Going down the winding roads of hypotheticals is a tricky game, but when the immediate future is potentially bleak it’s hard not to open up your imagination for a couple rounds of “What If?”
I preface what you're about to read by noting that this “tricky game’’ is not DB.com’s normal fare. We have a 16-year process here that leads to real trade talk and real trade scoops. Fish and David Lord have a track record that makes them about the best in the business in this regard.
But … bleakness breeds ideas.
And … the immediate future looks bleak for New York and Dallas. The Mavericks and Knicks could certainly overachieve this year (I’m rooting for the former, obviously), but that would demand for a number of factors to break perfectly in their favor. The chances of both of them making the playoffs are probably lower than the chances of both of them missing the playoffs.
With optimism feeling like a stretch -- and I know I am saying this amid the optimism that comes with the start of Mavs training camp and everything -- both fan bases would probably embrace major change. So the question is there to be posed: Is a mid-season Chandler Parsons/Carmelo Anthony trade something worth looking into?
*Before we go any further it should be made clear, one more time: This is NOT a “scoop’’ and it’s not a “rumor’’ and it hasn’t yet gone through the Fish Filter or received the David Lord Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. This is a hypothetical, an exploration into a possibility. There are hundreds of possibilities that could happen in the NBA. We are only examining why and how this possibility could ever become more than that.
And if it should.
If you were someone rooting for the New York Knicks or someone rooting for the success of Carmelo Anthony’s career then you probably weren’t a fan of the 5-year, $124 million contract extension Anthony signed with New York in the summer of 2014. From everyone outside of both parties, it seemed like a disaster. The Knicks showed little ability to build a decent team around Anthony in the past; why would they be able to do it with even less financial flexibility? It would have been more interesting to see Anthony in the hands of a more capable franchise, but 124 million is a large number.
A year later, it’s played out just like everyone guessed: The Knicks were 17-65 last season (Anthony missed half the season due to injury) and they are seemingly operating in complete rebuild mode during the final years of Anthony’s prime.
Before we dive any deeper we should address the no-trade clause in Anthony’s contract. He cannot be traded anywhere without consenting to the trade himself. Why, you might ask, would Anthony consent to be traded to a Dallas team that probably wouldn’t be willing to make such a major trade unless they too were struggling to win games?
Well, for the same reason a person on house arrest wouldn’t mind a vacation to Cleveland; it’s not Costa Rica, but it’s more about the escape than the destination. The top teams in the NBA would never be willing to shake up a good thing to take on such an enormous contract. And as for the few decent ones that might consider it, they likely wouldn’t be able to entice New York with a chip as valuable as Parsons.
An escape from his self-inflicted imprisonment in New York might be enough to spark Anthony to play for a franchise as historically successful as Dallas.
So why would New York be interested?
Rebuilding is really the only option for the Knicks, something many people could have told them before offering that contract to Anthony. It’s much easier to rebuild when you don’t have over $22 million a year tied up in one player for the next four years.
The drafting of international rookie Kristaps Porzingis seemed like a concession to the rebuilding plan. Pozingis will not be an impact player in the next two seasons. He might have great moments, but even if he’s the next Dirk (and he won’t be the next Dirk) it took the Big German a few years to learn the NBA. The rest of their roster consists of decent role players. Aaron Afflalo and Robin Lopez will be little help creating any offense alongside Anthony.
Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal and Zach Lowe of Grantland both reported the possibility that if things once again go south quickly for the Knicks then they will consider the idea of attempting to trade Anthony as the deadline approaches in February.
Parsons is terrific for a rebuilding process because he is young, still developing and versatile, and can be thrown next to any superstar and still be successful. Basically, he can make the rebuild look a little more bearable to watch and still be a key contributor assuming more talent eventually arrives. Plus, in the absence of Anthony, Parsons can fill whatever obligation the Knicks have to one player being obsessed with fashion.
With the raising salary cap, Parson’s $15-million-a-year contract is the perfect amount of dead money that needs to be spent on a good player that doesn’t interfere with a long-term plan. If the Knicks want to unload Anthony, I don’t envision a better player they could expect to get in return.
So why would Dallas be interested?
This question might be harder to answer, but that’s based around the fact that Dallas refuses to tank with Dirk on the roster (and rightfully so, out of respect for Dirk, among other reasons). Unfortunately, they have not been able to surround him with championship-level talent post-2011, and now they may reach an impasse.
The current roster might have some potential, but things could also go very poorly in Dirk’s final two seasons. Trading Parsons for Anthony would not make Dallas instant contenders and it would have risky financial implications, but it would provide Dirk with an elite level scorer and give him a teammate he knows will at least give Dallas a fighting chance against any team.
Why give up on Parsons after all the positive things said about him above? Well, for all the talk of Parsons evolving into a top-tier NBA player, the reality is that it probably will never happen. That’s not to say that he isn’t a terrific player and won’t get even better. (And yes, I am aware of the positive reports from Fish from down in the AAC basement.) But he is ultimately the perfect complementary player. Parsons is a second fiddle on a team that is going forward without a first banana (to mix metaphors). Think Lamar Odom’s peak years of performance. Parsons has the chance to reach that level of production for a very long time.
Parsons running the pick-and-roll with Tyson Chandler was extremely efficient, but Chandler isn’t on the roster anymore and a Parsons/Nowitzki pick-and-roll just doesn’t work. The spacing that Anthony and Nowitzki could create would be a nightmare for defenses. Anthony often walks the ball up court. A play as simple as Dirk pinning his defender in the post and Anthony feeding him from the wing would create all sorts of offensive possibilities for Dallas. Anthony is a better shooter than Parsons and it’s not close. Actually, there’s no aspect of scoring in which Parsons even sniffs Anthony’s abilities.
Anthony is not a good defender, and a Dirk/Carmelo defensive pairing could be really difficult to watch. That being said, Parsons would have to be an elite defender to compensate for the offensive advantage of Anthony. Parsons can be good defensively, but he’s not elite. Wes Matthews (a healthy version) is an elite defender and the type of defender you would want alongside Anthony. Perhaps rookie Justin Anderson will evolve into that type of defender.
The next step in my imagined rebuild for Dallas would be to find an excellent defensive center in the offseason, which are not cheap, but also not impossible to find.
Anthony can also be a terrific rebounder, despite his reputation. He is strong and actually works hard for rebounds on defense. He’s a better rebounder than Parsons, which is something Dirk desperately needs help with at this stage of his career.
More importantly, Anthony would prepare Dallas for a post-Dirk life. His contract is for the next four years. The knock was never that you can’t build around Carmelo Anthony. It was that the Knicks can’t build around Carmelo Anthony. Their ineptness dates back much further than their acquisition of Anthony. Perhaps building around an elite scorer isn’t rocket science and a franchise like Dallas could pull it off. Put an elite defensive wing next to him (Matthews), give him a big point guard who can shoot (Deron Williams), don’t put all the scoring burden on him (Nowitzki) and find a good defensive center (to be determined).
The other looming issue that might justify this move is one you might not have considered: Parsons could choose to opt-out of his contract and leave after this year. If things are going poorly this season, Parsons might be looking for greener pastures as he enters the prime years of his career. He talked about becoming a superstar in Dallas, but plenty of other teams will make similar promises about giving him room to evolve. He talks about being in charge of Dallas recruiting next summer, but he himself will have to be recruited back here, too. A friendship with Cuban might help, but it won’t necessarily leak into Parsons’ business side.
We have already seen how Cuban and Parsons frat-bro kinship doesn’t automatically seal deals.
So is it a possibility?
Well, it’s a long shot. It would be an interesting mix-up.
Something along the lines of:
Carmelo Anthony and Langston Galloway
Chandler Parsons and Zaza Pachulia
If the parties involved wanted it to happen they could make it work. Things might end up going pretty poorly for both of these teams by the New Year. This trade might not be the solution. But it also might not be impossible.
Involved in this, frankly: I think we should be open to the idea that Chandler in Dallas isn’t forever … and that a future trade of Chandler for a star like Carmelo is worth the tricky game of hypothetical daydreaming, at least.