Reports came in this week that Carmelo Anthony had added the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder to his list of teams for which he’d waive his no-trade clause. That was apparently as much freedom as Knicks general manager Scott Perry needed: Carmelo Anthony has now reportedly been traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
This is a shocker! The stated reason why Perry couldn’t get a deal to send Melo to his first choice team—the Houston Rockets—was that he needed more in return than they were able or willing to give, a package to include “a scoring wing to replace Anthony’s production, short-term contracts and draft assets,” according to an ESPN report. The Cavaliers made some sense in that regard—Kevin Love could function as a Melo replacement, plus he’s cheaper and younger—but the snag there was what might happen if LeBron bolts after this upcoming season: would Melo saddle the Cavs with the $28 million season dangling on the end of his contract as a player option? If LeBron were to leave, Love would make a much better trade asset in a potential rebuild than a hugely expensive, 33-year-old Carmelo Anthony. Of course, that assumes the Cavs would offer Love in a swap for Melo. Point is, you could at least trace the outline of a deal.
But, man, scratch that! Look at what the Knicks are taking back in this deal: Enes Kanter is a useful bench big who absolutely cannot defend in the modern NBA; Doug McDermott is similarly awful defensively, and without a clear position; and that pick—depending on the year in which it ultimately conveys—might not be worth much if any combination of Oklahoma City’s three or four best players stay on the Thunder beyond this season. And it is a hell of a stretch to imagine McDermott replacing more than a fraction of Anthony’s offensive value, even at Melo’s inefficient, shot-jacking worst.
But McDermott will be a restricted free agent after this season, in a market that is suddenly wildy unfriendly to all but the very best restricted free agents. And Kanter, though a weird and possibly fatally ill-suited front-court mate for Kristaps Porzingis, qualifies as a short-term contract, especially if he opts out of the final, $19 million season in 2018. If you squint very hard and tilt your head just so, Perry and the Knicks got back what they wanted in a Carmelo trade. It just happens to be a hilariously unimpressive poor-man’s version of what they had on their wish list. This offseason’s contest for worst trade package for a nominal superstar has a new contender, is what I’m saying.
Now we can all rub our hands together about the sheer insanity of a Russell Westbrook-Paul George-Carmelo Anthony trio in Oklahoma City. Billy Donovan is going to have an awesome time managing the distribution of offense and the egos involved. It’s going to be completely bonkers.