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Irish Coffee: Top 5 reasons not to fear Knicks

02.22.11 at 2:59 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

As details of the trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks from the Nuggets in a deal that involved 15 current and future NBA players leaked to the media, the man who led Syracuse University to the 2003 NCAA title as an 18-year-old appeared on TV in a pre-recorded interview with Conan O’Brien and stated that he’d indeed like to stay in Denver.

Whether Anthony’s answer was sincere makes little difference. The real question is this: Should the Knicks still want the NBA’s third-best small forward in a Nuggets uniform? Considering he likely would’ve joined New York this summer for less dollars anyway — and the Knicks wouldn’t have had to part with three of their best five players — the answer to that question in the long-term is Absolutely.

Here are the details of the Carmelo Anthony trade from the Knicks perspective …

Either way, the deal is done. So, that leaves another question: Should the Celtics, Heat or Bulls fear the Knicks at any point in the next four years? Here are the top five reasons they shouldn’t …

1. PAYROLL

The Knicks took on $3.1 million in pro-rated salaries as a result of the trade. No big deal in New York, right? For this season, maybe. Should Chauncey Billups‘ $14.2 million option kick in and Carmelo Anthony get his three-year, $65 million extension — as is expected — they’ll have assumed an estimated $37.6 million in salaries for 2011-12, more than twice the $17.2 million guaranteed they shipped out of town. And that’s before considering Corey Brewer‘s $5 million option.

As it stands now, the Knicks’ payroll next season is $42.2 million for eight players. Once you add Anthony’s expected average annual value from 2011-14 ($21.7 million), that number balloons to $63.9 million, which would put them well over the current $58.0 million salary cap (obviously, we don’t know next year’s cap without a collective bargaining agreement in place).

The good news for the Knicks is that — outside of Renaldo Balkman‘s $1.7 million deal through 2012-13 — only Amare Stoudemire is under contract (for a total of $65 million) from 2012-15. When Anthony signs his maximum extension, the Knicks will be dedicating about $42.5 million annually to him and Stoudemire. More to the point: The Knicks will be paying 73 percent of the current salary cap for two players who have a combined sub-.500 career playoff winning percentage (a 44-52 record).

The Knicks are hoping to land Deron Williams, Chris Paul or Dwight Howard when those guys decline their player options after next season to form a Heat-like Big Three in New York, or so the theory goes. However, what most analysts are failing to remember is that Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade each took a small pay cut to sign in Miami. Because Anthony and Stoudemire will in all likelihood be maxed out when Williams, Paul and Howard become available, one of them would have to take a massive pay cut to sign in New York. Not … gonna … happen.

2. PLAYERS

Because they dealt their 2014 first-round draft pick to the Nuggets, the Knicks now have zero first-round picks in 2012 and 2014. That might not be the biggest problem in the world if they hadn’t previously dealt their 2009 and 2010 first-round picks in addition to shipping their 2007 and 2008 selections (Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari) as part of this deal.

In Anthony Randolph and Timofey Mozgov, the Knicks also dealt two more affordable young players to Denver. As currently constructed, the Knicks will have difficulty over the next few years filling their roster with valuable role players, especially if they hope to land another big-name talent.

The Heat are in a similar situation, except they have three superstars under contract now, possess more draft picks later and present a more desirable option for veterans looking to contend for a title.

3. DEFENSE

The Knicks essentially swapped Anthony for Gallinari, Billups for Raymond Felton, Chandler for Corey Brewer and Mozgov for Shelden Williams. I’m not sure what kind of playing time Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman will see, but for the Knicks’ sake hopefully not much.

Are any of the new Knicks good defenders? The short answer: No. The long answer? As bad as the Knicks were defensively before the trade — and they were bad (their 105.8 points allowed per game ranked 29th out of 30 teams) — they’re worse after the deal.

The four core guys they acquired allowed an average of 0.92 points per possession. None of them ranked among the league’s top 220 players in that statistical category. Meanwhile, the foursome they sent to the Nuggets averaged 0.89 points allowed per possession. That’s still poor, but at least it’s better than who the Knicks will be putting on the floor now. By contrast, as a team the Celtics allow a league-low 0.84 points per possession.

4. OFFENSE

Of course, the Knicks have now paired the NBA’s second-highest scorer with its sixth-highest scorer. But they’ve also paired a small forward and power forward who rank 24th and 25th in assist rate (percentage of possessions ending in assists) among guys at their positions who play 25-plus minutes a night. By comparison, both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett rank in the top 10 at those positions.

Essentially, once the ball gets into the hands of Anthony or Stoudemire offensively, it doesn’t leave. That problem is compounded by the fact that Billups’ assist rate ranks 24th among point guards who play 25 minutes a night, while the guy they shipped out of town (Felton) ranked ninth. Again, Rajon Rondo ranks first.

It’s not like the Knicks won’t score. Heck, their 106.2 points per game prior to acquiring Anthony ranked second in the NBA, and head coach Mike D’Antoni is one of the best offensive minds in the game. But their failure to share the wealth will hurt their effiiciency and help opponents defend them.

5. MANAGEMENT

Isiah Thomas is reportedly calling the shots for the Knicks organization. Let me say that again: Isiah Thomas is calling the shots for the Knicks. Enough said.

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee or a future mailbag? Send an e-mail tobrohrbach@weei.com or a Twitter message to @brohrbach.)

Read More: Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets, NBA, New York Knicks
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