Sunday, March 20, 2011

Deron Williams and Carmelo Trades Not Working Out as Hoped

Usually when a team trades for a superstar there is a belief that the team will immediately be better.  Sometimes it can take a few games for new players to learn a system or to gel with the rest of the team but for the most part the expectation is always for improvement.  The other expectation is that the newly acquired superstar will actually want to play for your team instead of crossing days off on a calender waiting for the moment when he can jump ship and move to greener pastures.

These are the two issues that are facing the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets as they try and adjust to life with their newly acquired superstars.  Let's start first with the Knicks:

When the trade for Carmelo Anthony was first announced the debate was not about whether he would fit into Mike D'Antoni's run and gun style of offense it was whether or not the Knicks gave up too much to get him. The trade did leave their team somewhat depleted but in my opinion the Knicks still had enough fire power to contend in the East and at least make a push for that 4th or 5th seed yet so far that has not been the case.

The Knicks are just 7-7 since Anthony's arrival on February 22nd and after the initial honeymoon phase where the Knicks beat the Heat and went on a 6-3 run the excitement has worn off with the team losing 4 out of their last 5 games including back to back losses to the Pacers and an embarrassing loss to the lowly Pistons.  Fans in New York are legitimately worried that the team won't make the playoffs (even though they are 7.5 games up on 9th place Charlotte) and even more worried that trading for Melo has ruined the chemistry of the team and may have been the wrong decision going forward.

The problem hasn't been Carmelo adapting to the Mike D'Antoni system because for that to happen the team would have to be using D'Antoni's offense.  Since acquiring Melo the Knicks have completely changed their offensive style as they are now being forced to feed the ball to Melo who is demanding possession in isolation situations and pinning his man in the post, both of which are in complete contrast to what D'Antoni usually does.  This change of play has made the team less explosive on offense and has made Amare Stoudemire far less effective.

"Absolutely, absolutely, that's the way we're going to win," Stoudemire said to Newsday of the need to get back to the uptempo, pick-and-roll style. "That's the way we've proven that works with the team we had before the trade and it can work with the guys we have now. It's just a matter of us buying into it and really trying to understand that our ultimate goal is to make the playoffs and see what we can do."

This is a veiled shot at Anthony as the only things that's changed since the trade are the additions of Anthony and Billups.  Everyone else on the team knows how to run the offense so the task of learning and utilizing the offense now falls on the new guys.  For his part Billups has done a good job and the only time he struggles is when he is forced to feed Anthony the ball.

Billups also spoke with Newsday about Melo and had this to say, ""He'll be fine.  He's a great player. I've seen him get frustrated offensively at times in Denver, playing with him for so long. It happens. You're not going to play awesome every single night. Nobody is. You expect him to because he's a great player, but it just doesn't happen like that. He's going to be fine. No, I'm not worried about Melo at all."

Billups sounds like Michael Cera in Superbad. "I'm not too worried about it, really. I wouldn't worry about it. Don't worry about it. I'm not worried at all."  But he is right.  Melo is a great player and he will eventually come around and the Knicks will be OK.  Despite what some people think the Melo trade wasn't made with 2011 in mind and it was only phase 2 of a 3 phase plan.  Amare was phase 1, Melo was phase 2 and when Chris Paul joins the Knicks in 2012 that will be phase 3.

If the season were to end today the Knicks would end up facing the Heat in round 1 of the playoffs.  Could they win that series?  Not if they play like they are playing right now and getting bounced in the opening round of the playoffs is not what Donnie Walsh, or Knicks fans, had in mind when Melo was acquired.

The Knicks may be having trouble adjusting to life with Melo but at least he wants to be there in New York playing for the Knicks long term.  The same can't be said of Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets.

The Nets don't have the same problem as the Knicks.  Since acquiring Williams the team has been playing much better, especially center Brook Lopez, and now sit just 6.5 games behind Indiana for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.  That in itself is not surprising since Williams is an elite point guard and the Nets were awful so really the only place for them to go was up.  What is surprising is that according to many league sources Williams has shown no desire to stay with the team once his contract expires.

The Nets traded away a lot to get Deron Williams (or guard Devin Harris, forward Derrick Favors, two first round draft picks, and $3 million in cash) and if he walks away in 2012 then the Nets are screwed.  I can understand why the Nets made the trade as it not only helps improve the team immediately but will also help generate interest in the team when they move to Brooklyn in a couple years but if Williams doesn't resign then they are screwed as now not only will they not have a superstar to market/build the team around but they won't have any draft picks to rebuild the team.

Now Williams himself hasn't made any official statement about whether he will resign or not but there is some serious evidence to help support the theory he wants to get out of New Jersey as soon as possible.  When the trade was first announced the response from Williams was anything but positive as he said he was upset about the deal and not happy to be leaving Utah, which when compared to New Jersey is understandable.  Even though Williams would then go on to say all the right things at his press conference and interviews it was the initial reaction that were his true feelings I believe.

The other thing to consider is the current roster of the New Jersey Nets.  Aside from Williams and Lopez this is a team filled with mediocre roles players that are overpaid and under skilled.  The team has no 1st round draft picks to rebuild and barely any cap room to go out and get someone so why would Williams stay in a situation like that?  I think its going to take a lot to convince Williams to stay with the Nets and unless the team can pull off something crazy in terms of a trade or free agency I see him walking in 2012, maybe even to the Knicks if they can't get Chris Paul.

So there you have it, the 2 biggest trades of the year, the 2 biggest trades of the past 4-5 years for that matter, and both aren't working out has hoped.  If given the chance would both General Managers make the deals again?  I know I would.  Both deals needed to get done.  Each team was never going to be a contender as previously assembled and both needed to fill the seats and trading for a superstar is often the cure to those issues.

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1 comment:

yourztruiy said...

You are totally wrong about the Nets. Mediocre role players? All season, the Nets have been the opposite of the Knicks, plenty of talent, no chemistry.

Humphries would win MIP and average 14 rpg if he started all season. Playing alongside D-Will has really showcased his skills and efficiency.

Morrow is a deadly 3pt shooter, is only getting better, and has a good contract.

And the Nets have 19 mil in expiring contracts this season! How is that very little cap room, yet the Knicks have 40mil invested in 2 players and have all the cap room in the world to get CP3? The Nets are building soundly, while the Knicks are planning on Howard and CP3 to play for the vet minimum, because they know Melo and Stat aren't going past the 2nd round without a 3rd star who, unlike them, plays team ball and isn't selfish.