Always Trade For The Superstar

11 01 2011

Knicks fans don’t want Carmelo Anthony. Nets fans think trading young players and draft picks is too much for ‘Melo. This is a common theme I’ve observed on Twitter and in the comments sections of articles as the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors have swirled on and off for months. And I don’t get it.

One of the many theories of NBA play is that superstars win championships. Not just defense, but big, bad stars who dominate games and can carry a team through a playoff series. It’s a theorem that has been proven over and over — Kobe’s Lakers, Duncan’s Spurs, DWade’s Heat, Shaq’s Lakers, Jordan’s Bulls, Hakeem’s Rockets and on and on. Rarely do we see the squad like the 2004 Detroit Pistons, who had many good players but hardly one standout.

So, it boggles my mind when Knicks fans claim they would rather see the Knicks keep Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Landry Fields. (It’s likely the Knicks would able to keep at least one of those players in a ‘Melo trade.) Or Nets fans who would rather see the team keep Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and their assortment of first-round draft picks. What I want to tell these fans is that while I respect their passion and yearning for better days, just take a look at the past. How many times in NBA history have we seen a young, promising core of players evolve into a championship squad?

The current Lakers dynasty (I’m gonna use the term ‘dynasty’ loosely) is hardly a young outfit, and the franchise was jump-started only after the trade for entering-his-prime Pau Gasol. The Spurs decade-long dynasty was built around Tim Duncan, a draft pick. Yet savvy veterans like David Robinson, Sean Elliot and Avery Johnson helped win the first couple ‘chips until Duncan won two more with veteran-laden squads. The early ’00s Lakers dynasty had plenty veterans, although they did grow to an extent, after 24-year-old Shaq and 18-year-old Kobe were paired in ’96. The Bulls dynasty was in two parts, although one could argue the first phase was a result of a young core growing up together (MJ, Pippen, Horace). But I can argue that’s a very unique situation; MJ was the type of player for which there is no comparison.

My primary point is that very few promising, young cores without a notable Alpha dog never realize their expectations. The Nets or Knicks, in their current form, don’t have the top dog. Amar’e Stoudemire has played at an MVP level for the Knicks, but any half-aware viewer can see the burden put on him whenever the Knicks play a top-shelf team; he has to be nearly flawless for the Knicks to win. Now, think of present or past teams with young cores who haven’t lived up to their billing. The Thunder have a chance to become great because of Kevin Durant, who’s unquestionably a top-five player.

But remember the mid-’00s Bulls, who had young talent everywhere — Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry. That group, all of whom were drafted by the Bulls, did nothing. The early ’00s Clippers oozed with talent. Elton Brand, Darius Miles, Quentin Richardson and company led a young core that was supposed to finally bring the Clippers out of their never-ending doldrums. That never happened. Hell, Nets fans need only remember the 1997-98 team, when Young Sam Cassell led a group including Keith Van Horn, Kerry Kittles and Jayson Williams. They were pegged as the East’s Next Big Thing. How’d that turn out?

And don’t get me started on the mid ’90s Bullets (Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Rasheed Wallace) or the early-mid ’90s Mavericks, who boasted Jason Kidd, Jamal Mashburn and Jimmy Jackson. Teams with a base of good, young talent lacking a truly great player don’t make the sort of progress their fans expect.

It’s why the Knicks and Nets need Carmelo Anthony. Are Knicks fans really going to side with Gallinari, who by the way is 22 years old and has had repeated back problems in the past? Do Nets fans really think Favors and unknown players i.e. draft picks are better alternatives than Carmelo? Mr. Anthony is a proven commodity in the NBA, a guy who commands double teams and has proven he can lead his team through a playoff series. As much talent and promise as Harris, Chandler, Fields and other guys on the New York teams have, it’s very likely none will ever amount to a Carmelo-level of play.

If I’m running an NBA team (which I’ve done many times on NBA Live), I give up young, possibly still unproven talent for the superstar player, especially when he’s in his prime, as Carmelo is. I worry later about re-finding the complementary players, such as Harris or Fields. You can get those guys in just about any draft. But a team rarely has the chance to acquire a top-10 player in his prime. Nets and Knicks fans should be jumping at that kind of opportunity.

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