Jackson. In the last couple weeks, Carmelo had a face-to-face meeting with Jackson to discuss his future and no-trade clause. He’s said he’d waive it for the right opportunity, and when the topic came up on a recent episode of ESPN guru Zach Lowe’s podcast, Jeff Van Gundy pleaded for the Raptors to get in on any potential Melo sweepstakes.
Is the fit good? Is there any reality to back up JVG’s desire? It could be, and probably not, are the respective answers. Let’s look at the potential, though, and see where it goes.
The Basketball Fit
Now in his sixth full season with the Knicks, Anthony is shooting the ball at near-career-low percentages. His 43.1 percent field goal percentage on a 29.0 percent usage rate is killing New York, especially when coupled with the equally shot-hungry Derrick Rose. His other statistics hold up to the last couple years, but the chemistry of this Jackson/James Dolan creation is completely off — especially as fans beg the ball to go to budding star Kristaps Porzingis.
So, Anthony doesn’t quite fit in New York. He does, however, have potential to buoy a winning team if he can be accepting of a smaller role. In his USA Basketball career, which dates back 13 years now, he’s been accepting of a spot-up shooter role. It’s made him one of the most effective international players the U.S. has ever suited up, and shows that when he’s less invested in isolating for his own shots, he can be a super-effective player. It’s sort of like Kevin Durant for the Warriors now.
So, if that Carmelo Anthony can show up in his waning years — if he can accept his age as a limiting factor on a team with other stars, teams on the second tier could come calling. Think the Rockets, Clippers, and sure, maybe the Raptors.
The Emotional Fit
Many former stars have been humbled in their 30’s and have accepted different roles. Paul Pierce was a huge reason the Washington Wizards beat the Raptors in the first round of 2014-15, if only for a veteran presence and the canny ability to make timely shots. It’s not hard to see Anthony slowly transitioning to this type of player in the next 2-3 seasons. His ability to score, when next to Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, is definitely enticing.
Ultimately, the question then becomes one of cost. How much would a team like the Raptors have to give New York to acquire Anthony? Dolan surely experiences a bit of PTSD when Masai Ujiri’s number shows up on caller ID, and for good reason. Ujiri fleeced him in the Andrea Bargnani trade, and that may have already caused some cold feet on the potential Lowry swap in 2013. Dolan and Jackson would be cautious dealing with Toronto, and the ask would still be steep for a 22.3 point per game scorer on the outside years of his prime.
The Anthony-in-NY experiment has ultimately failed, though, and the next move is coming. We will soon see whether the Knicks will pay the price to move him, or if Melo is happy to hoard cheques and retire without a title.