Carmelo Anthony’s Deal and its Impact on the Knicks

By: Prad

Carmelo Anthony forced his way into the Big Apple in February 2011 ending the so-called “Melo drama.” Ever since then, he has brought hope to the millions of Knicks fans that have been disappointed countless times over the last 40 years. When Phil Jackson came to the Knicks in March, he promised the opportunity to contend in the Eastern Conference and re-signing Melo is the first step in doing so. Anthony signed a five year-$124 million contract to stay in New York until 2019 with an early termination option in the summer of 2018. He agreed to less than the maximum $129 million in order to leave some cap room for the Knicks to sign other free agents. But signing Carmelo to such a massive deal has inevitably limited the Knicks’ options for the remainder of the offseason. So, was signing Melo, in fact, worth the trouble?

Will Carmelo Anthony ever change his mentality? Courtesy of Zimbio
Will Carmelo Anthony ever change his mentality?
Courtesy of Zimbio

There is no simple answer to this question. You can’t go wrong either way. Does he have the potential to bring a Championship to New York? From what we’ve seen thus far, the answer is a resounding “no.” The first indication of this was his inability to coalesce with Amar’e Stoudemire when he came aboard in 2011. STAT was second in the league in scoring behind only Kevin Durant prior to the trade that brought Anthony to Madison Square Garden.  It was immediately evident that Melo is best in isolation. Unfortunately, the rest of the team suffers when the ball sticks and ball movement is limited. Anthony’s limited postseason success in his 11 year career  is a definite result of his style of play. Yet, the Knicks are steadfast in their belief in Melo and believe he can adapt to a different game plan if given the chance.

We will see if Melo is willing to compromise his personal glory for the success of the team this upcoming season. With a new coach in Derek Fisher and the implementation of the Triangle offense, the Knicks are hoping they will not stagnate as much with the ball. If the game plan is phased in correctly, Melo’s usage rate will inevitably drop. Usage rate calculates the percentage of possessions a player uses while he is in the game and Anthony is fourth in the league in this category with 30.1 this past season. The next Knick on the list was Stoudemire who ranked 93rd in the NBA. The ball is in Carmelo’s hands an overwhelming number of minutes and the Knicks cannot possibly win when that holds true.

Jose Calderon will be an absolutely critical piece of the renovated offense next season Courtesy of ESPN
Jose Calderon will be a critical component to the renovated offense next season
Courtesy of ESPN

New York cannot afford any big name free agents this offseason, so they’ll have to make do with what they have. In their recent trade with Dallas, they dealt Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton and acquired Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington and Shane Larkin and  Samuel Dalembert. There are a few important consequences of this trade. First, Jose Calderon fits perfectly within the Knicks’ new triangle offense. A seasoned veteran, Calderon will be able to adjust quickly to the demands of Coach Fisher and help elevate the aforementioned ball movement. Second, Shane Larkin can become the point guard of the future for the Knicks. With Calderon and Fisher’s mentorship in the new offense, Larkin can improve his game immensely. He was supposed to be a focal point of the Mavericks’ plans for the future, but only time will tell how he will fit into his new offense. Third, the Knicks get rid of Ray Felton and Tyson Chandler. Felton was plagued with off the court issues and ineffectiveness in his last season with the team. And Chandler was troubled by injuries, which ended up limiting him to 55 games. Phil Jackson will probably not make too many more acquisitions, as the team’s cash is strapped for this summer.

The Knicks are going into this season not knowing what to expect and will probably have their fair share of issues in the first twenty games. Those hitches are expected with a completely revamped coaching staff and entirely different offensive scheme with hopefully a new and more team-oriented Carmelo Anthony. Still, you cannot lose faith in Phil Jackson and Melo. The team will resolve their initial problems, which will most likely pertain to the the implementation of the Triangle offense. They could make the playoffs but it is certainly not a guarantee. Again, much of this depends on whether or not Anthony can fit within the new offense under Derek Fisher and his staff. Phil Jackson is only hoping the strategy works as effectively as it did when he was coaching the Bulls in the ’90s and Lakers in 2000s.

Phil Jackson hired Derek Fisher to run the Triangle Offense in New York Courtesy of ABC News
Phil Jackson hired Derek Fisher to run the Triangle Offense in New York
Courtesy of ABC News

The Knicks have a bright future ahead with both Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire coming off the books next summer. With those contracts ending, $23 million will free up in cap space next offseason. Jackson and the Knicks will certainly court some big names including Goran Dragic, Roy Hibbert, Marc Gasol, Rajon Rondo, and Kevin Love if he doesn’t get traded and signs a long term deal in between now and then. Even if the Knicks land one of those names with Gasol being their priority, they can contend in the Eastern Conference. Gasol would fit well in the triangle offense and his ability to be the defensive anchor makes the prospective Knicks even more potent. There is a euphoria surrounding the franchise and all Knicks fans should be excited about the direction of the team.

What the Heat must do to stay relevant in the East

By: Jon

 

The biggest loser in the whole LeBron James saga is obviously the Miami Heat. However, the biggest winner, even bigger than the Cleveland Cavaliers, is Chris Bosh. When free agency opened a week and a half ago, many believed that Bosh’s decision came down to the Heat and taking less money (about $80 million over 5 years) or the Rockets and making the max money ($88 million over 4 years). However, when James decide to shock the world and follow the words of J. Cole “I’m Coming Home”, the consensus opinion was that Bosh would leave South Beach and head for Houston to team up with Harden and Howard and become one of the favorites to win the championship. At the end of the day, Bosh shocked the NBA world and decided to re-sign with the Miami Heat for the max deal, 5 years and $118 million. The Heat were in an incredibly vulnerable position without James and a decrepit Wade and immensely overpaid for the services of Chris Bosh.

Although Bosh has shown the capability of leading a team to the playoffs during his time with Toronto, he is not LeBron James and the Heat will need to add another star and a significantly better bench if the Heat are going to compete in the East. Since Bosh became the third wheel on the Heat four years ago, his rebounding and shooting numbers declined each year. This year, Bosh’s numbers should dramatically increase as he will likely become the number one option. If Bosh stops shooting threes and shows a willingness to bang inside, Bosh should return to putting up 20-10s almost every night for the Heat. The Heat will likely wait to re-sign Bosh or Wade because they possess their Bird Rights, which enable them to go over the cap.

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Along with re-signing Bosh, the Heat are determined and extremely likely to sign Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem. After opting out of their respective short term deals, the duo, who has won three championships with the Heat, will look for long term security, while sacrificing annual money. Although Wade was set to make $20 million this year, reports state that he is likely to receive a 5 year deal worth about $60-$65 million. If Wade takes less money, it will enable the Heat to spend more on free agents during the offseason.

Although Wade’s health has significantly decreased over the past few years, he is able to occasionally play at a high level if he is given the proper rest. Although Wade does not have the knees to carry a team through the playoffs or maybe even a playoff series, he can be a good second or third option for a team that wins a series or two. Without James, Wade will probably shoot more often, which will lead to an increase in points, but likely a decrease in shooting percentage as the top wing defenders will take Wade instead of James. Although Wade has been known for his great defense in the past, he gave very little effort on defense during the Finals, which will be unacceptable next year. Haslem was set to earn about $5 million this season, but will likely sign a deal for about 3-4 years at $3-4 per year. Although Haslem is mostly over the hill, he can provide solid defense and occasional offensive output.

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With the contracts of Bosh, $20.7M, Wade, $12M, Haslem, $3.5M, Napier, $1.4M, Granger, $2M, McRoberts, $5.5M, and Cole, $2.15, the Heat have approximately $46.5M in salaries and about $15.5M in remaining cap salary and $30.5M until they hit the luxury tax, which they will definitely not pay under the current situation. Although the Heat signed Josh McRoberts, they will likely wait to sign all the players they want and use their mid level exception on McRoberts. Thus, the team will spend about $30M more during the offseason, they need to sign at least 8 more players to fill the required 15 slots.

The latest news around the Heat is that they are looking at Luol Deng to partially fill the void that LeBron left in Miami. It has been reported that Deng is commanding about $10M a year over 2 years. Although Deng still in the middle/end of his prime, 29, he has played an outstanding amount of minutes. However, the Heat would still be receiving at least one to two years of Deng in his prime and another year of above average play. Since Deng has entered into the league, he has been one of the most consistent players in the league, offensively and defensively. While Deng has the ability to be a number 2 option on a quality team, he is willing to be the number 3 option on offense, while playing great defense. Although Deng cannot reproduce the playmaking and offensive skill of LeBron, his defensive prowess cannot be understated. Even behind Bosh and Wade, Deng should average about 15 points per game while averaging about 5 assists and 6 rebounds.

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Along with Deng’s contract, the Heat should have enough money to make a play at another big time free agent. Two options that the Heat should explore are Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe. After three years as a backup point guard behind Chris Paul, Bledsoe went to Phoenix and showed that he had the capability to be an above average point guard in the league for a long time. Although he missed nearly half the season, Bledsoe averaged 18 points per game and 6 assists while playing with fellow point guard Goran Dragic. Bledsoe would be a great fit for the Heat because they do not have a very good point guard on the roster. Bledsoe is a restricted free agent, but the Suns will be reluctant to match any high offer with Dragic and Isiah Thomas on their team. Although Bledsoe will unlikely command the max, 4 year $63M, he should earn a hefty salary, 4 year $48M.

Although Monroe plays the opposite position of Bledsoe, center/power forward, he has been an extremely productive and underrated player for the Pistons over the last 4 years. Monroe has an above average inside game, which will fit with the other members of the Heat’s roster. Since Monroe has been a consistent and healthier player over the last few years, he will command and receive a more expensive contract than Bledsoe. The Heat will need to offer near the max, 4 year $60M if they are going to sign the young stud. If the Heat sign Bledsoe, they will have about $8M left to sign the 6 members on their team. They will probably sign 2-3 at the league minimum and the rest for contracts at or near $2.5-3M. If they decide to sign Monroe, their bench will inevitably be less deep.

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Pics and Stats from ESPN.com

Analyzing the short and long terms effects of the Jeff Samardizja – Addison Russell trade

By: Jon

 

Short term effects for the Oakland Athletics

Although Billy Beane has not been known to be serious buyers at the trading deadline, he has completed the biggest trade to date. Before the Athletics made the trade for Jeff Samardizja and Jason Hammel, they owned the second best ERA, 3.11, in the league and arguably had the best starting rotation in all of baseball. Although the Athletics had a solid rotation with budding stars Sonny Gray, Jesse Chavez, Scott Kazmir, and Tommy Milone, they have been eliminated in the playoffs by the Tigers the past two seasons because they did not have the pitching to match Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and, Anibal Sanchez. The A’s staff took a major hit when they lost Jarrod Parker for the season at the beginning of the year.

However, the addition of Samardizja and Hammel puts the A’s rotation over the Tigers’ rotation. During the first half of the year, Samardizja has been one of the best pitchers in major league baseball and has the potential to be the ace of the A’s staff. Although Samardizja has accumulated only three wins, he possesses an ERA of 2.74, 108 strikeouts, 1.17 WHIP, and 115 innings. Samardizja should feel rejuvenated with the A’s because they have the ability to score runs, unlike the Cubs. During his first and only start with the A’s, Samardizja tossed 7 innings while allowing only one run, striking out five, and earned the win. Although it is unlikely that the A’s will be able to re-sign Samardizja when he hits free agency, he does not become a free agent until the next winter, which will give the A’s two chances to win the World Series.

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If the A’s are unable to repeat their success next season, the A’s could use Samardizja as trade bait before the trade deadline next year. Although Hammel will unlikely have the same effect as Samardizja, he will be important if the A’s are going to secure home field advantage for the American League playoffs. Like Samardizja, Hammel has pitched brilliantly for the Cubs, but has not received much run support. During the first half of the year, Hammel pitched to an ERA of 2.98 with a WHIP of 1.02 and 104 strikeouts in 108.2 innings. If Hammel can maintain his success, he will continue to eat innings for the A’s and provide the team with a few extra wins. Hammel will likely be called upon to pitch game 4 of the ALCS and WS if they make it that far into the playoffs. Unlike Samardizja, Hammel is a free agent this offseason, which means that he will likely be a half season rental.

 

Long term effects for the Chicago Cubs

In return for trading away their two best starting pitchers, the Cubs received pitcher, Dan Strailey, outfielder, Billy McKinney, and the grand prize shortstop, Addison Russell. The trade is extremely interesting and questioning for the Cubs because they desperately need young pitching, but did not receive a solid pitching prospect in the deal. Although Strailey had a nice season the best two years, he does not project as a future starter that the Cubs can build around. Along with the fact that they did not receive a pitching prospect, they got Addison Russell, eleventh best prospect by Baseball America, although they already have two shortstops, Javier Baez, sixth best prospect by Baseball America, who projects to be an All-Star in the future, and Starlin Castro, who earned his second All-Star bid this season.

Although Russell has a far superior glove to Castro and Baez, he does not possess the same bat as the duo. The Cubs will have a difficult time moving the shortstops because they already possess a stud third baseman, Kris Bryant, eight best prospect by Baseball America Arismendy Alcantara, 71st best prospect and the second rated second baseman by Baseball America, and first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, one of the bright young players in the league. Theo Epstein noted that he would be willing to trade one of his star shortstops or move them to the outfield in order to put the most talented lineup on the field.

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Although the Cubs are stacked in terms of positional players, specifically shortstop, only two of their top nine prospects are pitchers and neither has pitched many games past High-A. The Cubs should look to trade their top positional prospect for another team’s top pitching prospect (they did a similar deal to acquire Anthony Rizzo). Along with Russell, the Cubs received the A’s 2012 first round pick and outfielder, Billy McKinney. Although McKinney ranked as one of the A’s best prospects and Baseball America says he is the Cubs’ 9th best prospect, the Cubs already have Albert Almora, 15th best prospect by Baseball America, and Jorge Soler, 41st best prospect by Baseball America. Instead of Strailey and McKinney, the Cubs should have attempted to reel in Raul Alcantara and/or Bobby Wahl. Although neither projects to become a future ace, they would have provided the Cubs with added depth at the position. The Cubs could have also tried to construct a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays for some of their young pitchers. Of the Jays top nine prospects, four are starting pitchers and 3 rank inside the top 100 best prospects, including star prospect Aaron Sanchez. A deal around Sanchez would have put the Cubs in a better situation as they attempt to finish their rebuilding a win games.