As is typical this time of year in the NBA, trade rumors are heating up all around the league. The latest big rumor is that the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers have discussed a potential trade to exchange Blake Griffin for Carmelo Anthony. There is no word on what other players or draft picks would be involved, but the Clippers would have to throw in at least one or two players to make salaries match. This would be a huge blockbuster, but the deal is a long way from becoming a reality. However, this is a potential trade that actually makes sense for both sides.
The major factor here is the fact that Anthony can opt out his contract this summer, leaving the Knicks with nothing. The Knicks want to re-sign Anthony, but he seems set on testing free agency. The Clippers would obviously not trade for Anthony without him signing a contract extension, but there is every reason to believe he would happily sign a long term deal with Los Angeles. In Griffin, the Knicks would get a 24 year old who is under contract though 2017 with a player option for the 2017-18 season.
On the court, this deal would give the Clippers a pure scorer that they don’t have. Despite his flaws in other areas, Anthony may be the single best scorer in the NBA. His presence would take some scoring pressure off of Chris Paul, which would allow him to be more of a distributor. Paul is at his best when he is making the people around him better, and he and Anthony would form a lethal combination. However, this move would certainly weaken the Clippers from a defensive standpoint. The only way they could make this deal is if they were completely comfortable with the idea that DeAndre Jordan could cover for Anthony’s defensive deficiencies.
The Knicks would be able to begin to rebuild around Griffin, who would still give them superstar they need. Griffin has become a much more complete player over the last two seasons, and he should only continue to improve. Removing Anthony would also start to end some of the Knicks’ problems with playing isolation offense and lazy defense. The Knicks would probably get worse this year, but this move would be a great start towards a rebuild.
There is also the chemistry factor to consider. It is well known that Paul and Anthony want to play together, and Paul could push the front office to make this deal happen. There were also many reports of a rift between Paul and Griffin last season, so the Clippers could feel that this deal will help them in that area. For the Knicks, Anthony and J.R. Smith have created a culture that simply doesn’t work, and they need to move in a new direction.
In the end, I don’t believe that the this deal will happen because the Clippers can’t say with any certainty that will get significantly better by making it. Giving up a 24 year old star is a risky move no matter who you get in return, and Anthony’s track record of playoff failure is well documented. That might change because Anthony would not be the best player on the team for the first time in his career, but I doubt the Clippers want to take this risk. This trade could work for both sides and it is certainly an interesting rumor, but it will likely never be more than that.