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Let’s make a Carmelo Anthony trade, part 1

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Eeny, meeny, miny, mo.

NBA: New York Knicks at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Oh the trade rumors, they are-a-swirlin’ about the Knicks’ beleaguered star Carmelo Anthony. One day, a trade is imminent and Melo’s slipping on his Timberland cowboy boots and getting ready to wrassle with the Warriors; the next, the Knicks want to have a little sit-down and try to work things out (or get Melo to increase his list of trade destinations beyond the Rockets and Cavaliers).

Until now, I’ve resisted the urge to make a “Here’s some Carmelo trades!” piece. It’s just so passé, or so I told myself. And yet here I am, standing at the precipice of Melo trade insanity, ready to sell out and go big. It’s time for the definitive article outlining the scenarios that move both the Knicks and Carmelo to a better place. Better yet, let’s make it a two-parter.

All of these proposals are done with the ESPN Trade Machine (play along at home!) and assume that Melo would be willing to waive his 15 percent trade kicker to facilitate a move (since the Trade Machine doesn’t account for it). Draft pick allocations can be found here. Not all of these trades will satisfy the rules of “each team involved in a multi-team trade needs to receive something from each team involved,” but the easy loophole to that is including heavily-protected second round picks. I’m not going to bother with that—just know that it’s implied.

Here’s some Carmelo trades:

Trade No. 1: The easiest trade

Houston receives: Carmelo Anthony

New York receives: Ryan Anderson, Tim Quarterman, Isaiah Taylor, Houston’s 2020 and 2022 first round picks and 2020 and 2021 second round picks

Look, contrary to reports that the Knicks apparently don’t want to receive Ryan Anderson back in a trade (with good reason), this is the easiest way to get this done.

The Rockets just signed James Harden to a $1 zillion Mexican peso contract extension that will take him through the 2022-23 season. Therefore, they have to know that even if Carmelo and Chris Paul walk after this season, they’re still in decent shape going forward. Those picks probably figure to be, at worst, late-teens picks with Harden in tow. And considering Daryl Morey’s track record as a free agent recruiter, you can bet that Melo and Paul would be replaced by another star or two sooner than later if they left.

As far as the Knicks’ side of things, they’re giving up the best player in the deal by far and receiving no actual players of value, so the two firsts and two seconds make up for that. Anderson’s not a bad player, per se, but a terrible fit for the Knicks on an even more terrible contract. His deal is why the Knicks get that second first rounder — essentially it’s one pick for Melo, the other for taking on Anderson’s deal. Quarterman and Taylor would certainly be worth bringing to camp, and maybe one of them would flourish into a role player (a la Justin Holiday), but they’re mostly just salary filler on non-guaranteed deals.

This isn’t my favorite solution to this situation in the slightest, but if both sides want a swift resolution, it’s the way to go.

Trade No. 2: Melo embraces his inner hipster

Portland receives: Carmelo Anthony

New York receives: Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard, Noah Vonleh, Portland’s 2018 first round pick

Similar to the Houston deal, this trade will serve as both a salary dump for the cap-strapped Blazers as well as getting them the best player in the deal. Harkless was a Knick target during the Phil Jackson regime, and the 24-year-old would fit the “young and defense-first” wish list of the new regime. Leonard is the true salary albatross here, but even despite how terrible he’s been with the Blazers lately, he too is only 25 and could serve as a reclamation project. Vonleh is somehow only 21 years old despite being in the league for 15 years, and he is on the final year of his rookie contract — the Blazers might not want to part with him, but given their cap situation, they would almost surely not want to pay him next summer, either. Allen Crabbe would have made sense here before the Tim Hardaway Jr. signing, but tying up $40 million in two shooting guards doesn’t seem too economical.

The Carmelo fit isn’t perfect for the Blazers, but they’ve allegedly said they’re not interested in facilitating a Melo trade to the Rockets and would prefer to have him all to themselves. Even with Melo this team would likely finish as—at best—a five-seed in the West, but would also almost surely make the playoffs. That renders giving up the draft pick more palatable. They’d score 130 a night (and give up 125) and it would be a hell of a ride.

Trade No. 3: LeBron’s final stand

Cleveland receives: Carmelo Anthony

Oklahoma City receives: Kevin Love

New York receives: Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler, Kay Felder, Oklahoma City’s 2022 first rounder and right to swap 2021 first round picks, Cleveland’s 2019 second rounder (least favorable of Orlando or LA Lakers’ pick)

This is the big one. The crème de la crème. The move that everyone’s been clamoring for for years. LeBron and Melo, superbuds on a superteam.

This trade assumes a lot, firstly that the Cavs management would cave to LeBron and trade Kevin Love for his best friend. In some eyes it would be seen as a lateral move, but Melo’s efficiency on offense would almost surely go up playing with the pass-first LeBron. Given their past successes together on Team USA, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that LeBron’s presence would be enough to coax a great season out of Melo (perhaps even some passable defense, with LeBron and Melo sharing time guarding opposing teams’ power forwards and small forwards). LeBron has worked wonders on players whose reputations were much more spotty and inconsistent than Melo’s has ever been (JR Smith and Iman Shumpert, anyone?).

For OKC, the appeal is obvious—try to make one more move to A) keep up with Cupcake and B) create a team that both Russell Westbrook and Paul George feel confident in for the next few years so that both re-sign. A lineup of Westbrook, Andre Roberson, George, Love and Steven Adams would strike fear across the league. Dare I say, I actually think that team could contend with the Warriors for the top overall seed.

The Knicks don’t end up with a world-conquering return here, but it’s something. OKC’s first in 2022 and right to swap in 2021 could be valuable (there’s some potential complications because of protections on the 2020 OKC pick that is owed to Orlando, but we’ll pretend that that pick conveys as planned). Cleveland gives a second rounder because they treat those like non-entities, and Felder gives the Knicks a decent scoring point guard prospect to back up Frank Ntilikina. Kanter would likely come off the bench behind Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez for the next two years, and Singler would continue to be the big ol’ lump of Elmer’s glue on the bench that he’s been for the last few seasons.

That’s it for my first installment... see you soon with part two! Feel free to talk about some Melo trade options in the comments, but be nice about it.