Imagine for a second that you’re Carmelo Anthony. You’re one of the elite scorers in the NBA and hold career averages of 25.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, but you still have the reputation of being an overrated superstar who’s never carried a team to a championship. Never mind the fact that you’ve never had a great team around you or that until this past season, you’d never missed the playoffs in 11 seasons.
Everyone always unfairly compares you to LeBron James and by taking one look at the assists column, it becomes so much easier for people to say you “don’t make your teammates better.” You actually should be one of the league’s most marketable players as one of the greatest New York Knicks of all time, but you still don’t have a title to your name and you only have a few years left in your prime. After all of that, now you’re told the best thing your team can offer you on the court is…Pau Gasol?
Bye, New York!
To be fair, the Knicks have more to offer Anthony off the court than most teams vying for his attention, which would explain their confidence in re-signing him. Melo and his wife La La Anthony love living in New York. Melo’s son enjoys school and his friends there. The Knicks can also offer Melo the most money of any team out there. But if your sales pitch to keep a star like Carmelo Anthony involves, “We’re looking at Pau Gasol!” you’re probably not an overwhelming favorite.
You could tell Phil was going after Gasol right when they acquired Calderon. Limited financially, so making team familiar to Pau.
— Nate Jones (@JonesOnTheNBA) June 28, 2014
Phil Jackson can only be blamed so much for his approach. The situation he inherited didn’t leave him with much financial flexibility or the kind of personnel you need to build a championship team. Melo is the kind of player you can build a title contender around with the right complementary pieces, but the contracts of Andrea Bargnani and Amare Stoudemire bog down the team’s ability to improve because they’re pretty much unmovable.
So what’s Jackson’s solution for the time being? For now, it appears his answer is to distract the masses with familiar names, guys that Jackson can say have championship experience and not be wrong like Derek Fisher and Gasol. No one can really question the Zen Master for hiring Fisher as head coach or wanting to bring in Gasol because those guys have been there before, but it also doesn’t mean future success is guaranteed either.
The Knicks had a head coach who was probably a better point guard than their starting point guard until trading for Jose Calderon. They have a guy making max money whose body has turned him into little more than a sporadically effective bench player in Stoudemire. They have a failed No. 1 pick that nobody will want in a trade in Bargs. They have one of the league’s biggest head cases in J.R. Smith and they just lost their defensive anchor in Tyson Chandler.
Adding Pau Gasol to the mix should make the Knicks about as attractive to Anthony as putting a cherry on top of a s**t sundae.
The Knicks are recruiting Pau Gasol to pair with Carmelo. Melo/Harden/Howard Or Melo/Pau Your choice Melo…. — Shawn McFarland (@McFarland_Shawn) June 28, 2014
Despite Gasol’s best days being behind him, he can still be effective. Bringing him to New York would not only prompt the happy “Phil and Pau reunited” headlines, but it’d also move the Spaniard back to the center position where he’s most effective. Gasol still averaged 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game last season and the Knicks definitely need a quality big man with Chandler’s departure (no offense, Samuel Dalembert).
But adding a player like Gasol isn’t the best way to mask Melo’s defensive deficiencies. Gasol is a step slow defensively and centers around the league will eat him up. Melo and Gasol both posted a defensive rating of 108 points per 100 possessions last season, meaning that tandem would be one of the most porous defensive frontcourts in the NBA if it were to happen. Compared to centers like Joakim Noah and Dwight Howard who could make up for Melo’s defense, Gasol doesn’t make New York more appealing than the Chicago Bulls or Houston Rockets.
There’s another problem too: for the Knicks to sign Gasol, he’d have to agree to a deal that would pay him less than $4 million next season. Even with the allure of playing for Phil Jackson, do you really see Gasol letting his value crash so dramatically when other teams will be able to offer him more money, and quite possibly a much better shot at the postseason?
Melo and Gasol would be fun to watch offensively, but adding a 33-year-old veteran who can’t play defense or stay healthy for a full season is not the solution to the Carmelo Anthony free agency problem. Jackson’s done a wonderful job so far, hiring a coach he can personally groom, getting rid of Raymond Felton and trading into the loaded 2014 NBA Draft and getting a steal with Cleanthony Early. But with Carmelo Anthony’s prime dwindling down, adding Pau Gasol isn’t going to move the needle toward Melo staying in New York.