Carmelo's Future Determines Warriors' Real Rivals

Carmelo's Future Determines Warriors' Real Rivals

Sam Cox
2017-07-18
Will Anthony be partnering LeBron or Harden?

armelo Anthony’s time as a New York Knick has been turbulent at best. His relationship with Phil Jackson was supremely dysfunctional, and likely played a part in Jackson leaving the Knicks earlier this offseason.

Anthony arrived in the Big Apple from Denver in a blockbuster trade back in 2011. Since then, though, the Knicks have been fluctuating and have not made a playoff appearance since 2013. Kristaps Porzingis has superstar quality and is the new face of the organisation, and Anthony has become the odd one out. Whether he will be bought out of his contract or waive his no-trade clause, the 10-time NBA All-star is destined to play in a different city in the 2017-18 season.

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There are two names in realistic contention for Carmelo this summer: the Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets. The Cavaliers missed out on Paul George – who has joined Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma – and the Rockets have added Chris Paul to the runner-up in the MVP battle, James Harden.

Anthony might be a grizzled veteran now, but his class is without doubt. He’s a career 24.8 scorer and 6.6 rebounder, and would make an enormous difference should he join the Cavs or the Rockets this offseason.

The Cavaliers were hardly on the same planet as the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 NBA Finals. Even LeBron’s heroics could not limit the damage as the Oakland-based franchise dominated, and LeBron went into full-tease mode as he flirted with the idea of leaving Cleveland once again. What James wants, though, is a roster able to stop the Golden State juggernaut and he needs All-star reinforcement to do just that.

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George was the primary target, and the failure to get a deal done there makes Carmelo the obvious alternative. The difficulty for Cleveland to get a deal done is if they can put together a package that the Knicks would fancy, and it might mean relinquishing Kevin Love. Love, however, does not fit the profile that the Knicks are looking to build towards which might mean the Cavaliers have to look at a multi-team trade again and all the risk that brings.

The scoring of Anthony is potentially a gamechanger in the Cavalier-Warrior rivalry. His defence, though, must be of concern to many a Cav around the world. The Cavs are 7/2 second favourites for the championship next year, and that would suddenly look a very good price if Anthony moves to the Quicken Loans Arena.

The frontrunners for Carmelo currently, however, are the Rockets. With more cap space and greater flexibility than the Cavaliers – who are still in somewhat of a period of front office chaos – Harden and Paul could be joined by Anthony within the next few weeks. The trade package might not be as hefty as one would imagine, with the deal as much of a salary dump for the Knicks as they look to rebuild around Porzingis.

With Harden only a superhuman Westbrook away from the MVP award last season and Paul freshly motivated for a new chapter in his career, the Rockets are third favourites at 9/1 to win the whole thing next year. The seemingly unstoppable Warriors strolled the Western Conference last year, but will – at the very least – face realistic rivalry from Houston.

A veteran’s future determines who will take the role of chief opposition to another year of inevitable Warriors victory. Pairing Carmelo with LeBron and Kyrie Irving or with Harden and Paul is the making of a second superteam in the NBA, and that is what will be needed for anyone to topple the Kevin Durant and Steph Curry dominance.