Melo to the Knicks: Seven questions
Now that the Melodrama is finally over, our experts tackle seven questions surrounding Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks and the Nuggets.
1. How well will Melo and Amare coexist?
Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: If Amare Stoudemire has really come into his own as a leader, that matters tremendously and creates an environment with a focus on team achievements -- not unlike what those other guys are doing in Miami. This has great potential to be a meaningful and creative duo.
The risks, to me, are that they both like to iso with the ball -- that's going to have to change -- and both are the kinds of defenders coaches would often hide against certain opponents. You can hide one starter against some teams. You can't hide two guys against anybody. Defense will be the key.
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Not as contentious as Shaq and Kobe but not as harmonious as Stockton and Malone. They're both great scorers, but neither is a great passer.
Ian Begley, ESPN New York: There will be a short adjustment period, but once Melo and Billups grow accustomed to D'Antoni's offense, both stars should thrive. As Amare pointed out Tuesday, you can't double-team both of them.
John Hollinger, ESPN.com: Not optimally perhaps, but well enough. They like different spots on the floor -- Amare prefers the high post, Melo the right block and elbow -- so they won't get in each other's way.
Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: They'll manage just fine. Where you will see a difference with the Knicks is in fourth quarters, when opposing defenses will not know which player is getting the ball. That has not been the case until now, because the ball always went to Amare and defenses collapsed accordingly.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: It is something we need to monitor. These guys are great friends and presumably hatched this plan to team up, but too many people who know both well say they both want to be the face of their franchise. And that's generally not a status you can share. Does Amare have it because he was there first? Or does Melo seize it from him now since he's more of an East Coast guy? They'll probably never admit it but I think it does matter to them.
David Thorpe, ESPN.com: Great. In a large sense, they built this -- Amare agreed to Melo coming on board, so they own this situation and know it's on them to make it work. So they will. Plus, their games complement each other to a large extent on offense. It also helps that each has played alongside another superstar/fan favorite before.
Jared Zwerling, ESPN New York: Since Carmelo is such a good attacker, he'll open up more close-range scoring opportunities for Amare, who won't have to push as hard to score from 15 feet. Carmelo will also take pressure off of Amare to not always have to produce for the Knicks to win. Before, they played in too many come-from-behind games, but with Carmelo, they will maintain more leads.
2. How far will the Knicks go this season?
Abbott: About as far as they would have without the trade. They lost a lot of size, skill, health, youth and defense. Remember it took a while for Raymond Felton and Amare Stoudemire to get on the same page? That clock starts over with Chauncey Billups and Stoudemire, only now Anthony is sucking up half those touches.
If this is really going to pay off for the Knicks, and it has a gambler's chance, it'll be down the road, if those two stars develop magical chemistry.
Adande: To the first round of the playoffs. Then home.
Begley: First round of the playoffs. The Knicks are 5½ games behind fifth-place Atlanta with 28 games to play. If they don't catch the Hawks, they're staring at a seven-game series against either Chicago, Boston or Miami, which would be a tough task for a team with so many new pieces.
Hollinger: I'm not sure this changes much because the gap between New York and the top four teams in the East is great. They're still going to lose in the first round, it will just be less of a beatdown now.
Sheridan: I see them as a threat to the Bulls in the first round, probably not so much so against the Magic, Heat or Celtics.
Stein: Like everyone says: This trade isn't about this season. Not with less than 30 games of "training camp" to go. The best-case scenario is that they might upset the Bulls or Magic in Round 1, but even that is a major reach. Focus on the fact that they've got the two legit stars hooked up, which is a great start in spite of all the questions about how their games mesh. Eventually, though, they'll still need a trusty lead guard and a legit interior defensive presence before they can really go somewhere.
Thorpe: First-round loss is very likely. They just don't have time to jell enough to beat strong cores like Boston or Chicago, or enough firepower to defend Orlando or Miami.
Zwerling: I think the Knicks can overtake the Hawks at the fifth spot, simply because the Hawks have a tougher schedule. But I still don't see them beating the Magic or Bulls in the first round simply because of one thing: lack of size.
3. Did Denver come out OK in the Melo trade?
Abbott: Everyone said they were asking for too much all along, and then they got more than they had been asking for when everybody said that. So, that seems pretty good. All that said, they lost the two cornerstones of their franchise, so they're still entering a rebuild. But it's a rebuild in which they never go to the cellar, and they have a deep shelf of young talent. They made the best of a bad situation.
Adande: Better than OK. Usable players, good contracts, cash savings. They won't plummet to the bottom of the conference like Cleveland and Toronto.
Begley: More than OK. Instead of taking a gamble by trading for multiple first-round picks from the Nets, the Nuggets went with the sure thing, acquiring four starting-caliber players from the Knicks. They should be able to tread water in the West now. With the deal the Nets offered, they would have been in a serious rebuilding mode.
Hollinger: Absolutely. The Nuggets got some good players and pieces out of this rather than being left high and dry like Cleveland and Toronto a year ago. If they can keep Nene they'll stay competitive and their financial situation going forward is now vastly improved.
Sheridan: They got one more player than I expected them to (one and a half, if Kosta Koufos is counted), which is pretty darn good given that they knew all along there was only one place where Carmelo would accept a trade. The game of charades they coaxed the Nets into playing was Oscar-worthy.
Stein: More than OK judging by the history of what teams get in superstar trades. Especially when you factor in the millions they saved in terms of luxury tax and if they end up trading some of these Knicks pieces for pieces they like better as the Nuggets rebuild. But I keep saying that the most believable statements from Melo over the past six months, amid all those quotes that meant nothing, were the ones about how badly he wanted to secure his $65 million extension before the current labor agreement expires. Which leaves me wondering why the Nuggets didn't tell Melo: If you want your $65 mil, you either have to go to New Jersey or stay here. Even Donnie Walsh admitted this week that the Knicks felt like they had to keep improving their offer because they believed Melo was going to end up signing the extension wherever he was in June. The Knicks blinked in terms of how much they ended up sending to Denver in this deal, but the Nuggets blinked, too.
Thorpe: OK? Not only did Denver land four legit players who have value around the league, they got players who fight and love to play, which is exactly what George Karl wants.
Zwerling: Denver acquired three players who are not only talented, but are young and still developing. At different points during the season Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler were all playing like All-Stars. And now they'll be out to prove that they're not just pieces of the Carmelo Anthony trade.
4. Who will be running the Knicks next season?
Abbott: Magic 8 Ball says the same guy who's running the Knicks now: James Dolan.
Adande: It will be someone who can coexist with Isiah Thomas. Donnie Walsh doesn't need to be shadowed this way.
Begley: Donnie Walsh. James Dolan is forced to pick up the fourth-year option on Walsh's contract for next season now that the team president has landed Melo. Walsh, a veteran executive with a lot of pride, was bothered by the suggestion that Isiah Thomas played a key role in the Knicks' acquisition of Melo. That led to speculation that Walsh would leave or be forced out, but I think, for PR reasons, Dolan knows he has to keep Walsh and Walsh wants to see his rebuilding plan with the Knicks all the way through.
Hollinger: I'll still go with Donnie Walsh, just out of faith that nobody could possibly be stupid enough to rehire Isiah Thomas.
Sheridan: Donnie Walsh has finally completed the biggest part of the job he set upon nearly three years ago, and there is no good reason for the Knicks not to pick up his fourth-year option and let him complete the rebuilding process. The hardest part has come and gone.
Stein: It would be a crime if it's not Donnie Walsh. To deliver two superstars -- even if neither is named LeBron -- means that Walsh lived up to his mandate. But I put nothing past James Dolan. Isiah Thomas? Dolan naming himself GM? Let's hope that Dolan eventually sees sense and keep the status quo, but I'm not so hopeful.
Thorpe: I think it's Walsh's job, if he wants it. He landed the guy they needed.
Zwerling: I still see Donnie Walsh in his same seat. The Knicks will still need to add some complementary pieces, like a big-man defender and another 3-point shooter. I think Donnie has the best basketball mind to do that. He did draft Landry Fields, after all.
5. Who will be New York's starting PG in 2012-13?
Abbott: Chris Paul.
Adande: Chris Paul.
Begley: Chris Paul. Walsh insists that the new CBA -- whenever it's signed -- will not affect the Knicks' ability to go after a free agent in the summer of 2012.
Hollinger: Toney Douglas. Knicks don't have the cap room to get CP or Deron Williams and no longer have the assets to trade for one of them.
Sheridan: Since they didn't get the rights to Ricky Rubio in this recent three-way trade, and since I am unconvinced they will have enough flexibility under the new labor rules to make a max offer to Williams or Paul, I will go the safest route possible and say it'll be Toney Douglas, who will have four years of NBA experience under his belt by then.
Stein: Chris Paul is the more likely free-agent signee than Deron Williams on this scorecard. They will try to trade for Steve Nash and Ricky Rubio, too. But if the new labor agreement makes it impossible to afford a lead guard of that caliber, New York is going to have issues, because the two hardest positions to fill in this game remain unfilled after this Melo blockbuster.
Thorpe: Ricky Rubio, who will be very good in time, and cheap enough to acquire. D-Will and CP3 will just be too expensive.
Zwerling: Chris Paul. That toast at Melo and LaLa Vasquez's wedding is all coming together now. In 2012, the "Big Apple Big Three" will be debuting on Broadway.
6. What is the Knicks' biggest problem?
Abbott: Lost opportunities to be in the mix for players who might be better than Melo. Defense. New holes in the roster.
Adande: The new CBA might not allow them to surround Melo and Amare with enough good players.
Begley: Presently, it's a lack of depth at center. With Timofey Mozgov gone to the Nuggets, the Knicks are left with Ronny Turiaf at center and little else. They are rail-thin off the bench. Walsh said Tuesday that he will remedy that weakness by bringing in some size from outside the organization, but the Knicks need a long-term solution at the 5.
Hollinger: Defense. They were a bad defensive team before the trade and got worse with the Billups-Felton switch and the Melo-Chandler switch. Corey Brewer will help if he plays, but I'm not sure the Knicks value him.
Sheridan: No center other than Ronny Turiaf. This is a problem they are trying to cure before the deadline arrives, but just ask Otis Smith how difficult it is to find a serviceable big man.
Stein: What Adande and Hollinger said.
Thorpe: Huge holes on defense. The addition of Brewer gives them two guys who can be plus defenders (Toney Douglas is the other), and that's it. They have no rim protection, few charge-takers and two offensive machines who will need time to learn that they can afford risking fouls by playing better defense because they now have scoring help in each other. Remember, D'Antoni's best Suns team finished 17th in defensive efficiency, and the Knicks were only 20th before this deal.
Zwerling: Down-low defensive size. In order to compete with the Celtics, Bulls, Magic and Heat in the East, and then the Lakers, Spurs and Mavericks in the West, they'll need to upgrade their center spot.
7. Will the Knicks win a title in the next five seasons?
Abbott: No, just because winning a title is incredibly rare and hard. They have a disjointed, nearly defenseless roster, in a league with lots of incredibly good teams. For it to happen in New York, they'll have to fill out the rest of the roster with great value pieces, which is hard and time consuming.
Hollinger: No offense to the Knicks, but in a 30-team league the smart money will always be on "No." I suspect they'll post wins in the high 40s to low 50s for as long as Amare's knees hold up, but I have a hard time envisioning anything beyond that.
Sheridan: Yes. They are built to last for the next four-plus seasons with Amare and Melo under contract, and by 2013 or 2014 they should have reshuffled enough of the complementary pieces to get past the Heat. They'll at least contend for a title in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Stein: I'm leaning closer to yes than no ... and here's why: The best thing about the Knicks' situation is that they know they have two franchise cornerstones under contract for a few years. Not a lot of teams out there can say the same. If you buy the premise that you can always rebuild a bench/supporting cast faster than you can find two stars -- and who doesn't? -- you have to believe New York's long-term prospects are right there with Miami's and Chicago's in the East.
Thorpe: No. There are at least four teams who are better in the East now, and Miami built its team with all three stars deciding together to take less for the better of the team. That can't happen in the same organic way in New York, and with the new CBA we expect to see, adding a third piece to compete with Miami and Chicago will make it even more difficult.
Zwerling: Not this season or the next, but if they can acquire Paul or Williams in 2012, look for them to be in heavy contention in 2013.
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