Which superstar would make the current Knicks winners?

Harris Decker

Over the last few days, we’ve had everything from a “Should Mike Woodson be fired?” poll, to a discussion about why trading Carmelo Anthony is not the answer.

Now, I’m ready to back up that claim with a little case study. Let’s pretend that Anthony is the problem and we’re replacing him with another superstar right now. Free of all salary cap restrictions, but on the basis that we are taking this team and replacing Anthony, here’s what it could look like.


Kevin Durant: What did we learn in the playoffs last year when Russell Westbrook was injured? Durant can still score. But Westbrook and Durant can win. If Durant was on the Knicks, who would he look like? Melo. The two guys are separated by percentage points in almost every offensive category and neither can be considered a plus defender.

Paul George: George is the closest thing we could have to a second coming of LeBron James. He’s a great defender and is turning into an elite scorer right in front of our eyes. But, guess what George has in Indiana? Probably the best supporting cast in the NBA. He has a dominant center in Roy Hibbert, a tough as nails power forward in David West and a back court comprised of George Hill, C.J. Watson and Lance Stephenson. Not too shabby.

Kevin Love: The guy everyone is fawning over in Knicks-land, Love is another guy who is highly skilled, but like Anthony, has never won a thing. In fact, if there was an NBA superstar out there with an even less impressive track record from a wins/loss perspective, it would have to be Love. In five full NBA seasons, the Love-led Timberwolves have made the playoffs exactly zero times.


Stephen Curry: Curry currently stands in a league of his own. He is the only player in the NBA to be both a top-10 scorer and a top-10 assist man. Curry is in his fifth season with the Golden State Warriors, surrounded by guys like Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Andrew Bogut. He’s a rare breed, but still wouldn’t make the Knicks great. He’d be a one-man-show, if J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert were as ineffective as they’ve been with Anthony. The case could be made that he’d make the entire team better, but still, with only Curry as the superstar, they wouldn’t have the talent to win a championship.

LeBron James: James is probably the only superstar capable of carrying a team completely on his shoulders. Still, he’s proved in Miami that it takes more than just him to win it all. He didn’t hit the late-game three that saved them against the Spurs, that was Ray Allen. Instead, James is a player that makes everyone around him better. With James, this Knicks team would win a championship.

Now, I ask you, if Anthony is the problem, what is the solution? I don’t believe that, hypothetically, anyone not named LeBron makes the 2013-14 Knicks a winner. The issue is with the pieces around the superstar. Every superstar has help, and currently, it’s Anthony trying to do everything himself. He is second in scoring with 26.3 PPG and has turned himself into a top-15 rebounder in Tyson Chandler’s absence. He also leads the league in minutes per game, averaging 40.4.


Surely the thing about Melo is not whether he's good enough in theory for us to build a team around. Denver made a conference final with him, we made a conference semi-final with a pretty flawed roster (e.g. $20m to a player who can't play more than 15 mins) around him.

The question is can we in practice build a championship team around Melo? People forget how much of a handicap contracts signed under the last CBA are. Melo's deal if he resigns next year will be $26m by the time of the 15/16 season when we have cap space. Top players who ended their rookie-scale deals under this CBA start with max salaries at around $15m. K-Love's deal at the end of his current contract is $17m, so the next one will start at around $19m. Those dollars matter. Melo as our number one option could cost $6-11m more per year than a younger player coming into their first or second max deal.

If Melo wants to take an $18m starting salary to help us to win, we should give it to him. But in my view if we give him $25m+ as a startng point, we are pretty much guaranteeing we won't win a championship in the life of that contract.