I’ll get straight to the point:
Sources: Knicks, Rockets working on Carmelo Anthony trade scenarios that include four-team deals. Sides motivated but no agreement imminent.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 12, 2017
We’ve been hearing for a few days now, both from sources we trust and sources we’re a bit more skeptical of, that—at the very least—Carmelo Anthony is confident he’ll be heading to Houston to play for the Rockets. Then, yesterday, The Undefeated posted an interview Marc J. Spears did with Chris Paul that ended with this:
The last line from Chris Paul on Melo possibly coming to Houston: "Man, sit back and wait." https://t.co/2YcSjCuOC7— Steve Popper (@StevePopper) July 11, 2017
Those sound like the words of a man who knows his best friend is going to be traded to his new team. But that wasn’t anything too concrete. Today, however, we have our first confirmation from an unimpeachable source that the Knicks and the Rockets are working on a Melo trade.
Of course, the most shocking part of Woj’s tweet is that the Knicks and Rockets are attempting to put together a four-team deal. Four-team deals are very rare because they’re quite convoluted, thanks to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. In any trade, a team that is over the cap has certain restrictions placed on how much salary they can take back (and a team that is over the level at which they need to pay the tax is even further restricted). Further, trades that involve more than two teams require that each involved team trades something to or receives something from every other team. So it’s pretty easy to see why four-team trades don’t happen too often (the last one was the Andrew Bynum trade).
So the obvious question now is why the Knicks and Rockets would be attempting to make a four-team deal if they’re so hard to pull off. The likely reason is that New York wants to cut salary in a Melo deal so the team can sign a veteran point guard. Additionally, the Knicks are looking for young players/assets in any Melo trade, so they’re not interested in Ryan Anderson, who the Rockets will have to trade away to take on Melo’s salary. One team that has been mentioned as an Anderson destination is the Portland Trail Blazers, but the Blazers are over the cap and therefore cannot provide the Knicks with any salary relief in a trade. Thus, a fourth team needs to get involved, one that is under the cap and can take on salary while sending the Knicks very little in return.
As Woj says, no trade is imminent. And with a four-team deal being the goal, it could be a protracted wait for a resolution. But regardless, it’s getting more and more likely that Carmelo Anthony has played his last game as a New York Knick.
UPDATE (1:29 PM): Woj’s article on the trade talks provides some good context:
No deal was imminent Wednesday, but the Knicks and Rockets are confident that they have a willing third-team trade partner incorporated into the framework, the sources said.
The fourth team was needed to move a particular player contract that neither the Knicks nor Rockets could or would accept in the deal, league sources said.
This is an angle I hadn’t considered, but one that makes sense. As an aside, Woj also mentions that the Cleveland Cavaliers are still hoping to land Melo. But it seems like Rockets or bust as things currently stand, at least on the trade front.