The 2011 NBA Trade Deadline (February 24th at 3 pm) is fast approaching, and as we near the big day, the question on everybody’s lips is, where is Carmelo going to end up. We’ve all read the reports about the three team trade between the Pistons, Nuggets, and Nets that would result in a Melo, Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton trio in New Jersey. Melo, however has sort of denied that he would sign an extension in Jersey, maintaining that he wishes to play for the Knicks. And today Bill Simmons over at ESPN threw some fuel into the fire by pointing out that the Clippers could be a possible destination for Melo as well. With that in mind, I’d like to take a look at how Melo fits in stylistically with these three teams.
The Nets: Sports pundits and basketball analysts seem to be foaming at the mouth over the prospect of a Melo-Billups-Hamilton-Lopez quartet; even predicting in some cases that the Nets, second worst team in the NBA at 10-28, would make the playoffs at seasons end! To these people, I have just one question; what are they going to do on defense? Melo is generally acknowledged as one of the worst on-ball defenders at his position in the NBA, Hamilton lacks the lateral quickness to guard elite or young 2s, and I’ve seen Lopez pushed around on the low block by just about every big with a pulse. Khris Humphries should help in that regard, and Billups still has some of his old fire. Offensively however, Hamilton is a perfect match for Melo because he doesn’t need the ball to score effectively (watch some of those old Pistons teams in the middle part of this decade and note the mass of screens), and Lopez is nothing if not efficient (him and Melo make a killer pick and pop combo- heck it worked pretty well with Devin Harris!)
The Knicks: The Knicks are actually the team for whom Melo provides the least benefit, because it screws up their unique balance. The defensive issue is there once again (Amare’s D sucks – blunt I know…), and the offense is nowhere near as cohesive. Amare needs the ball in his hands to operate effectively, and Felton is rendered irrelevant by Melo’s presence (more of a scorer than a passer). Plus Fields/Gallo/Chandler or any of the other major pieces that remain can work well as spot-up shooters, but won’t be as effective because Melo ain’t that great of a passer. Moreover, the Knicks have something special going right now (if the Spurs game last week didn’t convince you of that), and throwing Melo into the mix could seriously damage their team chemistry.
The Clippers: This is the sort of situation that while it seems far-fetched, could be perfect for Melo. The perfect complimentary pieces are in place for Melo and the Clips to not only become a consistent playoff team, but even a title contender for plenty of the foreseeable future. Baron Davis, when energized is at least as good of a setup man as Billups, and Melo’s arrival should energize him. Eric Gordon’s presence means that Melo won’t have to carry the team night in and night out. And they’ve got Blake Griffin (a.k.a Brook Lopez on steroids minus the jump shot) to clean up his misses down low (another guy who can score without the ball). Throw in Eric Bledsoe as Davis’ backup, and the Clippers could end up challenging Oklahoma City for the label of “Team of the Future.”
Since this is a Spurs blog however, there needs to be a common thread, and as I look into Melo’s situation, and the way he’s treating Denver, it makes me thank my stars every night that the Spurs drew Tim Duncan back in 1997!!