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Knicks not contenders with ‘Melo, but they have hope

Feb 22, 2011, 2:29 AM EDT

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Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.
Shawshank Redemption

Today the New York Knicks are not title contenders.

They got their man — Carmelo Anthony has been acquired to go with Amar’e Stoudemire. But they are still a long way away from the goal. The Knicks are probably still the sixth best team in the East, certainly no better than fourth. They are not putting fear in the hearts of the Celtics, Heat or Bulls.

But they have hope.

Generally, the team that wins the trade is the team that got the best player. There is no doubt the Knicks got the best player. Anthony, for all his flaws — defense, his love of shooting the contested long two pointer and more — is one of the game’s elite scorers. At the end of the day, the game is about putting the ball in the basket and only a handful of guys in the league can do that like Carmelo Anthony. He can drive, he can post, he can drop shots from beyond the arc. Few can create their own shot or one with a hand in their face like Anthony. He is an offensive force.

The hardest part of assembling a championship team is getting one of the few elite players in the league. The Knicks now have two of them. That is a core they can put the right pieces around to contend. And that is a reason for hope.

They are not contenders now because they gave up a lot to get ‘Melo. Not necessarily too much, they got more talent back certainly, but they gave up  players that are not just a dime a dozen. Yes, they got a quality point guard in Chauncey Billups, a veteran savvy one who knows how to win. But Billups is a poor fit for Mike D’Antoni’s running system. Billups is 34 and not so fleet of foot anymore. He has one year left on his deal after this and can be bought out after next season for $3.7 million (according to Sham Sport’s figures).

The Knicks are going to miss Danilo Gallinari. They will miss Wilson Chandler but they were going to have to renounce him this summer anyway to make room to sign Anthony as a free agent. Timofey Mozgov is a project that may develop into a rotation player but you don’t let him get in the way of a deal for a superstar.

Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.
Shawshank Redemption

The Knicks are not contenders and they are farther away from it still than many Knicks fans want to admit. Your starting five is Billups, Landry Fields, Melo, Stoudemire and probably Ronny Turiaf. With a very thin bench behind them. That’s good but not great, and there will be serious questions about how well they defend.

Those fans fully expect the Knicks to go get Dwight Howard or Chris Paul, either as a free agent in the summer of 2012 or in a trade or next season.  The kind of trade that looks a lot like the one ‘Melo just got where the team has to move him or risk him leaving as a free agent.

But the Knicks very well may not be able to get those guys. We don’t know what the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will look like, however you can bet that it will be much more restrictive than what we see now. The current salary cap is $57 million and you can bet that will go down. With Anthony and Stoudemire the Knicks will already have about than $40 million wrapped up in two players. If the salary cap drops to $50-$52 million, the Knicks would not be able to sign Paul or Howard to a max deal.

Then there could be a franchise tag — something some owners became more interested in as they watched Anthony force his way out of Denver — and that could keep Paul and Howard with their current teams.

Even aside the difficulty of getting one of those two, there is the challenge of filling out a roster on a tight budget — have you noticed the lack of depth in Miami? Where they spent their money on stars and had little for everyone else? It will be even tougher to spend with the new CBA and the Knicks will have to do a lot of it. The Knicks had some nice role players but they turned out to be the price for Anthony.

Knicks fans don’t care. They got their guy. The hope, the expectations of Knicks fans are about to go through the roof.

Those fans are going to learn some hard lessons about how far away this roster is right now. That hope they celebrate today could tear them apart in a few years.

For a few days though, the Knicks got their man. They should celebrate. Today is a day that hope should be celebrated in New York.

  1. dysraw1 - Feb 22, 2011 at 7:25 AM

    LOSING ray & gallo is big ,im hoping that cb can step in and fill rays shoes properly

    • hnirobert3 - Feb 22, 2011 at 7:38 AM

      Felton’s numbers are a product of the system D’Antoni runs. He’s nothing special.

  2. hnirobert3 - Feb 22, 2011 at 7:39 AM

    “Knicks fans don’t care. They got their guy.”

    Option #3 after James and Wade.

  3. leearmon - Feb 22, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    “They are not putting fear in the hearts of the Celtics, Heat or Bulls…”

    This is one of the funniest lines you have written in a long time. You don’t think the Bulls are a little worried about playing this team? For all of the shortcomings on defense that the Knicks have, and they do have a lot, lets not forget they have two of the best scorers in the league. So while Derrick Rose and Boozer will get theirs, who guards Melo? Deng, Brewer? C’mon. And Amar’e gets killed on defense, yet Boozer gets a pass. I would love to ask Chicago, Miami and Orlando if they are anxious about playing New York in the first round. And Billups isnt made for a Mike D’Antoni system? I would argue the opposite. Billups is not quick, but he is one of the best p&r PG in the league.His ts% is far better than Felton’s and the fact that Billups is such a good three point shooter will only help STAT because defenders wont go under the screens. Not to mention his 6’4 frame will limit those PG post ups, unlike Felton. Is the road ahead going to be difficult, sure, But Fields was the best piece that we had, and he’s still there. Our rebounding (which was one of our weakest points) has gotten much, much better. Melo is ofter cited as being only a “chucker” but his rebounding rates show much more…

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/a/anthoca01.html

    So a better rebounding squad. Better three point shooting. More playoff experience & 3 elite players. Nope, no team is worried about playing the Knicks…..

    • Kurt Helin - Feb 22, 2011 at 10:17 AM

      leearmon, you clearly have not been paying attention — the Bulls are second in the league right now in defense. They are very good defensive team and are just now getting Noah back. Those Bulls are borderline contenders, these Knicks are still a long way from that.

      • leearmon - Feb 22, 2011 at 10:57 AM

        Yes they have a great defense, but if you paid attention, you would see their offense, not so spectacular. They don’t shoot the ball well. Are poor ft shooters (Noah won’t help there) plus they turn the ball over quite a bit. While their defense is very good, (.331 -3pt%, 92.4 ppg, .429 fg%) NYK have crushed those numbers the two games they played each other. GM 1, NYK 66.7% from 3, 50% from the field and scored 120 points. GM 2, 54.5 from 3, 53.2 from the field, scored 103 pts. So its hard for me to understand how any reasonable basketball viewer can debate the Knicks’ chances vs Chicago. Yes Noah is returning to injury, but he’s always hurt. Just because he’s coming back, doesn’t mean he will transform them into the Celtics, I mean they have played one of the easiest schedules thus far. The Bulls play great defense, and they will need to vs a strong offensive team, whomever they play in the postseason. The question with Chicago is how will their offense work? Chicago is a better team than New York, no question about it, but if you paid attention to basketball, you would know the NBA is about match-ups especially in the postseason, and you would also know better to write sentences like the one I pointed out in my previous post.

    • passerby23 - Feb 22, 2011 at 6:53 PM

      While you make some good points about the Knicks, I think ultimately Helin is right on this one. No, I wouldn’t want to face an offense like that who could explode on any given night. Melo might be a tough cover for the Bulls wings, but the playoffs are another animal entirely.

      The pace slows in the playoffs, which works against the Knicks offense and favors an already stout Chicago defense. The Knicks also have lost depth. What happens if/when Amar’e gets in foul trouble against that Bulls frontline in the playoffs?

      Then, there is the exceptional shooting the Knicks have shown against the Bulls that you can’t expect to continue (especially since they just shipped out most of their shooters). 50% from three or better is pretty damn good that won’t hold up in the playoffs.

      On top of all that, the Bulls will have homecourt against a team that now has to find chemistry with a handful of games left.

      Bottom line: the Knicks would be a pesky opponent you wouldn’t want to play with their offensive firepower, but the Bulls hold a huge advantage. Defense wins in the playoffs and until the Knicks can show some, they’re not beating anyone.

  4. florida727 - Feb 22, 2011 at 8:37 AM

    Best part of this deal going down? We don’t have to listen to the ‘where’s he going’ crap anymore. That, and of course the Knicks irrelevancy for the remainder of the season…

  5. jmclarkent - Feb 22, 2011 at 8:50 AM

    I wouldn’t be shocked to see Toney Douglass/ Billups/ Fields on the floor at the same time. If they can fill in the gaps during the offseason, this could be interesting.

  6. gatch21 - Feb 22, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    They had hope for the future before the trade. They gutted a young team with potential and I think this is crappy deal for Knicks. They will regret trading Gallinari

  7. savocabol1 - Feb 22, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    Basketball is irrelevant in the regular season.

  8. arrabin56 - Feb 22, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    It’s amazing how much the focus can change in such a short time. Yes the cap is likely to be lowered. Yes, right now Amare and Melo add up to about 40mil. But it wasn’t that long ago everybody was talking about all the salary rollbacks. I assume it isn’t going to be “everyone’s salary is rolled back except for Amare and Melo to screw the Knicks.” The truth is it is 100% impossible to tell right now one way or the other if the Knicks will be able to sign another star or not, and what other space they’ll have.

  9. mharenza - Feb 22, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    I just do not see the long term benefits of this trade for the Knicks. I cannot disagree that Carmelo Anthony is an excellent scorer. However, it also cannot be ignored that he is a marginal rebounder and terrible defender. Furthermore, the salary cap implications of the deal appear to be short sighted. Although the exact labor situation can only be speculated, that there will be a lockout with the end result being future salary cap figures being drastically reduced. I just see a situation where the Knicks have Stoudermire and Anthony and little else. I feel bad for Knicks fans, I really do. I would probably be excited now if I were them….but in a few years when the situation is imploding they won’t have Donnie Walsh to bail them out again. But Isiah will be there, so at least you will have that going for you.

    • leearmon - Feb 22, 2011 at 2:02 PM

      It’s not really fair to say Melo is a “marginal rebounder”

      http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/a/anthoca01.html

    • gatch21 - Feb 22, 2011 at 2:16 PM

      I am a Knick fan,have been for almost 40 years and am not happy or excited about this deal long term. Your description of Anthony is dead on. Defense wins championships…always has, always will

  10. dysraw1 - Feb 23, 2011 at 9:09 AM

    they do need to make another move we really need at least 2 more biggs

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