As the Cavaliers fall to 8-23 on the season, many fans are left wondering “when.”
When will things start to happen, when will we see this team start taking steps in the direction of a rebuild. Though Byron Scott still thinks that the playoffs are attainable, I’m here to provide a bit of an answer to the question above. And that answer is: Whenever Carmelo Anthony is traded or re-signed.
Of the 360 players comprising active NBA rosters, there is one man who sets the stage for the rest of the 2010-11 transaction report. Below, we have the six degrees in which Anthony impacts your beloved Cleveland Cavaliers.
1) In the paralyzing expanse that is free agency within professional sports, we have seen more and more leverage shift into the hands of the players. Chief amongst such is the summer of 2010 where LeBron James ushered several teams into the offices of LRMR, where they would ultimately make a pitch for the players’ services.
Following The Decision and the weeks leading up to said night, James has turned into one of the league’s most villified athletes. Not helping his case with his peers via talks of contraction, James has legitimately become the poster boy of “what not to do” when it comes to handling the waining moments of one’s final contractual year. As Alex Kennedy points out, Anthony has taken note of James’ missteps as if he were reading a green on a playoff hole via his opponent’s putt.
Alas, though Anthony has been rumored to have wishes of playing elsewhere come next season, his handling of the situation has been night and day compared to that of James. While he may ultimately be sent packing, there is no doubt that even if he were to test free agency, it would not be handled via a one-hour special on ESPN.
2) As players, agents and the front office members of the 29 other teams anxiously await the outcome, Carmelo Anthony is the giant first domino in a row of potential deals that could go down between now and the trade deadline on February 24.
League sources continue to tell WFNY that the Cavaliers are keeping a very close eye on Anthony, not to bring him to Cleveland, but to gauge where this leaves other teams. The New York Knicks continue to inquire about Anthony’s services, but the New Jersey Nets appear to be presenting the most valuable package. If the Nets were to trade for Anthony, the Knicks would then set their collective sites on other assets of value – some of which currently call Cleveland home.
While this entire situation appears elliptical and opaque at present day, it’s because it is. It is the product of potential fallibility of recent ESPN reports as well as the note mentioned above with Anthony and his camp keeping things very tight-lipped.
3) If Anthony is indeed traded, and either the Nuggets or his would-be suitor wish to even the deal out via a third team, fans can be certain that Cavaliers GM Chris Grant would love to be in on the action if it would ultimately make his team better in the long run.
If the Knicks were to acquire Anthony, they would be more willing to part with current small forwards Danillo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. Sources tell WFNY that if they would acquire another point guard or post presence, the could also consider parting with Anthony Randolph – who was reportedly offered to Houston earlier this season for a first-round draft pick – or rookie guard Andy Rautins.
If the Nuggets feel that they are not getting full compensation for Anthony from the enigmatic third-party in question, the Cavaliers have several assets which could help keep Denver competitive in the near-term.
4) Relating to point No. 2, the New York Knicks continue to express interest in Ramon Sessions. Knicks GM Donnie Walsh is reportedly “not in a hurry” to make a deal at this stage, likely due to the continued complexity surrounding Anthony. Believe it or not, if he had to choose one player over the other, Sessions would be staying with the Wine and Gold.
Along these lines, Raymond Felton, Ronny Turiaf and Wilson Chandler are slated to come off the Knicks’ books after the 2011-12 season when All-NBA point guard Chris Paul could be looking at free agency. As noted this past offseason, the dream scenario would be the trio of Amar’e Stoudemire with Anthony and Paul. Sorry, Ramon.
5) The pending decisions around the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) continue to swirl in the background. All front office decisions have to be make by factoring a level of uncertainty as the wheels could grind to a halt come June 30, meaning no free agency for Anthony or any of the other players who have contracts expiring at the end of this season.
In Cleveland, those players are Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker and Leon Powe; elsewhere, we have Zach Randolph, Troy Murphy, Jason Richardson and Carl Landry.
As the Cavaliers have faced in seasons past, Lake Erie is not the free agent destination of choice for many players; trading for talent becomes much more integral. But again, league executives will be tentative to make any moves before the landscape is settled with regard to Anthony.
6) As the season wears on and fans become increasingly restless, other teams throughout the league are starting to see where they fit in with their peers. Most recently, the Washington Wizards – who thought they were back in the game after acquiring John Wall with the first overall pick - have decided to test the waters with their starting frontcourt of Andray Blatche and Javale McGee. Sitting on seven wins at this point in the season will do that to you.
Other teams that could be looking to move pieces due to struggles at the one-third mark are the Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Bobcats. Teams on the cusp of the playoffs that could use an additional piece or two are Portland Trailblazers or Memphis Grizzlies. The Nuggets currently sit at the seventh seed within the Western Conference. Trading Carmelo Anthony could have a ripple effect throughout the league – one that the Cavaliers hope creates a wave which they can ultimately ride.
For now, Chris Grant and company will continue to keep (if not add to) the current level of flexibility which comprises the current Cavaliers roster. He has stated that the team is happy as presently constructed, and this is partly due to the assets which are in place. In season’s past, the Cavs found themselves without much to deal in order to get better for the long term. Presently, flexibility is in their corner.
Cavs fans can rejoice: barring a cataclysmic turn of events, Alonzo Gee will not be Grant’s piece of resistance.
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