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Re-Evaluating the Carmelo Anthony Trade with Wilson Chandler in China


Carmelo Anthony checks out the progress of the MSG Transformation from the Arena floor.

Carmelo Anthony checks out the progress of the MSG Transformation from the Arena floor.

Rebecca Taylor/MSG Photos
Updated August 31, 2011
The news that Wilson Chandler will spend the 2011-12 season in China - with no opt-out - has fans re-considering the Carmelo Anthony trade.

The deal seemed a touch lopsided at the time. The Knicks sent Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton and Timofey Mozgov - all of whom were starters at one time or another - along with a 2014 first-round pick, two second-rounders and $3 million in cash to Denver, bringing back Anthony, Chauncey Billups, and some spare parts. Denver's second-half hot streak, and the Knicks' struggles to integrate Anthony and Billups, tilted the scales even further in Denver general manager Masai Ujiri's favor.

But the Knicks didn't make the deal for 2011. And what's happened since the NBA Finals has evened the ledger more than a little.

The Knicks opted to pick up the option year in Billups' contract, so he and 'Melo will be back at Madison Square Garden whenever the 2011-12 season tips off. And Anthony Carter - one of the "spare parts" in the deal - could join them; you can bet Mike D'Antoni would love to have the veteran back after Carter's impressive performance against the Celtics in the playoffs.

But some of the "Knuggets" won't be suiting up for George Karl this season. Felton was the first to go; Ujiri decided to eliminate any doubt as to who the starting point guard would be by swapping Felton for a much-older Andre Miller. And Chandler will be on the other side of the Great Wall. That leaves Denver with Gallo, Mozgov and the draft picks...

Or does it?

A lot will depend on Chandler's next move, and how restricted free agency is addressed in the next collective bargaining agreement. Theoretically, the Nuggets retain the right to match any NBA offer to Chandler, just as the Hawks did when RFA Josh Childress jetted off to Greece for two seasons. But the Chinese season ends in April - Chandler could accept the Nuggets' tender offer and return to the team for the playoffs, satisfying the last year of his NBA deal and making him a free agent in the summer of 2012. And both scenarios assume that restricted free agency exists in the next collective bargaining agreement; there's no guarantee that will be the case.

So while a lot of people are looking at Chandler's Chinese contract as a calculated gamble that the 2011-12 NBA season will be canceled or at least substantially shortened, there's another possibility. Maybe this is a ploy to get out of Denver and hit free agency in 2012, which should be a much more advantageous time to be negotiating contracts. (And as Alan Hahn has pointed out, when the Knicks may have some money to spend.)

Chandler's move also casts the Felton/Miller trade in a less-favorable light. Ujiri made the deal, in part, to make Ty Lawson the unquestioned starter at the point. At 27 years old, Felton doesn't want to settle for a backup job; Miller is 35 and may be more amenable to a bench role (though he hasn't been in the past). But with Chandler out of the picture, JR Smith gone and Arron Afflalo a restricted free agent, it appears George Karl may have a pretty significant opening in his backcourt. Maybe a big enough opening to keep Felton happy.

So how do we evaluate the trade, given recent developments? From New York's perspective, it's more than fair to question whether it would have made more sense to gamble that Anthony would have been available as a free agent. A core roster of Felton, Gallinari, Anthony, Stoudemire, Mozgov, Landry Fields and Toney Douglas would probably be better than the current version. On the other hand, I doubt many Knicks fans would be eager to sit through two-plus months (and counting) of lockout with a whole lot of cap space and no idea when or how it could be spent.

On the Denver side, Gallinari could become a breakout star - he looked very good in Karl's offense last season. But Mozgov got very little playing time. Much of the value of the deal came from Chandler... or the possibility that Ujiri could get some value from Chandler in a second trade. Right now, that possibility seems remote.

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