In February of 2011, the Knicks traded Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, the Knicks 2014 first-round draft pick, the Warriors’ 2012 second-round pick, the Warriors’ 2013 second-round pick and $3 million in cash for Carmelo Anthony. The trade was unpopular from the beginning, if only because Carmelo wanted to be a Knick and was due to hit unrestricted free agency after the season. So, let’s go with the theory here that Melo comes to NY on a max contract in free agency and the Knicks still have all of the pieces they traded.
First, let’s focus on the draft picks that they traded. The Knicks 2014 first-rounder was traded by Denver to Philly. The pick? Dario Saric, who was a ROY contender and is a very solid NBA player. If the Knicks wound up with a better record via the Melo signing, and therefore a later pick, players like Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic, Zach LaVine, and Clint Capela were still available after that pick.
Next up are the Warriors 2012 and 2013 second round picks. The Warriors second rounder was used on Draymond Green (though Khris Middleton was also still on the board). Imagine that. The 2015 Knicks would have had a roster of Melo, Green/Middleton, and Saric/Harris/Capela (Jokic was taken too late for the first round pick to be used on realistically, as he was still available in the next round. Assuming Amare Stoudemire’s knees still buckled, there’s a situation in which the success of this rebuilt roster would convince a top-tier power forward to commit via free agency to fill out this starting roster. That team has very serious Finals potential.
Now, let’s include the players that they traded FOR Carmelo. Wilson Chandler is still an incredibly useful player in today’s NBA, Ray Felton has morphed into a 3 point weapon and top-tier backup point guard, and Danilo Gallinari has been a very solid player (whilst healthy). The Knicks don’t have the cap space to match Mozgov’s contract and let him go. This is an incredibly solid roster top-to-bottom, and could have been a real challenger in the Eastern Conference. Do they ever win a title in the LeBron-run East? Probably not, but I wouldn’t count them out as the number one challengers to the Heat’s greatness. Adding in some players that they already had or added in the between years (Jason Kidd specifically) and they are a very real problem.
The only major loss is that they probably never are in a position to draft Kristaps Porzingis, but that was an incredibly weak draft so that roster spot is virtually void.
Overall, this trade altered NBA history, especially when it comes to the Knicks, and ultimately might have cost them a shot at a real run at the NBA Finals.
If you have any suggestions for “What If?” holler at me on Twitter @oh_my_gos.