As the NBA trade season heats up, the Knicks have made no secret of their attempts to unload superstar Carmelo Anthony. The team has simply not lived up to expectations this year. The franchise has evidently decided to gear up for the future by freeing up cap space and acquiring younger players and/or draft assets. Of course, Anthony has to approve of any trade because of his no-trade clause.
The Clippers, seeking an addition that can help them reach the next level, have been widely rumored to be attempting to deal for Anthony. But, because of salary cap constraints — a contract the size of Anthony’s is difficult for any team to move — the Clippers will need to find a way to match Anthony’s salary if they want him on board for a 2017 playoff run.
That landing spot could be Orlando if general manager Rob Hennigan decides Crawford fits the bill for that scorer they are looking to add.
In all likelihood, Crawford does not move the Magic’s needle. He has declined significantly this season and almost all his advanced metrics are the lowest they have been since his rookie year. He is only a few months away from 37. It would not be wise to count on those trends turning around.
His contract locks him in through 2019 too, so any team that adds him must be prepared to absorb that money, which is anything but conducive to a rebuild attempt.
If the Magic proved anything this offseason, they proved they are willing to obstruct a rebuild by adding declining veterans if it means even a marginally better shot at the Playoffs. Taking Crawford would not be entirely out of character for an organization looking to do whatever it takes to creep into an eighth seed.
In return, Orlando could ship Jeff Green and his expiring contract to New York. That would give the Knicks the cap space they are reportedly seeking. While it previously appeared that the Magic would simply have to eat Jeff Green’s contract because of his lack of legitimate trade value, getting involved in this deal could help them turn nothing into something.
Predicting the specifics of this deal is tricky because it is hard to know exactly what the Knicks want. While they seem desperate to move Anthony and dump his salary, he is still a megastar.
The nature of the New York market may also pressure the organization into adding at least one established player so the deal seems less apocalyptic to its wider fanbase.
Chances are, the Clippers would ship Crawford to the third team and then move Austin Rivers and one or two other players to New York. If that third team is the Magic and they, in turn, move Green to the Knicks, then to match salaries the Knicks might have to unload a second, smaller contract like Lance Thomas.
While a player like Thomas could also be of use to the Magic (or the Clippers for that matter), that would obviously discourage the Knicks from going through with the deal. They would essentially be receiving an expiring contract (Green, a solid prospect (Rivers), and a role player (Johnson) while losing a strong role player in exchange for a generational superstar.
If the Knicks are desperate, that could be enough.
But the bottom line is they know they can probably get a better deal. And, in that case, they may ask for a draft asset from the pick-thin Clippers.
These complications could dissuade both sides from pulling the trigger.
If a Carmelo Anthony deal happens at all, it will be at the last minute when all parties involved are at their most desperate. Not many teams seem willing to take Crawford, which would probably be necessary for this deal to happen. But it would not be completely out of character for the Magic to do so.
Any hint at the Magic possibly getting in on a Melo trade is pure speculation at this point. But they might be exactly what the Knicks and Clippers need to push this thing through.