By: Sam Esfandiari
According to Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group, the Warriors could pursue Carmelo Anthony if a trade for Kevin Love does not happen. Initial response among Warrior fans has been negative at best. Comments such as “Iso happy”, “Selfish”, “Ball stopper”, “Not team oriented”, “Old” and so on litter Warrior fan forums, blogs and twitter.
While these comments do have an air of truth to them, they don’t come close to telling the full story. In reality, there’s a strong argument for Melo putting the Warriors closer to title contention than Kevin Love.
Before examining what it would take to make either move happen, let’s start with on floor production. Anthony’s career 54.7 TS% is slightly above league average (53.5). For a player who dominates the ball so much (31.7 use-age%), you want a more efficient return. For reference, LeBron James and Kevin Durant’s career TS% are in the neighborhood of 60.0 (the benchmark for elite efficiency) on similar usage. Kevin Love’s career TS% is 56.6, much higher than Anthony’s as well.
The problem with using career statistics is, why do I care what either player did at age 19 or 22, when we’re looking to grab them now? They’ve developed their game, become better shooters, smarter players, and when that happens efficiency rises.
So lets compare Carmelo Anthony to Kevin Love over the last 2 seasons:
Anthony has proven more durable (stretched across last 4-5 years this also holds true) and the better long-range shooter. The efficiency and assists slightly skew to Love, and rebounds heavily to Love. Both players get to the free throw line regularly (Anthony 7.3 times per game, Love, 8.2).
The one caveat here is Kevin Love has played almost all his minutes at PF. Carmelo Anthony has played at both SF and PF. When breaking down Anthony’s stats at PF, the scoring numbers become even more similar.
Carmelo Anthony’s TS% at PF last year (per 82games.com) was 56.9 and has risen in lineup combinations pairing him with a pick and roll center (Chandler) and shooters. (For reference Kevin Love’s was 59.1. TS%). Rising efficiency at PF has been a noticeable trend since Anthony arrived to New York. According to Over 4 seasons, his TS% has hovered at 57% at PF, and around his career average of 54.7 at SF (note: in Denver, Carmelo almost never played PF). This happens while Anthony’s point total stays the same. Simply put, at PF, Anthony has more spacing, forces defensive mismatches, gets better looks, and in turn makes them more often.
Anthony’s rebounding rate also rose to 8 per 36 at PF v. his career average of 6.5 (Acceptable range for a PF). Overall Anthony’s PER last season at the PF position was 27.1 v. 22.0 at the SF (Love’s was 26.9).
None of this says Carmelo Anthony is a better PF than Kevin Love. Love is the league’s best rebounder, scorers at a similar rate with slightly better efficiency than Anthony. However in the context of the PF position, it’s closer than the raw numbers and career totals suggest.
How do we even get one?
Kevin Love is under-contract for 2014-15. With Love announcing he won’t resign with Minnesota, the Wolves have begrudgingly began to consider the idea of trading their franchise player so they don’t lose him for nothing.
Minnesota knows Kevin Love’s value, and trading him would signal a rebuild. With so many potential suitors, the price will be steep. Any trade for Love would start with Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, would likely require trading David Lee with a future pick to a team well under the cap, for a player the Wolves either covet more or have friendly contracts. Add to that, the Warriors would still have to find a way to include future picks on top of it (something they lack) to sway Minnesota. In short, it would be very expensive, and it would likely leave the Warriors without draft picks for a long time.
Carmelo Anthony is an unrestricted free agent, allowing him to pick his destination.
Here’s where it gets difficult. The Warriors are over the cap with $65.1 million in salary committed for 2014-15. Per Larry Coon, “The 2014-15 salary cap is now projected to be $63.2 million and the tax level is projected to be $77.0 million.” Any move for Carmelo Anthony would require clever maneuvering.
The Warriors could attempt to trade Iguodala (or Bogut), David Lee and Barnes contracts for future picks, and clear $30.35 million in cap space taking them down to 34.75 million committed and give themselves enough cap-space to outright sign Carmelo Anthony at the max deal of $22.48. That would only leave them $6 million under the cap to fill a SF or C hole. Finding anyone defensively as valuable as Bogut or Iguodala for 6 mil would be impossible.
(Melo max deal numbers per http://www.hoopsrumors.com/2013/10/maximum-contract-scenarios-carmelo-lebron.html)
A second more creative option would be to trade Barnes and Lee to a rebuilding team willing to take Lee’s contract for Barnes’ potential. A team like Philadelphia or Orlando, who are $30+ million under the cap and still rebuilding, might see the cost of Lee as an offset to get Harrison Barnes. In return the Warriors would get a 2nd round pick and 18 mil Trade Player Exception (TPE). Attach Nedovic and it rises 1.1 million to 19.1 million. That’s less than the max but starts to approach to it point where if Melo wanted to take a discount they could use the TPE + a 1st round pick to New York as compensation to sign Melo.
The TPE is essentially created cap slot for which the team with it can take on salary up to that amount regardless of their cap situation. The Warriors utilized a TPE created by trading Richard Jefferson to Utah, to sign Andre Iguodala. (Miami also gave Cleveland and Toronto TPE’s to attain Bosh and Lebron at their desired compensation).
For this to happen, Carmelo Anthony would have to make his desire to come to Golden State and only Golden State known, and be willing to take a slight discount.
So why Melo?
Both scenarios’ are unlikely. This isn’t Miami in 2010 with one star committed here, and all the cap space to sign whoever they want. But both scenarios’ are possibilities based on players desire to come to the Bay, ability to play hardball with their current employers, and Warriors management creativity in creating the space necessary.
In both players the Warriors would obtain that legitimate 2nd scorer they need to get farther in the playoffs. The question becomes, which one allows the Warriors to keep as much of the core as possible.
With Minnesota having Kevin Love under contract for another season, the sheer amount of assets the Warriors would have to give up to obtain love makes it tricky to know if they could be anywhere near the defensive team they were in 2013/14. And with the Warriors window tied to Iguodala and Bogut’s age (30), the window is now. Obtaining Love, and losing defense to do it, might put them more or less at the same place, low to mid 50 wins, competitive but not in true title contention.
Melo, given his free agency status, it’s possible they wouldn’t have to give up Klay or Iguodala or Bogut to make it happen. It wouldn’t be easy, but if possible, in context of what’s left on the Warrior roster and assets going forward, a move for Carmelo might put them in a better position to compete for a title over next few years than one for Kevin Love, even if you don’t believe Melo is the better player.