After word leaked that Carmelo Anthony had agreed to open the possibility of waiving his no-trade clause Friday afternoon, things progressed quickly.
Unable to find a workable deal with the Rockets or Cleveland, the Knicks have agreed to trade 10-time All-Star and hooded sweatshirt aficionado Carmelo Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Knicks will, in turn, receive Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and Chicago’s 2018 2nd round pick.
There will be time for eulogies to the Melo era in New York. For now, though, everyone can finally breathe a collective sigh of relief, the long drawn out drama is at an end. The Knicks are in full rebuild mode, so let’s examine the specifics of the first trade of the Scott Perry led front office.
Melo is knee deep in age (and well, knee) related decline, particularly noticeable in his decreasing efficiency around the basket – where once his bread was buttered. But he remains one of the leagues absolute best spot-up shooters, totaling a scorching 1.233 PPP. This alone will bring a smile to Russell Westbrook’s face. The Knicks offense will struggle without him, even though he had ball-stopping tendencies at times.
In fact, Melo’s main crime for the Knicks this season was that he would have buoyed the offense just enough to keep the Knicks out of contention for a top 5 pick. The main value to the Knicks of this trade will be that they will lose even more games and once more get a chance at a top 5 pick. But beyond embracing the tank, what did the Knicks get back?
Enes Kanter is a dying breed, the offense focused center that puts up “turnstile” level defense around the rim. Kanter’s game is as old-fashioned as his notions of NBA loyalty proved to be. The Knicks already have a second-year player in Willy Hernangomez of the same archetype, only young and driven enough that he might aspire to become a decent defender in time. Still, Kanter was one of the league’s most productive players off the bench in the NBA and for Knicks that will remain his role come to start the season. His defense improved for parts of last season but he continued to get obliterated on the pick and roll, after rim protection perhaps the most important skill for the modern NBA center.
Kanter also has a bad contract, averaging about $17,500,000 over the next 2 years including a player option for the 2019-20 season. It seems likely that Kanter will not make that money back on the open market, though it’s possible that he opts out anyway.
This shouldn’t be seen as the value of the trade for the Knicks, though Kanter does have his uses. He remains duplicative with the Knicks other, younger frontcourt players and it means that the Knicks are paying a combined 72 million dollars over the next two seasons to Noah and Kanter – neither of whom should be starters.
Doug McDermott has had wild swings in value and expectations. Originally traded for the two 1st round picks that became Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris in the 2014 Draft, Doug McBuckets has struggled with injuries and playing time. In retrospect, that was a horrible trade. Even though Nurkic has proved mercurial in his effort and production, the talent is clearly there. Harris meanwhile is well on his way to becoming one of the best 2-way players at his position.
McDermott has played in less than 75% of possible games since his rookie season, due to injuries in his back and troublingly both knees.
In the most favorable projections for the Knicks Doug could act as a remix supercharged Steve Novak. On his 50 spot ups taken while playing for OKC last year, he scored 1.4 PPP, in the 99th percentile. For the Bulls, he managed over 1 PPPP on about 3 times as many attempts, which is still pretty good. If the Knicks coaching staff want to get creative, McDermott also has a very efficient post game that could be used in spots.
A combination of McDermott’s uncertain health, uneven production and the space-starved cap environment of 2018-19 mean that the Knicks could lock him up cheaply on the long term if they like what they see. He is on the last year of his rookie contract and it is unclear if the Knicks already have an idea of retaining him or not. In either case, this season could act as a full evaluation for the young player.
The 2018 Bulls 2nd round pick is perhaps the best return on the trade. There are good arguments to be made that a good 2nd round pick is more valuable than a 1st that is in the late 20’s, due to the additional player control that comes with 2nd round picks.
1st round picks are tied to the rookie scale determined by the CBA. Teams can pay a player between 80% and 120% of the rookie scale and almost every team pays 120% of this amount.
Teams are free to negotiate any kind of contract with 2nd round picks, however. Teams like the Process Era Sixers made good use of this ability, often negotiating 4-year deals, at the minimum salary and with a lot of unguaranteed money. While not the path to endearing players to the organization, it gives the drafting team the best chance at maximizing value and minimizing risk.
Because this pick is coming from Chicago, who may very well be the worst team in the association next year, there is a good chance that this pick is 31 or 32. Now, finding quality at that range is generally a crap shoot but the Knicks will need to nail one or two of these marginal moves eventually if they have any hope of reviving the franchise. It’s another bite at the apple.
With little leverage and some serious constraints, the Knicks have reduced their guaranteed salary, picked up McDermott on a flyer as well as a valuable 2nd round pick. The previous regime had made Carmelo Anthony a toxic asset, so Perry did well to get what he did here.
Now, the rebuilding Knicks can look to the future.