Some random observations from the previous month’s action:
* It’s pretty clear by now that Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire are not a good match and will likely never form the core of a championship team. I can’t think of any examples in the NBA where a team won a championship when their two best players were incompatible (as much as Kobe and Shaq hated each other at times, they could still play well together). So, if the Knicks were prudent they would act now, shuffle the deck and look to create a more balanced squad.
They’re not too far removed from being a legit title contender. They have a tremendous defensive anchor in Chandler, a blossoming young point guard in Lin, a great pick-and-roll man in Stoudemire and some nice complimentary players in Fields, Shumpert, Novak and Jeffries (and potentially Davis and Smith under the right circumstances). But you can’t ignore the obvious; Melo is the square peg here, his style of play just doesn’t fit the system or his teammates. And when both of your key guys are subpar defenders, that just won’t get it done against elite competition in a seven-game series.
So, what deals make sense for the Knicks? Here’s a couple that could be win-win for both teams involved (and they do work under the cap):
1) Melo to Boston for Paul Pierce, JaJuan Johnson and their 2012 first-round draft pick.
Don’t be fooled with the Knicks, they’re a win-now ball club. The age and injury history of Stoudemire and Chandler probably gives them a 2-3 year window to contend, at best. And Paul Pierce’s longevity lines up with that. He’s slowing down for sure, but he’s still an elite player and competant closer, and more importantly, he’s willing and able to play a supporting role. His presence would undoubtedly provide a much better balance to their line-up. And don’t underestimate a mid-first round pick in the loaded 2012 draft; there are gems to be had throughout the entire first round.
For Boston, this trade is all about their future. Under this scenario they could go forward and rebuild around Melo and Rondo (which should work because of Rondo’s passing mentality), thus avoiding the ugly rebuild which is sure to come at the end of this year and beyond.
2) Melo to Atlanta for Joe Johnson and their 2012 first-round pick.
For the Knicks, Johnson could find a nice niche on this team; when required he can score at an elite level but he also seems willing to play a role. And surprisingly he’s only 30 years of age. Ok, there’s the not-so small matter of his albatross contract, but Melo’s yearly salary is almost identical (Johnson has an extra year). And we all know that money is not an issue for the filthy rich Knicks; if anyone can take it on, they can.
For the Hawks, they BADLY need a shake-up, and going forward with a Melo/Horford/Teague foundation (and whatever they can get for Josh Smith; you can’t have two guys on the same team chucking up bad shots) could be interesting. And with the fan apathy in Atlanta, the excitement generated from acquiring a ‘big-name’ player like Melo could be just what they need (or not).
* Jamal Crawford playing point guard for Portland is a huge red flag for me. He’s not the only reason why they’re struggling, but any team that trots out Crawford as their point guard is in trouble; his instinct is to chuck, not distribute. In a sixth man type scoring role that’s fine, but not when your team needs leadership and a steady hand.
The Blazers are edging dangerously close to the middle ground of the NBA. Consideration must be given to going back into a rebuild phase at the end of the year, by clearing out their veterans and building around Aldridge and Batum. And by the way, failing to lock up Batum at the deadline was a huge mistake. They’re going to have to pay through the nose to keep him now.
* As good as the Chicago Bulls are, they haven’t addressed the concerns from last year – who’s going to help Derrick Rose shoulder the load in crunch time against Miami in the playoffs?
With that in mind, I am floored that the Bulls have seemingly not entered the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. If there was even the slightest possibility that you could pair Rose with Howard, the best point guard and center in the league, then you go for it. And it’s certainly no secret that Chicago could offer the most attractive package for Dwight. Orlando have let it be known that they don’t want to fall off the cliff if he goes, they want to remain competitive, which means they’re seeking quality players in return.
So, what would it take for Chicago to land him? Joakim Noah would be the centerpiece in any deal, but they would also need to include one of Deng, Gibson or Asik (as well as draft picks), and possibly some filler to make the deal work under the cap. Considering the current circumstances with Dwight (he’s gone whether they trade him or not) I would deal him in a heartbeat for a package centered around Noah and Gibson (and draft picks). This would instantly give you a young, quality front line that can play defense at a high level. And why wouldn’t you do that if you were Chicago (or a Noah/Deng deal)? We’re talking about Dwight-freakin-Howard here, a top-three player in this league and the best center by a country mile. And the Bulls would still be left with a Rose/Howard/Boozer trio, and much of their other depth that is currently in place.
The infamous Dwight ‘wish list’ did not include Chicago (which perhaps says alot about Dwight) but surely if both sides agreed on the framework of a deal, then he’d sign off on it. Because if he is genuine in his desire to win (questionable), then there’s no way he could turn that down. If you’ve ever experienced the vibe of successful basketball in the city of Chicago (I have; I went to Game 2 of their first-round playoff series last year, and it was absolutely electric), then you’re crazy if you don’t want to be apart of that. Chicago’s a great city, a big market, a top-shelf basketball town, they’re poised to contend for the foreseeable future and they have Derrick Rose. They tick all the boxes.
The Chicago front office has been very conservative in their dealings over the last decade, but if they let this one slip by without even trying to get involved, again, for Dwight-freakin-Howard, then they’ve dropped the ball, BIG TIME.
* Geez, how bad has All-Star weekend become? It’s all fluff and no substance. I have no interest in this ‘fake’ basketball; heck, give me a Bobcats vs. Wizards game over this junk any day because at least they’re competing.
“Pay the players more money” they say, as an incentive. Well to me, that’s just outrageous. Putting more cash in the pockets of pampered millionaires is not the answer to anything.
So here’s my fix – the All-Star weekend would be made up of the following events:
• Introduce a Legends Game to replace the assortment of other crap (rookie/sophomore game, skills challenge, shooting stars competition and celebrity game). I am thinking 90’s stars like Penny Hardaway, Reggie Miller, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dennis Rodman, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley etc.;
• The Three-Point Contest would stay as is;
• The Dunk Contest would be made up of one player from each of the following: the NBA, D-League, college, high school and a member of the public (a couple of years ago I watched the college dunk comp and it was the best one I had ever seen). And no props are allowed. Oh, and that clown Kenny Smith can’t MC it;
• Abolish the All-Star Game in favor of an ‘America vs. World’ game. Do you think they’ll put forth some honest effort in this game? Oh, you bet they will. Can you imagine the bragging rights if the ‘World’ wins? Guys like Kobe and D-Wade would be loathe to let that happen.