Where Should Carmelo Anthony Go If He Waives His No-Trade Clause?
Speculation isn't something we engage in too often here at numerFire. We prefer the cold hard facts.
But sometimes, a roster move becomes so self-evident that it would be irresponsible for us not to break down the possibilities, should that transaction come to fruition.
Now, there are well-known hurdles of course. Trading a superstar is difficult under the best of circumstances -- how can you get proper value for a top-20 player in the league, when other teams likely aren't offering one in return? However, in this case, Anthony is also armed with a no-trade clause and seems to have very little interest in waiving it: a double whammy, as it were.
For the purposes of this exercise, we're going to pretend to speak for 'Melo. We're going to say he'd consider waiving the clause, as long as he was sent to a team that had a real shot of contending for an NBA title with him added to the mix.
We're also going to try and debunk a couple destinations that are frequently mentioned when you hear Carmelo trade rumors.
Los Angeles Clippers
On paper, it sort of makes sense. They have two superstars in Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, and while DeAndre Jordan is a nice third piece, you know they'd love to add a player of Carmelo's caliber to their lineup. Couple that with the fact that they've had something of a black hole at the small forward position for the last several years and the Clippers' position as a team nearly good enough to compete with the true elite of the NBA, and they almost seem like a perfect fit.
That is, until you look beyond the surface.
Paul and Griffin are injured (again) but even before that was the case, the Clippers really had very little to make a potential Carmelo deal attractive for the Knicks, other than Griffin himself (who's on an expiring contract).
Anthony is making $24,559,380 this season, per Spotrac. To make any potential deal work (without including Griffin), the Clippers options are extremely limited. A Jamal Crawford/Austin Rivers combination works financially, but why would the Knicks even consider such a thing?
Based on our nERD metric, Anthony is worth 2.1 wins to an average team, and Rivers (-0.7) and Crawford (-5.0) are both negative players, with Crawford being one of the least efficient players of the season.
A Jordan-for-Anthony deal works as well, but that's where I think the Clippers balk, unless they're comfortable with Marreese Speights (4.2 nERD) and rookie Diamond Stone (-0.2 in limited minutes) as their starting centers over Jordan (7.6 nERD, 11th in the NBA).
The Clippers' complete lack of assets makes it hard to see this happening, even if they could somehow get a third team involved. And if they were to give up Griffin, are they a better team?
It doesn't make sense.
This one is an even shorter conversation.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are frequently mentioned because of Anthony's friendship with LeBron James, which is valid whenever you're talking about Cavs acquisitions. However, given the fact that the Cavs already have Kevin Love (who is both younger and better than Carmelo) and Tristan Thompson in the frontcourt as well as the King himself playing a combination of the three and the four, the team fit is already bogus before you even look at the salaries.
If you did get that far, you'd see that Cleveland also has little in the way of assets. They've dealt their 2017 and 2019 first-round picks, so they can't trade another one until 2021.
A combination of Thompson ($15,330,435) and Channing Frye ($7,806,971) works financially, but it's hard to see that deal making sense for Cleveland, given that Frye (1.3 nERD) and Thompson (2.0) are plus players.
There just isn't a fit here.
The Fringe Contender
There are a bunch of ways that the Toronto Raptors could make the financials of this deal work, and they've got plenty of assets with which to entice New York.
They have young players in Delon Wright and Pascal Siakam. They have a young, cheap point guard in Cory Joseph. They have wing players in Terrence Ross and Norman Powell. They have two first-round picks in 2017 (their own, and the Clippers') and have the recent ninth pick in the draft in Jakob Poeltl, a pick they actually received from the Knicks themselves.
And they have a gaping hole at the power forward spot, which could be filled by Anthony or by shifting DeMarre Carroll upon Carmelo's arrival.
Two main reasons make such a deal unlikely to happen. The first is history. The Knicks have been absolutely fleeced in the past by Raptors president Masai Ujiri, trading him the aforementioned pick for all-world bust Andrea Bargnani. This made Knicks owner James Dolan so gun-shy that he later nixed a deal that would have landed him future All-NBA talent Kyle Lowry the next season.
They also had to deal with him when he was Denver's general manager, in a semi-maligned deal; yes it brought Anthony to the Knicks, but it cost them a massive haul, including Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, and Raymond Felton, as well another first-round pick (which was traded again and became Dario Saric), when they could have just signed Anthony as a free agent the following summer.
The second and more important reason is that Anthony is a bad fit for the Toronto offense, which until a recent rough stretch, was one of the most efficient in the league not just this year, but ever.
Do the Raptors, who rely so heavily on DeMar DeRozan and Lowry, really need another play who needs the ball in his hands as much as Carmelo? With his 29% usage rate, Anthony is actually on pace for his lowest mark in that category since his sophomore year in Denver, but he still ranks 18th in the NBA.
DeRozan, at 34.5% ranks seventh, and Lowry has a 24.5% rate himself. That doesn't sound like something that would work without significant adjustments to the offense, and the offense isn't what ails Toronto.
The Logical Destination
The Utah Jazz
Given that Carmelo considers himself a businessman, I don't see him waiving his no trade clause to head to the snowy slopes of Salt Lake City. But it makes so much sense that it has to be mentioned.
The Utah Jazz are a real contender in the NBA's Western Conference this season. They're 29-17 right now, just a game back of the banged-up Clippers for the 4 seed in the Conference. Our algorithm sees them as the sixth-best team in the NBA.
They have All-NBA talents in Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert. They tried to sign Carmelo-light when they added the corpse of Joe Johnson in the offseason, and he's been decent for them, mainly in a bench role.
Derrick Favors is an excellent player who is an awkward fit next to Gobert, a rim protecting big who likes to play in the paint. He's signed for another year at a reasonable number ($11,050,000 this year and $12,000,000 in 2017-18), but after that, the Jazz are going to have to pony up. After extending Gobert and with a decision to make on Hayward this summer, Favors might be the odd man out.
You know where an excellent, physical defender like Favors would look great? Next to a 7'3" unicorn big man who can both play inside and stretch the floor, that's where. Throw in Alec Burks and his terrible contract (which is only two more seasons after this one) and the Knicks would actually have landed themselves real value in return for a disgruntled superstar, something that's as rare as a man who looks and moves like Kristaps Porzingis.
Anthony would be a perfect fit in Utah, playing in small lineups next the towering Gobert, and slotting in on the wing next to Hayward in more traditional looks. He'd give Utah the crunch-time scoring they so badly need, and his presence would trumpet their arrival to the upper-echelon of NBA teams.
Anthony likely isn't going anywhere. The place that makes the most sense for him is a place he'd never go. The places he'd like to go don't have the juice to acquire him. Sure there are other destinations -- the Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics are always looking to deal -- but are either of them a Carmelo away from the title? Does a Mike D'Antoni/Carmelo Anthony reunion sound like something anyone wants to see? I don't think so.
Anthony is a singularly talented player with a very specific skill-set. This, combined with his larger-than-life personality and off-court life, makes him a difficult asset to deal.
Anthony probably isn't going anywhere. But he should really go to Utah.