First things first, I love the idea that the Knicks front office is going to allow Melo this luxury. He is a star in his prime and deserves the chance to decide whom he wants to play with in his prime. Also, who knows who will best compliment Carmelo’s game better than himself? Say what you want, but in Melo’s time as a Knick they have failed to put a championship team around him so far. This is mostly because of a lack of salary cap flexibility.
In 2015, the Knicks will be going into the off-season with Tyson Chandler, Andrea Bargnani, and of course, Amar’e Stoudemire coming off the books. After trading the useless contracts of Camby and Novak, the Knicks have set themselves up nicely going forward. The 2015 free agent class has a nice collection of players, and the Knicks could make a legitimate run at 2 of the big names on this list. Here’s a look at some notable players:
1. LeBron James
After a report from Stephen A. Smith about the prospect of LBJ joining forces with Melo in NY, Knicks fans found themselves in flashback mode to the infamous summer of 2010. The year that all the stars would align and the King would grace NYC with his presence. This was until ESPN ran a special titled “The Decision”, and LeBron decided to “take his talents to South Beach”. With those words, LBJ broke the hearts of fans from New York to Cleveland, and probably everywhere in between.
Three years later, and two championship rings for James and counting, the idea has resurfaced. A girl once told me “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” This pretty much sums up the outlook I have on the LeBron situation today. I refuse to let him break my heart again. With that said, if he did decide to take his talents to the Mecca, I’d be the first to forgive and forget. LeBron is a few and far between talent. He is one of the few players in the league with the ability to make everyone around him better. As tough as it is to sing the praises of probably my least favorite player in NBA history, you have to give props where props are due. LeBron would make the Knicks an instant title favorite, bringing along the championship or bust motto. I refuse to allow myself to believe the hype caused by Stephen A. Smith, but what a beautiful day it would be if LBJ came to the Knicks. I would become the biggest LeBron supporter since the bandwagon Heat fans, and hell would probably freeze over in the process.
2. Rajon Rondo
Over the past month, there has been no secret that Rajon Rondo, Carmelo Anthony, and the New York Knicks all share a mutual interest. Knicks fans have been utilizing the NBA trade machine to try to find a trade that works ever since. Regardless, come 2015, there is a good chance you could see Rondo in orange and blue. It would not only be a key piece to the future, but a nice way to stick it to the Nets and Celtics alike. By this I mean it would continue the dispersing of the once nemesis Celtics roster, and also outdo the Nets acquisitions of KG and Pierce. Coming off an ACL injury, Rondo is currently rehabbing. While he is saying all the right things about his devotion to the Celtics and their depleted roster, he is definitely waiting patiently to hit the free agent market.
Rondo has emerged as one of the premier point guards in the NBA over the past few seasons. His combination of quickness and strength make him a threat on both the offensive and defensive ends. Unless you have a player of LeBron James’ caliber, solid point guard play is a key piece to a championship puzzle. Carmelo would definitely feed off Rondo’s ability to create for others. As good of a point guard Rondo is, he will be able to get the ball to Melo in good spots for him to operate freely. The one negative with Rondo, is much like Melo, he dominates the ball at times. It would be up to Melo to make the adjustment of letting Rondo handle the ball and position himself accordingly. I definitely expect Rondo to top the Carmelo Anthony list of potential teammates.
3. Kevin Love
In my opinion, Love is the perfect complement to Carmelo Anthony and his game. With the reduced productivity of Dirk Nowitzki, Love could be considered the best stretch forward in the game today. He is also a low-maintenance, walking double-double. The perfect guy to play alongside a player with the skill set of Melo. Love would be able to get his points and rebounds, all while doing it outside the space Carmelo would demand to occupy. He has the ability to step behind the arc and knock down a 3 one possession, and have his way with you in the post the next.
Love might not be the most athletic player in the league, but he has a crafty array of offensive moves that work to his advantage. Hopefully, Love avoids doing knuckle push-ups and can stay healthy until he hits the market. I’d expect a nice bounce back season for Love after a down year plagued with injuries. Melo and Love have had experience playing together for Team USA, and hopefully Melo has started his recruiting pitch two years in advance. The idea of Metta World Peace sticking around for a few more seasons and the addition of Kevin Love, could make for a nice front court duo of Peace, Love and Melo.
4. LaMarcus Aldridge
Aldridge is one of the most underrated players in the game today. Most of this has to do with the fact he plays on the West Coast in Portland as well as the emergence of Damian Lillard as a young phenom. Quietly, Aldridge averages 21points and 9 rebounds a game season, en route to being named to his second All-Star game. He would be the skilled offensive big man who Knicks fans have been calling for the team to add for years. Averaging 9 boards a game shows Aldridge can get it done on the boards as well. To better put that in better perspective, defensive-minded Tyson Chandler averaged 10.7 rebounds a game. Chandler may have slightly better numbers on the boards, but Aldridge would add a completely different dynamic to the Knicks roster. Damian Lillard aside, LaMarcus has never been surrounded with enough talent in Portland to make the team a contender. Combining him with the likes of Carmelo Anthony, and potentially Rajon Rondo, his presence may be enhanced greatly.
5. Marc Gasol
Fresh off his “Defensive Player of the Year Award”, I’d expect Gasol to continue to develop on all facets of his game. Assuming that Tyson Chandler bolts in free agency, Gasol would be an upgrade at the center position. Last season as the anchor of the Griz defense, Gasol averaged 14 points, just under 8 boards and 4 assists per game.
The number that jumps out of those stats is the 4 assists. Averaging 4 dimes a game from the center position is a remarkable number. It also a very underrated part of Gasol’s game and what he brings to a team on the offensive end of the court. He developed a solid connection with Zach Randolph, and played the high-low game better than any other duo in the league. He was able to make the same offense effective that his brother Pau failed to make work with Dwight in LA. Marc has an unorthodox perimeter set shot, but has the necessary touch to make it effective. Standing at 7-1 and close to 270 pounds, Gasol is a tough guy to move in the post. After watching Gasol with the Griz in the playoffs this past season, I found myself pleasantly surprised with what he can offer. His mixture of passion, and his repertoire of low-post hook shots make him an intriguing name in free agency. He has interesting personality, and could become a fan-favorite for the Garden faithful.
6. Kyrie Irving
Another name that could be added to this list is New Jersey’s St. Patrick standout Kyrie Irving. Irving has all the potential in the world to turn into not only an elite point guard, but also a face of the NBA in the coming years. My gut feeling is Kyrie will buy into the future of the Cavs and re-sign in Cleveland. A possible return home for LeBron James is becoming very appealing. James has an opt-out clause in his contract that could make him a free agent as early as the conclusion of next season. Teaming up with Kyrie, Anthony Bennett, Dion Waiters, and Tristan Thompson is definitely something he will explore. However things can change quickly, and the addition of Kyrie would set the Knicks up for years to come.
In The End:
Back to the Knicks. If they go through with the idea of allowing Carmelo Anthony to pick his teammates, the pressure for Melo to win will be at an all-time high. If he does select the pieces to surround himself with and it fails, Melo will definitely take the fall for the team’s misfortune. I still like the idea of Melo recruiting players to join him in NY, much the same way Dwayne Wade did with LBJ and Chris Bosh in Miami.
It has become apparent in the NBA that whoever can put together the best “Big 3″ will be in good contention for a championship. LeBron James aside, a trio of Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, and Kevin Love would be a well-comprised group. As we learned from the Laker’s fiasco, it is important to assemble a trio of players that compliment each other well. I love the thought of Melo and Love at the 3 and 4 positions, with Rajon Rondo running the show at the point. If you were in the same position as Carmelo, who would be your ensemble of players?