What if the Knicks picked Door No. 2?
It’s that time again…the moment where we transport ourselves from a real world filled with doubt, depression and despair into a bottomless rabbit hole filled with more doubt, depression and despair. It’s…
"What If” Wednesday!
Today’s topic comes as an offshoot of the pod Jeremy and I did earlier this week, where we each ranked our top five best/most entertaining “What If’s” of our respective lives watching the Knicks.
One of Jeremy’s - “What if the Knicks matched Jeremy Lin’s offer sheet with the Rockets?” - was meant to get us thinking about the salary cap ramifications, and whether the 12-13 season would have been possible with Lin’s salary on the books (and thus, less room to sign key vets that made the team so special).
This is a good one, but it got me thinking about a different repercussion of this move…
What if Lin’s offer sheet was matched…and Melo demanded a trade?
A couple of quick reminders:
If you believe Frank Isola’s report at the time, Lin’s offer sheet wasn’t matched because James Dolan and other team officials felt “deceived” and were “livid” at how Lin acted. Others, including Howard Beck and Dan Devine, both stated it came down to money, and the impending luxury tax payment that would have been coming down the pike in 2014-15.
Carmelo and Lin never got on the same page, and the partnership didn’t seem like a healthy one. As was reported by Tim Keown of ESPN, Melo was resistant to the idea of sharing the spotlight. Anthony was also injured for the bulk of Linsanity, as Mike D’Antoni rejiggered the team around a pick and roll offense featuring his new point guard.
So as far as What If’s go, a) no, this wasn’t ever likely to happen (especially with D’Antoni having resigned mid-season), but also b) if Lin & the team patched up their differences, there’s a decent enough chance that Anthony would have been pissed off enough to ask for a trade.
Given CAA’s connections to ownership, it’s unlikely that the Knicks would have been willing to accomodate Melo even if he had made such an ask, especially after the massive package of assets they gave up to get him, but we’re living in my alternate universe, so let’s just go with it.
So here’s the real question: What could the Knicks have gotten for Melo in the 2012 offseason (and which deal would have made the most sense)?
A reminder: Melo had the ability to (and did) exercise an Early Termination Option on his contract in 2014, so it’s unlikely a team he didn’t want to go to would have given up much for two years worth of a pouty Melo.
With that as the backdrop, here are the possibilities:
Melo to the Bulls for Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler and a future first
Butler was coming off a rookie season in which he averaged just 2.6 points in 42 games, so the question is less about whether the Bulls realized what they had in Jimmy and more about whether the Knicks would have been smart enough to demand him in the trade.
Deng over Boozer makes the most sense as the primary salary to come over in the deal, just because Melo was still a full-time three at this point and the Knicks hadn’t yet completely given up hope on a Stoudemire resurrection.
Would Melo have gone willingly? Given how far his flirtation got with the Bulls two years later, my guess is yes.
The Knicks? They’d have been able to trot out a starting lineup of Lin, Shump, Butler, Deng and Chandler, with Taj coming off the bench, plus whichever veterans came via trade or signing.
Of all the ones I list here, this is probably the most likely.
Melo to Miami for Chris Bosh
Would the defending champion Heat have broken up the big three? If they did, would this have been broken NBA Twitter when it was still in its infancy? Does Miami still win a ring in 2012-13? How would the Knicks have looked with Bosh and Tyson Chandler as alternating pick and roll partners for Lin?
I will spend far too many minutes pondering all of these questions.
Melo to Boston for Paul Pierce, a 2012 first round pick and a future first
Remember when those Melo-to-the-Celtics rumors popped up around one of the trade deadlines (I honestly can’t remember which one) after he had gotten his no trade clause, and the word was that he had no interest in going to Boston?
I swear this really happened.
In any case, he wouldn’t have had a choice here. Would Boston have made the trade coming off a conference finals appearance? Given how Ainge broke up the core one summer later, one would think he’d have done it here for a player similar to Pierce but nearly seven year his junior.
I’m 97% sure I’m happy this didn’t happen.
Let’s move on.
Melo to Houston for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and 2013, 2015 and 2017 1st round draft picks
NBA history changed forever.
Daryl Morey, desperate for a star after failing to land Lin, gives up the Harden package and then some before Harden himself ever comes on the market.
This trade probably doesn’t help the Knicks all that much, because Morey is a smart GM and he’d have figured out a way to make it work around Melo. Still, it’s fascinating to wonder where Harden would have eventually gotten traded to instead.
Melo to Brooklyn for Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, 2014, 2016 and 2018 1st round draft picks and a 2017 pick swap
“The Trade” one year earlier, with the Knicks as the beneficiary of Mikhail Prokhorov’s desperation?
Over James Dolan’s dead body, perhaps.
Better question: how would Melo, D-Will and Joe Johnson have worked together in Brooklyn? It’d have been better than what transpired with KG & Pierce, but Williams would have still begun to decline - probably enough for Melo to bolt in free agency in 2014.
Melo to the Clippers for Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Eric Bledsoe and 2014, 2016 and 2018 first round picks
This was Jeremy’s choice on the pod.
In short, I don’t think the Knicks would have bitten. The Clips would have been loaded, and the picks wouldn’t have been perceived as nearly enough value. Plus, a certain cross-town rival would have done just about anything to outbid them…
Melo to the Lakers, Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia, Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vučević, Josh McRoberts, a 2018 Sixers 1st and a future Lakers 1st to the Knicks
If the Knicks really prioritized taking care of Melo, this is the trade they make, with the Lakers essentially sending out the Dwight package, but for Anthony instead.
Iggy at the three would have been a seamless fit, and Vooch was about to come into his own. That team could have won some games.
The picks are what makes this trade interesting though. I left it as “future Lakers first” because this theoretically could have proceeded the Steve Nash trade, in which the Lakers famously sent out multiple first rounders to Phoenix, one of which miraculously kept falling into a protected range and thus didn’t convey until 2018.
Perhaps the Knicks could have gotten their hands on one of those picks first, and haggled down the protections so it would have conveyed during one of the years when the Lakers were truly awful. If so, this deal could have netted Lonzo Ball or Brandon Ingram as well.
As for the Sixers’ pick, it ended up turning into Landry Shamet (Orlando eventually traded it back to Philly in a later deal after the Howard trade). So yeah, the Knicks would have been set up nicely for the future as well.
Are any of these trades worth giving up 2012-13 for? Many Knick fans (mostly ones who started following the team this century) wouldn’t trade that team for anything. I get it.
But it was also a house of cards, largely dependent on the contributions of veterans (either on the court or off) who were at the literal end of their careers, as well as Melo, who is maybe the most fickly superstar of his generation.
Mostly, I’m just curious as to whether Linsanity could have lived on in New York. His career was marred by injury after he left the Knicks, but who knows if that would have been the case had he stayed. Could a healthy Lin, after adjusting to the league (who can forget the “Welcome to the NBA moment” Miami gave him in their first regular season matchup) have done some damage with a chance to run his own team?
We are talking about someone who started 82 games for a 45-win Rockets squad the year after he left New York. While his supporting cast here - whether it contained Iguodala & Vooch, or Butler & Taj, or whomever - wouldn’t have had Harden, it would have arguably been more talented overall.
Could that version of the Knicks have avoided the not-so-slow descent into hell that brought us Bargs, 17 wins, and eventually KP? Who knows. But as sacrilegious as this is to some fans, it’s an alternative reality I’d have liked to see.
(Although not keeping Melo means no OKC trade, which means no Mitch, so maybe everything does happen for a reason)
Speaking of Melo, it’s tough to imagine his career with only 1.5 uneventful seasons as a Knick. Love him or hate him, it’s probably for the best that he had a longer run.
And who knows…maybe “What if Melo retired as a Knick” won’t be a “What If” for much longer.
News & Notes
James Dolan sold the Forum for $400 million. Who knows why this happened now - or what it means.
Is Dolan strapped for cash? I doubt it, but it is interesting that he relented now of all times. Hopefully, at the very least, this will ensure that ALL of MSG’s employees, part time and otherwise, will continue to get paid during the shutdown.
Other than that, maybe the influx of cash means that the Knicks’ decision making this offseason - whenever it gets here - won’t be as driven by selling tickets and will be more focused on winning games. Or so we hope.
Lastly, our hearts go out to Karl-Anthony Towns, whose mom is in a medically induced coma thanks to this wretched disease. And for that matter, prayers up to anyone out there either dealing with this themselves or who knows someone who is. Stay strong and we shall get through this together.
We’re Knick fans, after all. We’re built for tough times.