Should the Knicks Consider Trading Carmelo Anthony to the Lakers?

Yeah, this one’s not gonna go over too well with some fans. Don’t worry though, the chances of James Dolan signing off on dealing his top-billed ticket-seller are slimmer than those of New York actually winning a title under his catastrophic rule. Though if the Knicks continue to struggle so mightily, the front office should absolutely gauge the trade market for Carmelo Anthony.

It’s not an indictment of Anthony, but rather the opposite. Carmelo’s been one of the only positives for New York this season, averaging an insane 26.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest. But, with the team looking every bit the disaster we dreaded—or overlooked—all summer, maybe it’s time to at least consider getting some sort of return.

At first glance, this doesn’t seem like an easy task. Of teams contending for a 2014 title, none seem to be desperate enough to sacrifice a package of young players and/or draft picks in exchange for a half-season of ‘Melo.

But… wait one second. That word up there. Desperate. Hmm. Maybe there’s one team that would be willing to make a move to land one of the league’s biggest names.

Maybe the Los Angeles Lakers, with space left for one max-level player in 2014 after re-signing Kobe Bryant for nearly $50 million this week, would be the buyer.

And before you say to yourself, “Well, that doesn’t seem to make much sense. Carmelo could just sign with the Lakers over the summer. Why would the Lakers trade for him?,” remember that the difference between offering Anthony $130 million and $96 million lies in his Bird rights. Anthony has never left money on the table: Not in 2006, nor in 2011.

There’s little evidence that’d lead you to believe he’d pass up $35 million.  ‘Melo’s probably re-signing with the team that has him at the end of the year. That’s all the leverage the Knicks need in trade negotiations.

Now, peering up and down the Lakers assets, there’s little they have to offer in terms of players or picks. They can’t trade a first-round pick until 2019, and their current roster is comprised almost solely of one-year, bottom-of-the-barrel stopgaps.

However, there’s still one way Los Angeles could make this deal worthwhile for the Knicks. It could bring back Amar’e Stoudemire’s contract along with Anthony.

Clearing New York’s books of Stoudemire’s two-year, $45 million commitment—and not dumping an even more massive albatross on the Knicks—is perhaps the biggest favor any team could offer. In doing so, Los Angeles would land its star, who’d all but be forced to re-sign in Hollywood for more money than any other team could offer; and New York would have successfully dealt away one of the biggest financial handicaps in the history of the league.

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With a re-signed Carmelo, a re-signed Kobe, Nick Young and Robert Sacre, L.A.’s salary figure would be at $48.1 million. The 2014 cap is estimated to come in at $62.1 million, so STAT would impede the Lakers’ 2014 spending by about $12 million. He comes off the books after that season.

L.A. wouldn’t be able to care less about the players outgoing in the deal. All but Steve Nash’s are set to expire after this year, and would be renounced by the Lakers to create cap room—room they plan on using to sign Anthony anyway.

The Knicks would be taking on Nash’s contract, which, while not as obtrusive as Amar’e’s, is still a handicap in its own right. But the other four players New York would receive would open a whopping $28,337,850 in space, once they expire after the season.

This would slide New York under the salary cap for the summer of 2014—with roughly $11 million in space—with a core of Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Tyson Chandler still in tact. Finding a way to deal Smith or Andrea Bargnani could open up room for a near-max or max-level deal, which might be cool to have during the summer that LeBron’s a free agent. Just in case.

So, is this a deal that New York would have to consider, should it be brought to them? Sure. But it’ll only exist in a make-believe universe, on the internet, in this little blog post. Would James Dolan ever consider trading his superstar to a rival market, no matter how beneficial it’d be for the team’s future? Not a chance.

Anthony will likely end the year with the Knicks after a best-case-scenario early-round exit. He’ll re-up with the team for the maximum $130 million over the next five years, and he’ll take up the majority of the team’s salary cap until he’s 35, in pursuit of the first championship that’s eluded him for a decade.

And to Jim Dolan, it’s all business as usual.

A version of this post can be found here.

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