New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony made headlines when reports surfaced that he’d be willing to accept a trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Should the Cavs explore trading Kevin Love, in this scenario, for a second time?
Last year, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks and Boston Celtics were discussing a three-team deal that would send Kevin Love to Boston, Carmelo Anthony to Cleveland and likely Jae Crowder and others to the New York Knicks.
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Last year, those rumors were prompted by Love’s inability to find a role he felt comfortable in within the Cleveland Cavaliers offense, Anthony’s age and friendship to James and Boston’s intense search for a superstar big man.
This season, Love almost seems untouchable and Anthony is fine with being traded as long as it’s to the Cleveland Cavaliers or one of the two Los Angeles franchises.
The three-team trade that was discussed last year has a good chance of happening in the offseason, as both teams try to make a playoff push. It has a decent chance of happening before the trade deadline, if only because Anthony is one of James’ best friends in the league.
Nonetheless, with Love’s play as of late and the possibility that Crowder wouldn’t enjoy playing for Jackson in New York, there’s also the possibility that Knicks may want to try to trade for Love straight-up. It’s more simple, the salaries match, and it prevents a strong team in the Boston Celtics from becoming stronger.
The Cavs, who are trading away an All-Star power forward averaging a double-double with 21.2 points and 11.0 rebounds per game are doing the New York Knicks a favor. Love, who is an intelligent player that’s trying to make the right plays, has a championship pedigree that Carmelo Anthony doesn’t have. The way Love is playing this season shows that.
Love, who has an effective field goal percent of 52.9 and is knocking in threes at a 38.5 percent rate, is only 28 years old. That makes him four years younger than Anthony, who will actually be 33 before Love turns 29. With that said, the Cavaliers are receiving a first-round pick because they’re trading away an All-Star in his prime for a superstar that is on a decline.
To that point, Anthony is one of the heralded players from the 2003 draft class. The former third overall pick is a true triple-threat player with an inside-outside game. Offensively, his biggest flaw is that he doesn’t move the ball around enough. Defensively, Carmelo is the complete opposite of Love. Love always seems to try to be in the right place at the right time. Anthony is liable to give up on making a defensive impact on the play.
In New York, Love will play power forward while Kristaps Porzingis plays center. Porzingis’ playing center is a move that increases the offensive and defensive potential of the Knicks.
Defensively, Porzingis will be a more mobile center than 31-year-old Joakim Noah and a better shot-blocker because of his physical gifts. He won’t be the defensive anchor that Noah is in terms of communication instantly but he’s not incapable of being one. He’s 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-6 wingspan and a 37.5 inch max vertical. He’s also mobile enough to step out onto the perimeter and defend and then get back to the rim to protect the paint.
Offensively, Porzingis is able to shoot, post-up, pass or put the ball on the floor from the center position, tools that instantly make him a mismatch. He, along DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl Anthony-Towns and Myles Turner, will be a top-five center in the league because of their two-way ability.
What makes the New Knicks offense special isn’t that Love will be playing power forward and that there are now two frontcourt players that offer space for Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings to attack (although, with Love in the starting frontcourt there should be a spike in Rose’s assist numbers).
With Love at power forward, there are also now two players in the frontcourt with the skillset to fit what the New York Knicks and Phil Jackson want to be their offensive system, the triangle offense. One of the key components to the triangle offense is a player like Pau Gasol or Horace Grant, a frontcourt player who can post-up but also have guard skills. Namely, the ability the pass and shoot out to the elbow area. In this case, the Knicks can run a more advanced version of the triangle. There are two players with guard skills and both players are able to shoot it well from behind the arc.
One of Jackson’s biggest critiques of Anthony was that he didn’t pass the ball. With Anthony off the court and Love in his place, the ball movement will flow. That’s because the Knicks could now start Mindaugus Kuzminskas or Brandon Jennings in the backcourt, two players who can also shoot the three-ball and that thrive at ball-movement.
Love is simply a more efficient option than Melo and gives the team at least two cornerstone players.
What Carmelo Anthony Brings To The Cleveland Cavaliers
On the court, this trade works better for the Cleveland Cavaliers than many may think.
Unlike Love, Anthony is a true triple-threat who can shoot, pass, or drive in an isolation situation. That will put the Cleveland Cavaliers offensive talent on par with the Golden State Warriors, if not better. Watching Anthony in the Olympic Tournaments or All-Star Games, he loves playing beside James because he’s always found where he’s open to shoot.
At every point in his career, he’s been looked at as “the guy” but that’s not why Anthony doesn’t pass the ball as much as people would like. Outside of Chauncey Billups, who Anthony had as a teammate when he was young and trying to build his name into a brand, Anthony has never played with a point guard who was a pass-first player. With James, expect to see Melo more as a catch-and-shoot player who takes his opportunities to attack as they come. Also expect Melo to pass the ball more because there’s no way he’s waving off James or Kyrie Irving to take the last shot.
Defensively, Anthony won’t be much worse than Love at defending power forwards and if he is, he can switch with James and guard the opposing small forward. That would be impossible with Love at power forward.
In any case, while Anthony may give up some size to the bigger power forwards, he’s quicker and more lithe and so he’s to prevent himself from getting beat off-the-dribble from players on the perimeter as much as Love.
The biggest question about Anthony’s defense is his commitment to it. Yet, on the Cleveland Cavaliers, don’t expect that to be an issue. Plenty of players, like former teammate J.R. Smith and Love himself, went from not putting forth a championship-level of effort on that end to being shining examples of defensive studies. The question for Melo on defense won’t be if he wants to play defense, it will be how well he can play defense giving maximum effort.
With the speed advantage he has over Love, as long as he puts forth maximum effort, he will be a better defender than Love while also providing offensive capabilities that Love doesn’t have either.
This trade also mercifully prevents the Cleveland Cavaliers from rolling out lineups with Love at center. Although Love has done well against smaller centers, he’s still prone to being pushed around by the bigger centers. Melo and James would be guarding the forwards while Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye stick on the centers. If the Cavs want that much space, they can put either Anthony or James at the power forward position and while they lose some rebounding potential, both are more versatile scorers than Love at the power forward position.
To that point, a lineup with Irving, James, Anthony, Thompson and any shooter (that the Cavs have) is dangerous.
This trade could force the Cleveland Cavaliers to reconsider if they need another big man, since the Cavs lose five rebounds per game with the absence of Love and a player they’ve used at center. With the first round pick the Cavs receive in this trade, it shouldn’t be hard for the team to get any player they need.