By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In past seasons, the idea of the Celtics trading for Carmelo Anthony was a proposition that led to spirited debate and a divide among Boston fans. The Knicks small forward has been one of the best pure scorers in the NBA for nearly a decade now and that’s an area the Celtics had been severely lacking in during the first three years of the Brad Stevens era. He could be the go-to scorer the Celtics needed in theory, despite his defensive shortcomings and ball-stopping tendencies.
That proposition has surfaced once again this week with the Knicks reeling at the midway point of the 2016-17 season, and discord an issue for Anthony and team president Phil Jackson. In response, the New York media raised the question: Would the Celtics make sense as a trade destination for Anthony?
At first, it’s a scenario that could make sense for both sides. Danny Ainge is still hunting for superstars (albeit Anthony is a fading one) and he has the best draft trade assets out of any franchise in the league right now. The Knicks are at a crossroads as a fringe playoff team and with an unhealthy mix of aging veteran pieces and a young cornerstone in Kristaps Porzingis. They are probably best served to build around him with 20-something prospects, rather than a 32-year-old Anthony. If the Knicks could get him to waive his no-trade clause, Boston would be after him … right?
Not so fast. A closer look at the Celtics’ current composition and needs makes any potential trade for Anthony a scenario that doesn’t fit for Boston in both the short and long term
Times have changed quickly for the green during the 2016-17 season, as the Celtics are now an offensive-minded squad that ranks among the top 10 offenses in the league. Isaiah Thomas has turned into one of the best scorers in the NBA, while Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley have developed into elite 3-point shooters. Anthony would strengthen that attack in theory, but his preferred isolation style of play does not translate well to Brad Stevens’ pace-and-space offense. The nine-time All-Star has never been known for his passing (3 assists per game in his career) and that’s a troublesome scenario for a guy on the back nine of his career.
Then there’s the defense, an area that Anthony could never consider a strength, even when he was in his physical prime. He fouls a lot, does not have a strong defensive IQ and does not play with passion on that end of the floor. There was a time when he was a strong defensive rebounder, but those skills have declined as well with his age. For a Celtics team that ranks in the bottom third in the league defensively, Anthony would only compound those issues.
Finally, there’s the issue of a price tag and contract. Anthony is under contract through the 2019-20 season but also has an opt out for that final year, one that he’s likely to exercise to earn one final big deal under the revamped CBA. That essentially means you’d be trading for just 1.5 years of Anthony by dealing for him now. It’s fair to assume a piece like Anthony wouldn’t likely push Boston past the Cavs in the next year or two, so why would Ainge sacrifice future draft picks and cap flexibility to make such a move? Even if the cost were minimal, an Anthony trade does not fall in line with the C’s team-building philosophy.
So while the rumors may continue to pop up in the coming weeks if the Knicks fall closer to the cellar in the Eastern Conference, Anthony-to-Boston is one scenario that you don’t have to take seriously.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.