The NBA's season may be on hold, but there are rising stars who have a bright future ahead. There are a lot of top tier players who, despite having played in the NBA for around 5 years, are still very young. Unlike established players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, and Anthony Davis, who are mostly in their mid to late 20s, I'm instead going to talk about the best players who are currently in their rookie or sophomore season. So here we go:
1. Luka Dončić
This one was an obvious choice. Though Luka Dončić recently turned 21 years old, he's playing like a veteran. From his rookie season, he bursted into the spotlight averaging 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists while leading the Dallas Mavericks to statement wins over teams like the Warriors, Rockets, Celtics, and Thunder. After the season, he was awarded the Rookie of Year. But what he did last year feels like an afterthought compared to this year. His averages have all gone up to 28, 9, and 8, he is number 1 in the league with 14 triple doubles as well as in franchise history with 22, and he has the Dallas Mavericks in position to make their first playoff appearance in 4 years. They actually might not have to clinch if the NBA chooses to start the playoffs as soon as their coronavirus hiatus is over. Getting back to the subject of Luka, his unique ball handling and passing at 6'7 allows him to be one of the craftiest guards despite his lack of athleticism. By the way, his clutch performances aren't too bad either. Don't be surprised if he wins an M.V.P. award in the future.
2. Ja Morant
Though this guy was picked at no. 2 by the Memphis Grizzlies, he was definitely playing like the no. 1 pick during the time that Zion was out. His stats of 17 points, 7 assists, and a shooting percentage that hovers around 50 are good; his highlight reels are even better. Morant's name continues to pop up on basketball highlights all over the internet and for the right reason. Take for instance his putback dunk over the Rockets' P.J. Tucker, beating Sun's Aron Baynes to the hoop to seal a win in Phoenix, or his stare down after breaking the ankles of the Clippers' Jermey Robinson before knocking down a 3 pointer. When he's not making highlight plays, he's earning praise from peers like LeBron James who labeled him "Super special" earlier this month. Most importantly perhaps, is how in one season Morant has transformed Grizzlies into a playoff team (unless the NBA choses to resume the season and they end up collapsing). No matter how the season ends, he has established himself as the face of this franchise.
3. Zion Williamson
If it wasn't for an injury that kept him out until late January, Williamson would've probably been ranked higher than Morant. But unfortunately, the unexpected happens, and that was the case with Williamson. When he came back, though, he didn't just ease back into basketball. He came with a purpose. He debuted with a 17 point 4th quarter outing and didn't look back. Pretty quickly, he regained all of the strength and athleticism that he displayed in college. Williamson's successful recovery is impressive considering he's 6'6" and 284 lbs. He may have only played 19 games this season, but 19 games was enough for him to dominate, bring a vibe, and show leadership. He may not be going to the playoffs like Luka and Ja, but he'll have Pelicans' fans going into the offseason very optimistic about their future.
4. Trae Young
It's kind of hard to believe that a guy who is so scrawny, plays so well. That's the case for Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks. In just 2 seasons, he's already one of the best shooters, ball-handlers, and passers in the NBA. His defense needs work, but those three other abilities I just mentioned make other NBA players look like they're still in high school. Young's impact didn't happen immediately, as he went through a bumpy first half of his rookie season. In the second half, however, he went on a tear and although he didn't win Rookie of the Year, it didn't stop him from carrying his momentum into this season. His averages of 29 points and 9 assists per game, which include 11 40-point and 1 50-point night, shows his massive leap. Unfortunately most of those 40-point games have tended to be a losing effort throughout his young career. Hopefully the Hawks will build around him this offseason so his performances can finally result in more wins.
5. R.J. Barrett
Though the New York Knicks failed to win the lottery for Zion, it allowed them to take a good consolation prize in R.J. Barrett. He hasn't posted the stats or made as many highlight reel plays as the previous four players, but he deserves credit for handling New York's spotlight while playing for a franchise that's earned the reputation as a laughingstock. After some impressive performances to start the season, Barrett started to show growing pains, which can be expected from a 19 year old. However, his play and confidence has improved throughout the season. The game that stands out was against the Houston Rockets, where he dropped 27 points as well as a tough layup in the closing moments that stretched out the Knicks' lead en route to an upset win. The improvement of Barrett's stats and confidence gives Knicks fans something to be hopeful about during a very rough stretch. These are the first steps Barrett has taken toward becoming the face of this franchise.
These players were all drafted with high expectations despite the fact that their average age is only 20 years old. Guys like Luka have taken massive strides while others like R.J. have shown some signs of progression. Nonetheless, it's very impressive to see another group of young players make a name for themselves while playing against grown men with experience. It's unfortunate that we don't know when we'll see these players in action again, but we do know that as long as the players I've talked about keep improving, the NBA will be in good hands for the future.
Sorry, but as much as all of us Knicks fans want to see owner James Dolan sell the team, it's unlikely to happen. All of the Knicks problems have came from Dolan. Since trading their Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing, they've missed the playoffs in all but five seasons and have won only one playoff series. In the other fourteen seasons, they continue to show their incompetence in the most impossible ways. While some of their problems aren't directly on Dolan, all of their problems stem from him, whether it's come to bad acquisitions or his management decisions. If the Knicks don't want to remain an embarrassment, they must make three more changes.
Before Dec. 6, they needed to make four changes, but they already made the first major change with the firing of head coach David Fitzdale. He was recommended by star players such as LeBron James and Dywane Wade to be a head coach so that definitely brought up some good feelings for the Knicks and their fans. However, he wasn't hired to develop a roster of young players. He was hired to manage star players that the Knicks were planning to get in the next free agency class such as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving among other players. They even traded their promising, but injured big man Kristaps Porzingis, along with other high priced players midway in the season to create more cap space for free agency. There was one problem: they didn't get the best free agents. Yet they still assembled a roster that seemed like a playoff caliber team. Rookie guard/forward R.J. Barrett and center Mitchell Robinson look like building blocks for the team in the future. But Fitzdale wasn't making the best out of a roster of young players.
That was only one out of four changes that need to happen.
President of Operations Steve Mills has varied his approach season by season with the Knicks and it hasn't been helping at all. His latest bad move was hiring Fitadale. It wasn't about Fitzdale being a good or bad coach. What made the hiring so bad, was that Mills was so sold on the Knicks getting free agents, that he wanted a guy who could successfully deal with those star players in Fitzdale. Even with an injury to their best player Kristaps Porzingis that would keep him out for all of 2018-2019, they still had a roster that was worth developing. Yet, he really didn't want to go with a coach that could develop some of their players such as Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy, or Mike Budenholzer. They did produce a solid 2018 draft class in Kevin Knox, Robinson, and Alonzo Trier who all showed promise during different phases of last season, but instead of developing them, they were more focused on getting a high pick that would complement their star free agents. But in the end, all of the losing hurt them from getting a free agent. Look at the Los Angeles Lakers before they got LeBron James; they didn't make the playoffs but they showed enough development in their players to help lure him. But since the Knicks put their young players in a bad situation, they lost a lot of games and it turned off free agents from joining them. In comparison the crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets focused on developing their players. Their reward was a playoff appearance, which appealed to Irving and Durant. Therefore, Mills deserves to get fired without question this off-season.
After they clean house this off-season, they should replace Mills with the president of the Toronto Raptors Masai Ujiri. Ujiri, constructed a Raptors team that went from being a contender for four years, to a champion last year. While people think of him as the guy who made lots of high risk, high reward moves such as trading for Kawhi Leonard, he also deserves lots of credit for drafting players that have greatly progressed over time such as Pascal Siakam. Despite losing Leonard in the off-season to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Raptors are still one of the top teams of the East. His best move however, may have been hiring a coach that could really get the best out of his players in Nick Nurse. If the Knicks can hire Ujiri, he should do a lot to hire current ESPN analyst Mark Jackson. Besides his city roots and the fact that he was a point guard for the Knicks early in his career, he's praised for his work with the Golden State Warriors from 2011-2014. He didn't win a championship, but he reached the playoffs with them twice, where he won his first and only playoff series. His most impressive work is that he developed the Warriors championship core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. He has previously expressed interest of taking the head coaching job. It's definitely realistic that hiring Ujiru and Jackson will help develop the Knicks young core and lead them to lots of success. But for all of that to happen, they must put both of them in a good situation to succeed.
As most of you already know, I am a huge Knicks fan that wrote 2 articles about their offseason. The first one came after they traded Kristaps Porzingis along with some other players who they previously signed to big contracts, to clear up cap space for what would be a loaded free agency class. It also put them in a spot to get the no. 1 draft pick. (https://www.bbbstraighttalksports.com/blog/the-knicks-future-bright). But after the Brooklyn Nets started to emerge as a rival to the Knicks for free agents and when they ended up with the 3rd pick in the draft lottery, I then concentrated on how important free agency will be for them (https://www.bbbstraighttalksports.com/blog/how-important-is-the-knicks-offseason-very-important). But then on June 30th, the Nets not only stole their 2 prime targets in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, but have now emerged as the focus of New York basketball. The Knicks have now hit rock bottom, but the road back to the top may not take as long as some people may expect.
While they still missed out on the no. 1 pick Zion Williamson, they landed R.J. Barrett with the 3rd pick. Barrett who wanted to be a Knick, is arguably the most complete player in the draft and has the ability to flourish as a leader of this team for about a decade. He joins a group of players from last year's draft class that showed potential throughout last season. First rounder Kevin Knox has shown the ability to score in bunches and can be a lethal wingman in the future. Mitchell Robinson is a strong finisher and rebounder, but his shot blocking is his best skill as he may already be one of the best shot blockers in the game. Point/Shooting guard Alonzo Trier went from an undrafted player, to a potential 6th man off the bench. If this year's class of Barrett and fellow draftee Ignas Brazdeikis can succeed, New York will be enjoying lots of long term depth in the future. Another player who was a lottery pick even though he wasn't drafted by the team, is Dennis Smith Jr., who came in the trade for Porzingis. His athleticism is the centerpiece of his game, but his passing will be essential for the production of Robinson and Julius Randle, who was one of their biggest free agent signings.
Speaking of Randle, why don't we go into the Knicks' free agency. Overall, they didn't reach their goal of getting a marquee free agent, but that doesn't mean it was all bad. They were able to get Randle who has fully recovered from breaking his right tibia in his rookie season, and last season averaged a career high 21 points, while playing a career high 30 minutes. With his production improving, there's a strong possibility that Randle will enjoy his best years in New York. Along with Randle, comes a group of big men in Marcus Morris Sr., Taj Gibson, and Bobby Portis. They aren't the flashiest, but they're hard workers who are reliable players who can consistently put up double-doubles. They also signed Wayne Ellington and Reggie Bullock who bring three point shooting to the lineup. So there you go; a free agency that didn't go as planned, but one in which they brought in players who can excel on the court and at mentoring the younger players.
Many Knicks fans probably view this offseason as one of the most unsuccessful off seasons for any team in any sport. They have a right to think that, as they waited a long time for the draft lottery and free agency to happen, and they didn't get what they wanted. But that doesn't mean they didn't do any good things as well. They drafted a player in Barrett who has the ability to excel at being the no. 1 option in the future even if it may not be this year. Their free agency class featured a bunch of hard working players who will definitely help them win some games. This is really a team that can very much excel next season.
It's crazy to think that a franchise that's maybe one of basketball's most notable franchises, could still be arguably the most cursed franchise in all of sports. And yet the Knicks might've established themselves as that franchise after their major flop in free agency.
Before I even go into depth on why they're cursed, lets go over why they've historically been one of the best franchises in basketball.
New York has made the playoffs a solid 40 times in their 72 year history. That includes a number of deep playoff runs. Eight times they made it to the finals and 2 times, they won it all. They've had great coaches in Joe Lapchick, Red Holzman, and Pat Riley. Some of their Hall of Famers are Patrick Ewing, Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Bernard King, and many more. From 1967-1968 to 1973-1974, they had one of the greatest winning spans in N.B.A. history. With Holzman at the helm along with Reed, Frazier, DeBusschere, and Bill Bradley, they won 60 games and their first championship in 1969-1970 against the Los Angeles Lakers when Willis Reed famously limped onto the court in game 7 to inspire the Knicks to a 14 point victory with Frazier racking up 36 points and 19 assists. Two years later, they added two more future Hall of Famers in Jerry Lucas and Earl Monroe. It payed off as they beat the Lakers again in 1972-1973. The next years had some bright moments like Bernard King transforming the Knicks back into a playoff team in the early to mid 1980s with outrageous scoring performances, but they were overall inconsistent. That changed in 1985 when they drafted Patrick Ewing. He was not only a guarantee for points, rebounds, and blocks, but for being the reason why the Knicks made the playoffs for 13 straight seasons. None were more evident than in the mid 1990s in which behind his leadership under Riley, the Knicks were one of the most physical teams in the NBA. This earned them a Finals appearance in 1994. Five years later, the Knicks became the first 8th seed team to make the Finals even with Ewing tearing his ACL in the Conference Finals. About a full decade later, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire gave some long awaited playoff seasons from 2010-2013.
Those are all of the pros, so let's now go to the cons.
New York made the Finals 3 straight times in the early 1950s, but lost all of them. Two of them went to a game 7 and both were when Hall of Fame guard Carl Braun was in the military. Had he been available, they might've one at least one championship. They then began to decline and it showed until the late 1960s. For about the next decade there was happiness, but all good things must come to an end.
That's what happened at the end of the 1970s and early into the 1980s until King made them relevant for 2 years. Then 1984-1985 came. After nearly eliminating the eventual champion Boston Celtics the previous season, hopes were high for the upcoming season for King's Knicks. King lived up to the hype as he won the scoring title with 32 points a game, but the Knicks didn't. In March, they were barely in the playoff hype when they were playing the Kansas City Kings. King went up to block a shot in that game and with one snap of the knee, his season as well as next season, and the majority of 1986-1987, were done. He did show that he still had his scoring touch in the final 6 games that he played in his last season in a Knicks uniform, but it wasn't enough to save his time in New York. He was shipped off to the Washington Bullets where he regained his scoring touch. Yes, the Knicks' 14 year playoff streak started next season after King, but Ewing, who was there for the first 13 (he was a Seattle Supersonic in 2000-2001) never got to play with him. If they did, lots of championships would've come to the Garden.
The heartbreak that comes to the minds of Knicks fans takes place in the 1990s when they were at their best, in the Ewing era. In 1993, Ewing helped the Knicks win 60 games. In the playoffs, they breezed to the Conference Finals where they went up 2 games to none against Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. The Bulls took the next 2 games which set up an important game 5 at the Garden. Down one in the final seconds, a falling Ewing gave the ball to Charles Smith who was blocked at the rim not one, not two, but three times. The Bulls took game 5 as well as the next game to reach the Finals. Next season brought even more optimism with Jordan entering his first retirement. The Knicks lived up to it, as they overthrew the Bulls in the semifinals which set up a matchup against the Indiana Pacers. They trailed 3 games to 2, but won game 6 in Indy, and then game 7 thanks to Ewing's put back dunk with under 30 seconds left. This put them in the Finals for the first time in 21 years where they faced the Houston Rockets. In what was a hype matchup between two future Hall of Fame centers in Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon, the Knicks were able to take a 3-2 series lead. One game away from a long awaited championship. In the final seconds, they were down by 2 and all star guard John Starks had the ball. Starks, a fan favorite was hot in the game and used an Ewing screen to try and free himself up. But a pursuing Olajuwon was able to block Starks and the Knicks championship dreams as he outplayed Ewing in game 7 to win the championship. As devastated as the team was, they still won 55 games next season which set up a rematch with the Pacers. Only things were different this time. In game 1, Reggie Miller scored 8 points in 9 seconds to overcome a 6 point deficit. The Knicks fell behind 3 games to 1, but clutch performances by Ewing in the next 2 games forced a game 7. The Knicks trailed big, but battled back and they had the ball with a chance to tie it. But Ewing missed a finger roll at the buzzer.
The buzzer not only eliminated the Knicks, but ended the tenure of hall of fame coach Pat Riley, who established himself as one of the best coaches in Knicks history despite not bring a title. He forced his way into Miami to coach the Heat, joining Jordan and Miller as New York's public enemies. He later said that he felt very sorry for it during his Hall of Fame speech, but at the time, it was a major punch in the gut for Knicks fans.
This didn't stop the team from competing however. They made the semifinals the next season and with a big offseason, they won 57 games in 1996-1997 which earned them a chance to stick it to Riley's Heat who had won 61 games. They were up 3 games to 1, but a fight in what was already going to be a game 5 lost, led to lots of suspensions for Knicks players. However, lots of key players who committed minor actions were also suspended. The Knicks lost the next 2 games which added to heartbreak. Even when they wrote one of the greatest underdog stories by becoming the first 8th seed team to make the Finals two years later, the ending was disappointing as they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in 5 games. After losing to the Pacers in the 2000 Conference Finals, they traded Ewing and even though they still made the playoffs the year without him, the next years were horrifying for fans.
At the center, was James Dolan who made terrible hires in guys like Isiah Thomas and Phil Jackson. Thomas made one bad move after another as a coach, GM, and person, giving tabloids a field day. After firing him, the Knicks slowly rebuild back into a playoff team thanks to the acquisitions of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. But as they then began to struggle, Dolan tried to right the ship with the hiring of Phil Jackson. Instead he made things worse as Jackson unsuccessfully tried to employ his famed, yet outdated triangle offense. He also made Anthony's final months with the team rough. Overall, Dolan just doesn't know the meaning of what an owner should do. That's because he is too sensitive about the criticism he received from others. It was bad to the point that he banned Charles Oakley from coming to the Garden for insults that he directed at Dolan, as well as a fan for telling him to sell the team, and threatened to sue the Daily News for negative reports on the team.
But this offseason was supposed to be different. They were going to draft Zion Williamson at #1 and sign free agents Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Then the lottery happened. The Knicks got the 3rd pick, which they used to get R.J. Barrett who may be a more complete player than Zion actually. But they flopped in free agency. Of course Dolan made almost no effort to get Irving and Durant. Even worse, is that they went to the crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets therefore making them the #1 team in New York. And the reason why, is Dolan. While Durant and Irving both have questionable personalities, Dolan's lack of effort as well as preparation, is just another example of his incompetence.
At this point, the Knicks do have a young core along with the free agent signing of Julius Randle who has been getting better every year since the knee injury he suffered in his rookie year. With R.J. and Randle likely being the leader amongst other promising players like Dennis Smith Jr., Mitchell Robinson, and Kevin Knox, they can definitely compete for a playoff spot.
But then it's just a fact that instead of being a possible contender for a championship, they are now only a playoff contender. Overall, the Knicks took a big blow in free agency. The reasoning is simple, this organization hasn't been ran well for almost 2 decades. If they want to rebound next offseason, they must acknowledge that players will only come to them if they are a good team with promise. If they don't take that into account, they'll remain far away from a championship because as it stands, they are one of the most cursed franchises in sports.
This year's offseason is arguably the most important offseason in Knicks history. With lots of cap space, a high draft pick, and a GM and coach ready to prove themselves, they are in a position to make lots of moves that could set themselves up for lots of success in the years to come. In what's going an offseason that could bring lots of joy among a fanbase starving for success, lets go over why this summer is big for the franchise .
The first factor, is that the Knicks have a ton of cap space which can set them up to land big time free agents. At the start of this season, they had enough to resign power forward Kristaps Porzingis and a marquee free agent. But it was unlikely that Porzingis wouldn't get the max deal due to his injury and upset with the direction the team was heading in, he demanded a trade and got his wish by being sent to the Dallas Mavericks. The Knicks also unloaded guards Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee who were given big contracts. This now gives the Knicks the access to sign 2 max free agents. Those players could be Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, or Kemba Walker. Free agents such as Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Demarcus Cousins, Tobias Harris, or Kris Middleton are available. They are also in a good position to get these players. Kemba grew up in the Bronx, Kyrie grew up in Orange County NJ, Kawhi's uncle who's apparently been his top adviser loves New York, and lots of rumors have pointed out that Durant wants to go to New York. New York's best shot is Durant even though he may sit out all of next season with a torn achilles tendon. Irving still has a chance of going to New York even though recent rumors of him going to the Nets. It may not happen but the dream of signing both players, is still in sight.
This is also the first season that coach David Fizdale and general manager Scott Perry can prove themselves as strong recruiters. For Perry, he was hired in the 2017 offseason. He was a part of the front office that drafted Durant. His role in building what is becoming to be a young and talented Sacramento Kings team. With the Knicks, Perry's first draft class was a strong one with scoring forward Kevin Knox, a pogo stick center in Mitchell Robinson, and a fearless point guard in Allonzo Trier who was undrafted. He now has the chance to get forward R.J. Barrett who can't wait to play in New York. When David Fizdale became the Knicks coach, lots of the top NBA players such as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade praised him having played for him as an assistant back in Miami. His ties to stars are viewed as valuable and for the Knicks, that's a big positive.
Lastly, for what has become a fanbase waiting for success, this is finally the chance for the majority of these Knicks fans to look forward to a season. Last season marked the 14th time in 18 seasons that the Knicks were not in the playoffs. In some of those years they haven't had a draft pick. Others years saw them show their disappointment on either lottery night or draft night. But now that they have a high draft pick and the good chance to sign to not one, but two max free agents, there's a reason for the older generation to finally relive the glory days of the 1970s and 1990s, and for the younger generation to finally see lots of long term winning.
My personal belief, is that they'll be able to sign Durant, while Irving and Leonard will still remain possibilities. I'm not high on Kemba even though I would be happy with them signing him. It's going to be a very intriguing offseason.
It has been a rough season for Carmelo Anthony. Despite accepting a role on the bench with the Houston Rockets, his tenure in the lone star state was still one to forget. On offense, his playstyle of midrange shots wasn't a good fit for Houston. On defense, opponents attacked him on pick and rolls which is a common strategy that teams use against unskilled defenders like Anthony. In November, the Rockets released him. Despite almost signing with the Lakers, he went the rest of the season without a NBA team. A shame for one of the best players of his generation.
So why am I saying that Carmelo Anthony is one of the best players of his generation? Because Anthony was truly an awesome player to watch. Let's start with his abilities.
For his entire career, Anthony's game hasn't been flashy. His moves are very basic. He would attack the rim with a simple drive to the basket off a dribble hesitation, a rip and go move, pump fake, or spin move in the post. His jump shot comes from a pull up off the dribble, a hesitation from three, pump fake, turnaround, or in transition. But his deadliest move, is the jab step. To explain it, let's go through through a simulation of 3 possessions.
On the first possession, Carmelo gives you a jab step. It has you thinking about whether he'll shoot it or drive. He then drives to the basket with ease and scores.
On the second possession, Carmelo gives you a jab step. You immediately think that he's going to drive to the basket and you move with him towards the basket. The only problem, is that he's still in the same spot with the ball and you can only watch him make another basket.
On the third possession, Carmelo gives one jab step. You're not hesitant at all. He gives you another jab step. You back up. A third jab step now makes you think that he's going to shoot. Then with a simple pump fake, you go flying by and then it's just a matter of whether he scores on a jump shot or at the basket.
So there you go. At least 25 points coming from 12 simple moves. What has been his accomplishments from those 12 moves? A career total of over 25,000 points, an average of 24 points both in the regular season and playoffs, 14 straight seasons where he averaged 20 or more points, and the 2012-2013 scoring title.
What has been overshadowed in his career, is his impact. Yes his PER and win shares isn't high, but that shouldn't overshadow the impact that he had on the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks. In his first year with the Nuggets, he elevated them from a 17 win team, to a playoff team. For the next 4 seasons, Denver was a playoff team with Anthony improving his game. The only problem was that they kept losing. In 3 of those 5 seasons they lost to the finals participant of the West in the Spurs (2005 and 2007) and Lakers (2008). Then things changed in 2009. With a midseason acquisition of floor general Chauncey Billups and the athletic big man duo of Kenyon Martin and Nene Hilario, the Nuggets won 54 games and clinched the second spot in the Western Conference with Anthony leading the way averaging 23 points and 6 rebounds. They met a Hornets team led by Chris Paul who had won 49 games. But in what was supposed to be an exciting series, turned into a cakewalk for the Nuggets who won in 5 games which included winning the final 2 games by scores of 58 and 21. Their next series against the Dallas Mavericks, saw Melo hit a game winner in game 3 in what was another easy 5 game series for Denver. Despite giving Kobe Bryant and the heavily favored Lakers everything they had in the Conference Finals, they were too much for Nuggets as they won in 6 games. The 2009-2010 season once again saw the Nuggets as one of the top teams in the West. Melo was amazing, averaging 25 points. In one game, he hit a game winner over LeBron James in a marquee game against the Cavaliers. But they went back to their first round woes, losing to the Utah Jazz in 5 games. What happened in the offseason, got the entire NBA watching.
In July of 2010, LeBron James signed with the Miami Heat to join all stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Another close friend of Anthony in Amare Stoudemire signed with the Knicks. Later in that summer, LeBron called a toast advising that Carmelo and Paul join Stoudemire in New York to form a big three of their own if they wanted to beat the Heat. That got Melo thinking. With one year left on his contract, he could either go to New York in free agency or force a trade since Denver would probably want to get something out of him if he leaves. But with the collective bargaining agreement expiring, a lockout was likely to happen. Therefore, if Melo would want to be on a team during the lockout, he would have to force a trade to the Knicks which was his prime destination. But through the first 50 games, he grew unhappier since no trade was happening even though he was still balling out with the Nuggets. On February 22, 2011 Paul remained on the Hornets, but `Melo was traded to the Knicks.
Technically, this was a homecoming for Melo because he lived the first 8 years of his life in Brooklyn before moving to Baltimore. So when he walked out the tunnel for his first game as a Knick, the crowd was probably the loudest since Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing got his number retired. Melo didn't disappoint either, scoring 28 points in his first game which was a win over the Milwaukee Bucks. The Knicks would be inconsistent in the second half of the season, but still made the playoffs: the first time they made it in 7 seasons. They would however lose to the Boston Celtics in 4 games. The Knicks got off to slow start the next season since most players were out of shape with the NBA strike happening for the first 16 games. Fortunately they improved and by the time the season ended, the Knicks were one of the hottest teams in the NBA. Anthony was playing amazing basketball in April, averaging just under 30 points a game. His best game in not just his Knicks career, but his entire career, came in that season against the Chicago Bulls. The Knicks started off strong, but the Bulls who were the #1 seed that year, rallied to take what seemed to be a commanding lead. Then Melo hit a three pointer to send the game into overtime. Once again, the Bulls looked like they were going to escape with a victory. But Anthony had other plans. With the clock running down as well as the Knicks' playoff hopes, he hit a spectacular shot with Luol Deng's hand right in his face. The Knicks won the game and made the playoffs where they faced the Miami Heat. They lost the series, but they managed to break their streak of 13 straight playoff losses thanks to a 41 point performance by Melo in game 4. 2012-2013 was arguably the best season in Carmelo's career. The Knicks won 54 games and their division with Melo serving as the catalyst. He averaged 28 points which won him the scoring title and helped the Knicks win 13 straight games. In the playoffs against Boston, Anthony averaged 29 points and led the Knicks to victory in 6 games: their first playoff series win since 2000. But all of the happiness ended in the second round against the Indiana Pacers. The next 4 seasons had bright moments which included Melo scoring a career high and franchise record 62 points, reaching 20,000 points, and hitting many clutch shots and game winners. But he was playing those seasons with a terrible supporting cast which included playing with the likes of Andre Bargnani, Jose Calderon, and Joakim Nosh amongst others. The coaches and the front office didn't help either, as they served as distractions to the team. All of these factors caused the Knicks to miss the playoffs in all of those seasons. Then Carmelo was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder one month before the 2017-2018 season.
He spent his only season in Oklahoma City as the third option behind Russell Westbrook and Paul George, averaging a solid 16 points and 5 rebounds. But the more was needed out of him. Especially in the playoffs against the Jazz where the Thunder couldn't afford to put him in during the final 3 games. In July, he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks before agreeing to a buyout where he was put on waivers. He agreed to a one year contract at the veteran minimum with the Houston Rockets. His season wasn't a success and even though he accepted whatever role Houston gave him, it wasn't enough to save him. He was released after only 12 games.
So that leads us to now. It's hard to believe that a player who has scored over 25,000 points with some of the most basic moves and turn teams from laughingstocks into playoff teams, wouldn't be on a roster. While some think he is someone that can only score, but not win, they are forgetting how great he truly was. As a huge Knicks fan, Carmelo is still my favorite player on that team and I think he had a good tenure in the Big Apple. When he retires, his ability to score and win should be the first thing that comes to mind when you say the name Carmelo Anthony.
Yesterday was a day that lots of Knicks fans will remember. It will either be remembered for positive or negative reasons. What happened was that the Knicks traded their promising star Kristaps Porizingis to the Dallas Mavericks along with Tim Hardway Jr., Courtney Lee, and Trey Burke. The Knicks in return, got DeAndre Jordan, Dennis Smith Jr., and Wesley Matthews.
To a good amount of Knicks fans, it was a devastating blow for them to see Porzingis who was an all star last season, averaging 22 points before tearing his A.C.L. on February 6. He then expressed displeasure about the direction that the team was heading this year, with a 10-40 record, despite a bright long term future. The future free agent was traded shortly afterward. He thanked the city of New York on his Twitter and Instagram account.
However, there is now a bright spot. With the trade, the Knicks know have over 70 million in cap space. Good enough to land 2 max contract superstars in free agency. This year's free agency features star players Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, and much more players. They also have a shot at getting who some consider to be the next LeBron James: small forward Zion Williamson out of Duke. They have already had a successful draft class in promising forward Kevin Knox, a pogo-stick center in Mitchell Robinson, and scoring guard Alonzo Trier who was undrafted. The factor that also makes another successful draft class possible, is the fact that there is lots of trust in the Knicks management.
As for free agency, they've been rumored to be Kyrie Irving's next team since he asked to be traded in 2017 when he was on the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he eventually got shipped to Boston. The rumors started to swirl up again when reports stated that he wasn't happy on the Celtics. Despite publicly saying that he will resign with the Celtics this preseason, last month was a whirlwind that only focused by Irving wanting out. Before the season, the Knicks had a 47% chance compared to the 44% that Boston had. After his comments, it now seems more likely than ever unless something else happens.
Durant's rumors started before this NBA season, as rumors said that he was unhappy in Golden State. His brother, Tony Durant, commented on his Instagram post after opening day, "yessir brother!!!! Filling the hand up before we get outta here." He was referring to Golden State. Durant's body language has also seemed to indicate that he wants out. In some games, he played very well but didn't win, such as in Toronto where he put up 51 points, but was outwitted by Leonard in a loss. He has also constantly declined to talk about free agency. New York has also been the favorites to land him.
So for Knicks fans, 2018-19 may have been a lost season regarding their record, but they've already seen growth from most of their young players. Thanks to their entire draft class last year which has stirred up positivity, they are likely to have another successful all around draft class, They will be able to use their cap space to get from one to two marquee free agents. So with that, Knicks fans who have seen them miss the playoffs 14 times since 2001, this off season should and probably will change all of that.