Enes Kanter Is What Happens When You Give Out No Trade Clauses

The last year of the Phil Jackson-Carmelo Anthony war was brutal to witness as Jackson went to the playbook and unleashed all of his smug venomous back handed slaps to try to wear Carmelo down so he would flee New York and the Knicks could truly begin their rebuilding, highlighting Kristaps Porzingis as the face of the team. That Jackson had to resort to Plan B was necessary because Jackson wholly mismanaged Plan A when he, for no reason that makes any sense, gave Carmelo Anthony a no-trade clause.  Meaning he gave Carmelo more power than anyone in the Knicks organization.

Professional sports is the one industry in which talented labor consistently has power over management and are able to dictate based on their desires and interests. It is especially true in the NBA where elite stars determine success and lack of stars trigger failure. It’s not a secret who holds all the cards and the most shrewd NBA players use it to their advantage.

No trade-clauses are the territory of the super elite, the first ballot Hall of Famers. Kobe had one. LeBron had one.

Carmelo had done nothing in his career to warrant a guarantee that he would not be traded, that he was that extraordinary and would stay that way. That is the inherent problem with no trade clauses, the error in calculation. You are asking for disaster two or three years down the line because the negotiator doesn’t consider the impact of time. Today is not tomorrow. Things change.

No trade clauses are shallow ankle bracelets that keep stars attached to their team of choice. However, like a failed marriage, there is a day of reckoning when the no-trade clause has to be adjudicated. The player wins The team loses.

There is no way for the team to get the value they need for a star when he gets to pick and choose where he wants to go.

Shaq didn’t have a no-trade clause and the Lakers were able to get Lamar Odom. Pau Gasol didn’t have a no-trade clause and Memphis obtained his brother Marc.  Carmelo’s no trade clause hasn’t netted them much but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

The Knicks wanted Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon for Carmelo. That was never going to work. Ariza and Gordon are foundational to D’Antoni’s shoot it or move it system. Take Ryan Anderson or you are out of luck, so said Daryl Morey.

The Cavaliers, as of a few days ago, were willing to give up Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert and a second rounder. The Knicks wanted the Brooklyn lottery pick, which may in fact be the first pick. The Knicks were laughed at. Carmelo is on the back end of his career. He can’t defend, his scoring leans more towards three point shooting and he is an apathetic rebounder. He is deserving of a late first rounder or second rounder, not a lottery pick.

Then the Thunder entered the equation. And the Knicks had to bite. They couldn’t have Melo in training camp on Monday. It would have been a colossal embarrassment for the organization and a cautionary tale of incompetence that seems to follow the Knicks around like a ghost they cannot bury.

Of course, Melo complicated it with his no trade clause. Portland was a buyer with assets but Carmelo didn’t want to go to Portland. The Knicks were forced to take the worst defensive players at their position in Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott. The leftovers and crumbs are as follows: The Knicks are Doug McDermott’s third team in three years and he never rebounds. Enes Kanter has in the paint scoring talent but plays lazy when he has to guard someone. And a second round pick. That’s the haul for Melo, a once superstar who still gives 20 points a game, though his numbers have descended the past two seasons, particularly the way he rebounds.

2016-17 Points Rebounds Offensive Rating Defensive Real Plus-Minus
Enes Kanter (OKC) 14.3 6.7 116 63rd (C)
Doug McDermott (Chicago, OKC) 6.6 2.2 112 70th (SF)
Carmelo Anthony (New York) 22.4 5.9 108 65th (SF)

If NBA owners operated under the premise of hindsight, the no-trade clause would be put in the same time warp bucket as the red, white and blue ABA basketball and brutalizing players on the way to the rim.  But no such luck.  Owners foam at the mouth for stars and when they have one they are desperate to keep a player and make a bargain they can’t control on the back end. They lack the self awareness to look at the economic damage of what is waiting around the corner. Their greed will sabotage them.

By himself, Carmelo kept the Knicks full rebuild on the shelf. It starts Monday. Two years too late.


photo via llananba