The NBA Needs Melo On A Team That Matters

1:53 | NBA
Where will Carmelo Anthony play next season?
Monday July 10th, 2017

There are no good ways to insult the Knicks anymore. Everything the franchise does is such an incredible self-own that every time you try to make Knicks jokes, they make a subsequent move that’s more hilarious than anything you could have dreamed of. A quick recap of New York’s off-season: Kristaps Porzingis trade rumors. Drafted a point guard because of his triangle fit. Fired the executive shoving the triangle down everyone’s throats. Didn’t replace the fired executive. Signed Tim Hardaway Jr.who the team traded two years agoto a four-year, $71 million contract. (And we haven’t even gotten to the owner playing in a concert instead of paying attention to his team on draft night.) 

New York has some young talent, but the Knicks feel closer to a wasteland than a rebuilding project. To be charitable, the Hardaway contract is a big risk. And it’s seemingly only a matter of time before the team adds a bunch of overpriced veterans instead of committing to the youth movement completely. All of this leaves New York’s highest-paid player, Carmelo Anthony, in an awkward spot. 

Melo hasn’t made sense on the Knicks in a couple years. He’s stubbornly held on to the idea of playing in New York, even when professionally it perhaps didn’t maximize his talent. His contract (and no-trade clause) makes him difficult to trade, and the Knicks are (shockingly) doing the right thing by holding out for assets in return as opposed to buying out the last two years and $54 million left on his contract. But both sides need to find a way to overcome these obstacles to give the NBA one last major dash of intrigue—Carmelo Anthony playing for a contender. 

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Anthony is the last important chess piece left on the board this off-season. The Pelicans aren’t moving Anthony Davis. And there are some nice veterans left on the free-agent market, but no one who can change the complexion of a team. Melo, however, is still capable of lifting a franchise to new heights.

I’m not saying Anthony is going to morph into the younger version of himself who led the league in scoring in 2013. But Melo as a third option? Playing off the ball and feasting on catch-and-shoot threes? Playing off stars in the prime of their careers? That’s the ideal situation for any player in the league, let alone someone with as much talent as Anthony. 

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If Melo makes his way to Cleveland or Houston, then the Warriors may actually have to break a sweat in the playoffs. The key will be how a team acquires him. If the Rockets can avoid decimating their rotation, adding Anthony to be the third option behind Chris Paul and James Harden would be absurd. The same goes for the Cavs, who would improve marginally in a Kevin Love-for-Melo swap, but would look much scarier if they kept Love and found another way to bring in Anthony. (The Spurs—and I have no clue how Melo gets there—would also be very intriguing.)

There’s a level of desperation in the NBA right now that’s allowing these “superteams” to form easier than they might have in the past. Would James Harden really want to share the ball with Chris Paul if both weren’t obsessed with taking down Golden State? Would Russell Westbrook be so willing to share the spotlight after his MVP campaign if the Warriors weren’t such a juggernaut? I think that desperation is good for the league, especially if it means players are willing to put their egos aside for the common goal of preventing a dynasty before it happens. 

The Knicks have been so dysfunctional for so long, people are sleeping on what Anthony can do in the right situation. If he gets an opportunity to play alongside one of his best friends in Paul or LeBron and doesn’t have to worry about carrying a mismatched roster every night, Melo can thrive. 

It’s become painfully obvious—beating the Warriors means loading up on much talent as possible and figuring out the rest on the court. In the weapons race to catch Golden State, there’s one more hired gun on the market who can make a tangible difference for the teams near the top of the league. At the very least, it’s time for us to find out how much of a difference he can make. 

Golden State’s roster demands stars to band together. Melo, one way or another, needs to force himself onto a true championship contender for the first time in his career. If he is finally able to escape from New York, the NBA will be better for it.

(As long as he doesn’t join the Warriors.)

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