So, the other sneaker finally has dropped! KA-BOOM! And the reverberations will keep the entire NBA shaking for years to come.
Let’s take an on-court look at both sides of the new equation.
CARMELO ANTHONY: Simply the most versatile scorer in the league. He can score every which way — in the low post, on pull-ups and fade-aways going either right or left, from beyond the arc and on the run. Too bad he is reluctant to pass, would much rather go one-on-one than play screen-roll, doesn’t always compete, can’t rebound in a crowd and is a chump on defense.
In other words, he’s just another numbers-hungry, super-duper star.
CHAUNCEY BILLUPS: The 34-year-old Billups is now the Knicks’ starting point guard. In his dotage, Billups has lost at least a step and rarely can drive the ball to the rim. His defense was always subpar but will go unnoticed because none of his new teammates ever have been accused of playing defense. Nor has Mike D’Antoni ever been accused of coaching defense.
What will become obvious is Billups’ inefficiency in playing the screen-roll game that’s so vital to D’Antoni’s half-court game plan. Sure, Billups is still tough, mature and capable of knocking down clutch shots. But he’s devolved into performing more like a shooting guard than a playmaker.
SHELDEN WILLIAMS: He is one of the least talented big men in the NBA. Given Ronny Turiaf’s inability to stay healthy, however, Williams will become the worst starting center the Knicks have had since Ray Felix.
ANTHONY CARTER: He should back up Billups, thereby moving Toney Douglas to his more natural shooting-guard position. Carter is steady and underrated, but only a passable shooter who is rapidly approaching his 36th birthday. Should Douglas still be the shoot-first second-string point, then Carter will be totally bench-bound.
RENALDO BALKMAN: He does play belligerent defense, but Balkman couldn’t guard his grandmother without fouling out. While Balkman is a terrific finisher in an open court, his granny probably has a better jump shot.
THE SKINNY: The Knicks are now a donut outfit. Even worse, the only sugar-coated scorer on the bench is the erratic and chronically out-of-shape Bill Walker. That translates into too much daylight for both Anthony and the already weary Amar’e Stoudemire.
In subtracting Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton, the Knicks forfeit 49.4 points per game. Anthony and Billups are scorers, but they only combine for 41.7 points per game. And because Stoudemire likely will remain the go-to guy, it’s likely that either the Knicks’ per-game average of 106.2 points per game (second highest in the NBA) will be slightly compromised, or that nobody except Anthony, Stoudemire and Billups will get many touches.
At the same time, the Knicks allow 105.8 points per game, which ranks them ahead of only the sad-sack Timberwolves. So the trade provides something New York already had in abundance and does nothing to help their most fatal flaw.
Even with ’Melo, the Knicks will continue to play only half of each game, which is why they’ll remain a .500 ball club.
Ah, but Madison Square Garden will be alive. And perhaps Melo’s presence will guarantee that Chris Paul also will change his address in July 2012.
RAYMOND FELTON: In the middle of a career year, Felton has been rendered instantly superfluous because Ty Lawson is the Nuggets’ point guard of the present and of the foreseeable future. There’s no way that Felton can accept being a backup, so look for him to be dealt elsewhere ASAP.
DANILO GALLINARI: The Italian is a streaky long-distance bomber who gets driving room only because defenders are obliged to stay in his grill. Yet there’s neither razzle nor dazzle in Gallinari’s ventures to the rim because he mostly moves in straight lines. He does play adequate position defense, yet he lacks the lateral quickness to prevent opponents from routinely beating him off the dribble. Despite the praise heaped on him by the adulatory New York media, Gallinari is just a tad better than the Bulls’ Kyle Korver and is best suited to be a scorer off the bench.
WILSON CHANDLER: He is a dynamic scorer. He can stop on a dime and spin himself into makeable shots, plus he also has terrific range. Forget about rebounding, passing and defending. In other words, Chandler is ’Melo-light.
TIMOFEY MOZGOV: The 7-foot-1 Russian is an athletic big man of considerable potential. He can hit short-range jumpers, run the floor and attack the offensive glass. What he can’t do is play defense without fouling. Mozgov is a long-range project who eventually could turn into the most important player that the Nuggets receive in the deal.
THE SKINNY: $3 million is a lot of money but, unless it’s changed into quarters and stacked above the foul line to be used as an unmovable screen, the Nuggets’ on-court fortunes will be unaffected. The middle-of-the-pack first-round pick Denver receives could be meaningful, but it probably won’t bring them the kind of impact player they need to be the foundation of their rebuilding process. The two second-round selections are strictly crap shoots that make the equation appear to be appealing.
Still, getting rid of ’Melo – who has had his bags packed since last July – is addition by subtraction. Given that Anthony practically had a gun to their heads, the Nuggets made the best of a bad situation. Their season already is shot and there’s still much dead wood to be cleared from their roster, but at least Denver didn’t get LeBronzed.