The NBA trade deadline is about a month away, and the next few weeks are going to be a time rife with uncertainty for the New York Knicks. The rumor mill already has begun to churn, and increasingly it's Carmelo Anthony being discussed as a trade candidate. The building speculation makes sense. If the Knicks think that Anthony will leave them this summer, and they struggle over the next few weeks, wouldn't it make sense to deal their best player for the kind of assets that can fuel a rebuild?
Perhaps, but it's not so simple. This is not a repeat of 2010-11, when the notion of the Denver Nuggets losing Anthony seemed so potentially traumatic that the idea of an NBA version of the NFL's franchise tag was being floated. And though Anthony has played the best basketball of his career in New York, the paradigm has shifted. His time with the Knicks has demonstrated what should have been apparent all along, namely that an ultra-high-usage scoring star with questionable efficiency is not the kind of player who turns mediocrity into excellence.
Nevertheless, if the Knicks shop Anthony, they will be looking for the kind of assets they sent away to Denver in the Melo trade. But for a team to send that kind of haul New York's way, it would have to view Anthony as the Knicks did three years ago -- as a franchise savior. It's unlikely there are many, or any, general managers across the NBA who view Anthony in that light any more.
The hypothetical team that now takes an interest in Anthony will view him as a final piece (think Pippen, not Jordan). The offers the Knicks could expect will be predicated on this fundamental: No contending team will want to send out so many assets for Anthony that it crumbles the foundation already in place. The Knicks may find a lot of dead ends if they go searching for a trade partner.
This is of course complicated by the fact that Anthony can opt out of his contract after the season, so any team dealing for him would want assurances that he'd be more than a two-month rental. In fact, after establishing the various criteria that seems essential for any potential Anthony trade, I was left with the conclusion that there is really only one logical trade destination for Melo: the Chicago Bulls.