The new millennium hasn't exactly been kind to the [Only registered and activated users can see links. ] and their fans. But after years of futility, the team finally has Madison Square Garden rocking like it did in the mid-90s. And while New York is still a player or two away from being respected as a contender, Mike D'Antoni's crew has proved it is playoff-caliber.
Rumors have been swirling for months that general manager Donnie Walsh covets [Only registered and activated users can see links. ] forward [Only registered and activated users can see links. ], who will be a free agent this summer. In the eyes of most fans and pundits, he would make the Knicks an elite squad. But with the recent buzz surrounding a trade that would send Anthony to the [Only registered and activated users can see links. ], many Knicks fans are in panic mode, and some are suggesting the team should trade for him now because he is the quickest ticket to a title. Those Knickerbockers fans concerned about losing out on Anthony should step back off the ledge -- he won't make the team that much better, and they're probably better off without him.
There's no doubt that Anthony can fill it up. And when he's on he can take over a game like few others. However, if you were to rank the Knicks' 10 biggest problems, scoring would not be one of them. At 108.8 points per 100 possessions, New York has the third most efficient offense in the league. The team's softest spots are perimeter defense, rebounding and a lack of a backup point guard. Melo does very little to improve the squad in those areas. Let's break them down one by one.
(1) Perimeter defense
Anthony has always been criticized for his defense, and though some say his experience on the Olympic team in 2008 made him a more diligent defender, he's not going to be confused for [Only registered and activated users can see links. ]. The Knicks rank 20th in the league in defensive efficiency and allow foes to shoot 42.7 percent from 16-23 feet, according to [Only registered and activated users can see links. ], second-worst in the NBA. If they want a player who will help bring back some of the defensive swagger that made them a force in the Pat Riley era, Melo is not the guy.
Anthony grabs a respectable 8.3 rebounds per game, which seems nice at first glance. However, the Nuggets play at the second-fastest pace in the league, which means a lot more shots are taken and rebounding opportunities are plentiful. His rebound rate of 13.5 (percentage of boards he grabs when he is on the floor) ranks 82nd in the NBA. For a guy with his size (6-foot-8) and hands, that's nothing to write home about. As good as [Only registered and activated users can see links. ] has been for New York, he is not an efficient glass cleaner, either. His rebound rate of 13.7 is barely better than Anthony's, and the main reason why the Knicks rank 25th in the league in rebound efficiency. It's the team's most glaring weakness, and Anthony would only exacerbate it.
(3) Backup Point Guard
Because D'Antoni doesn't have a 1 on the bench who he trusts, [Only registered and activated users can see links. ] is playing 38.8 minutes per game, most among NBA point guards. If the Knicks want to make any sort of deep playoff run, they have to find someone else who can run the offense and give Felton a breather. Anthony is a gifted offensive player, but he'll never be confused for a point guard.
Ultimately, the Knicks' obsession with Melo comes down to one thing -- star power. He can score in bunches, but he's fairly one-dimensional and needs the ball in his hands to succeed. If he were truly a difference-maker, wouldn't the Nuggets have advanced past the first round of the playoffs more than once in his career? The idea of the deal reeks of the worst of the Isiah Thomas era, when the former GM would go get the best available "name" player simply because he was available. This isn't to say that Melo is [Only registered and activated users can see links. ] v. 2.0, but for all his strengths, he does nothing to improve the current club's weaknesses.
It's easy to see why the Knicks would be enticed by Anthony. D'Antoni is an offensive-minded coach, and maybe the thought is that Melo would make the offense so dynamic that his other shortcomings wouldn't matter. But as our own Tom Haberstroh pointed out last summer, [Only registered and activated users can see links. ]. This season, he's shooting just 43.6 percent overall and 27 percent from 3. Some of that could be attributed to him losing focus because of his lame-duck status in Denver, but those numbers aren't that far below his career averages.
Strip away all the hype surrounding Anthony, and compare him to Knicks swingman [Only registered and activated users can see links. ], who would supposedly be involved in any Knicks-Nuggets swap. While we can't really predict what Melo would do in a D'Antoni offense, is Anthony really a significant upgrade over Chandler, who shoots a much higher percentage overall, and from deep? Advanced metrics say he isn't: Anthony's player efficiency rating is 20.71, while Chandler's is 18.01. And, [Only registered and activated users can see links. ], the Knicks would need to give up Chandler and either [Only registered and activated users can see links. ] or Danilo Gallinari -- two of their most intriguing young talents -- just to get Melo. Is that really going to improve the team? The Knicks' depth is already an issue, and trading multiple contributors for Melo would thin out their bench that much more. There's no point in paying a premium for Anthony's services.
If Walsh and D'Antoni are convinced that Melo is the answer, they should "risk" waiting until the summer, when he's a free agent -- the reality being, it's not really much of a risk anyway. If they do choose that path, Eddy Curry's contract will have expired, clearing up most of the necessary cap space, so if Anthony is still around, they could target him while using assets like Chandler to acquire a top-notch rebounder and serviceable point. But that's merely an alternative.
Because if the Nets acquire Anthony in the meantime, it's not a major loss for New York. Trading for him now, when he does nothing to improve the team's weaknesses, would be a lateral move.
Matt Meyers is an editor for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Insider.