Author Archives: Tom Jinks

A Year On – Should the Knicks be regretting trading for Carmelo Anthony?

Almost a year ago the New York Knicks traded for superstar forward Carmelo Anthony, in a move that was heralded as bringing the Knicks back to relevancy.

Almost a year on, the Knicks haven’t really made any progress – they made the playoffs last year but were swept by the Celtics, and currently sit at 6-10 this season.

While Melo’s individual stats are healthy (he’s averaging 25.7 ppg so far this season), what New York had to give up to get Anthony is affecting them this season. In the trade with Denver, the Knicks sent solid role players like Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Timofey Mozgov to the Nuggets – when they could have got Melo last summer in free agency.

While Denver have flourished since the ‘Melo trade with their team-first mentality (12-5 this season and second place in the West), the Knicks have struggled, primarily because of their lack of squad depth and complete allergy towards defence.

Tyson Chandler was signed in free agency to combat this, but one player can’t solve the problems of an entire team and change the whole team mentality – especially when you have Melo and Amar’e Stoudemire at the forward spots who offer you no defence at all.

Everyone knows that to win a championship in the NBA you have to be great defensively, particularly to prevail in the playoffs. And let’s face it, the Knicks can’t defend. And when you’ve got the Bulls, Heat and the Celtics to get past in the East, you need to be able to defend.

So what can the Knicks do? They haven’t got the cap room to spend big on a free agent this summer, seeing as they overpaid to bring Tyson Chandler to the Big Apple, what with Melo and Stoudemire on max-deals. They need defence…

One solution is Dwight Howard. Orlando look like they are going to play the waiting game and take their chances in the Howard sweepstakes this summer, so a sign-in-trade with the Magic this summer would be brilliant for the Knicks. Trading Stoudemire for Howard would be a significant upgrade for the Knicks and give Orlando something back in return. Howard brings defensive and offensive prowess, which would allow Chandler to play power forward, and offset Melo’s lack of defence at the 3.

I know the Knicks were grateful that Amar’e chose them in the summer of 2010, when every other prized free agent rejected them. But the likelihood is that a frontcourt with Melo and Amar’e isn’t going to deliver you a championship, and either a new coach needs to come in that preaches defence, or you need to trade away one of those pieces.

Throw in a veteran desperate for a ring (I’m thinking Steve Nash), when his contract in Phoenix expires this summer, and a Howard-Chandler-Anthony-Fields-Nash could equal success for the Knicks.

What do you think – how can the Knicks take the next step and find success in the East?

 

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Deron Williams to Turkey? Is this the first of a mass exodus from the NBA?

The news that New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams could be set to join Turkey’s Besiktas came as a bit of a shock. Here’s a player, one of the best point guards in the NBA, who is jumping shores and leaving the NBA because of the lockout. Is Deron an exception, or are we set to see more All-Stars depart for Europe in the next few months?

The reports are that Williams is set to sign a 1-year, $5 million deal with Besiktas, that has an opt-out clause in it, where Deron can go back to the NBA when the lockout ends, whenever that may be. Williams will join Allen Iverson in Turkey, and possibly Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia, according to reports.

The reason that Williams, and other NBA players, could depart for Europe is because of the lockout. The owners and the players union are locked into discussions and have failed to agree on anything so far.

To sum it up, the owners want the players to accept a 33% pay cut (at least) and want the salary cap to come down, with the prospect of a hard cap coming to the NBA, as they are fed up with losing money. The players meanwhile, want it to stay like it is, as they get around 67% of the total revenue, and don’t want to take a massive pay cut.

Until they agree, it means no games, no practice, no trades, no one gets paid and no contact is allowed to be made between players and staff. Because of this, several players have expressed a desire to play in Europe for the next year, or at least until the lockout ends. The likes of Nenad Kristic have already moved (Kristic left the Boston Celtics to join Russian side CSKA Moscow), and I can see the fringe players – the ones without the multi-million dollar guaranteed contracts and the sponsorship deals – being the ones to bite and move to Europe.

It’s hard to predict how many NBA players will leave and go to Europe, without knowing how long the lockout will last. If it’s a year and a full season is missed, players may play elsewhere, but the Euroleague is not set up financially to encorporate NBA superstars and their huge wages. Deron Williams for $5 million is one thing, but European teams can’t afford to pay huge sums of money it would take to get the Kobe’s, Lebron’s, Dirk’s and Wade’s to go over, unless they play for next to nothing for a few months.

What do you think – could several NBA players follow Deron Williams’ lead?

How will Donnie Walsh’s departure affect the Knicks?

The New York Knicks, awful for so long, have just begun on the path back to responsibility, and what do they do – get rid of Donnie Walsh. The man behind getting rid of all the bad contracts and dealing with the aftermath of the Isiah reign is gone. But what does this mean for the Knicks?

Donnie Walsh has gone because he reportedly couldn’t come to agreements over his future with the team. The president of basketball operations faced off with owner James Dolan and lost the battle. Walsh wanted total control over trades and team affairs, Dolan said no. Walsh wanted a shorter deal, Dolan wanted him to stay on for longer. The list goes on.

Donnie Walsh was the man responsible for reversing all the bad deals of the Isiah Thomas reign as Knicks president, and had to cut the bloated payroll of the team, with several players on “franchise-crippling” contracts – the likes of Jerome James, Jared Jeffries, Stephon Marbury and Zach Randolph were all traded. In two years, Walsh was able to clear cap space to sign free agent Amar’e Stoudemire to a max-$100m deal, add Carmelo Anthony this year and the Knicks have a future.

Part of the reason Walsh wanted more control was because he was upset over the Melo trade in February. Walsh wanted to wait until the summer when Carmelo was a free agent, Dolan didn’t – and sent basically the whole team over to Denver for Melo and Chauncey Billups.

After Walsh’s departure, what does the future hold for the Knicks? I’m not going to speculate on their next GM, but look at the Knicks’ potential over the next few years.

The Knicks have two superstars in Melo and Amar’e, Billups is a solid contributor and has one year left on his deal. The ultimate dream for the Knicks: get a top free agent in 2012 and pair either Dwight Howard or Chris Paul to create a New York Big Three.

The problem with the Knicks though, and one which will definitely hinder them in the playoffs against the likes of the Heat, Celtics, Magic, Bulls and even the Hawks, is their lack of defence. Mike D’Antoni is not a defensive coach, and it’s well known defence wins championships.

A Dwight Howard next to Stoudemire would work, to combat Amar’e’s complete lack of defense and allergy to rebounding, but sign a max-level free agent and the Knicks have no money to do anything else. What they need is a team, a center who can protect the paint and rebound, a PG to replace Billups in a year’s time, a few defensive wings would be a good addition. Basically, a whole team apart from Anthony and Stoudemire.

Tyson Chandler would be nice at center, but he’s going to cost quite a bit and would require a multi-year deal, which would upset the Knicks’ chances to get a premier free agent in 2012.

As long as the new GM of New York can follow in Walsh’s footsteps and continue to build a team around their two superstars, then the Knicks can challenge the Heat and Bulls for supremacy in the East. If Isiah comes back and signs the likes of Adam Morrison, Yi Jianlian and Mike Bibby to huge multi-year deals, then that’s three years completely wasted.

What do you think of Donnie Walsh’s departure from the Knicks? Let me know and comment below…

What should Orlando do about Dwight Howard?

What do you do when your franchise player has one year left on his deal and there is uncertainty surrounding whether he will sign a new deal or test the market in free agency. Would you trade him or look for a trade?

That’s the dilemma for the Orlando Magic and their franchise center Dwight Howard. Now I know the rumours are going to be continuing for months about the “will-he, won’t he go” situation, but I thought I might as well put my opinions out there.

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that Howard has not agreed to sign an extension with the Magic, despite what was reported last week and Dwight told reporters:

“There’s no truth to that. The biggest thing right now is everybody understands I have one more year left. I’m keeping my options open, but there’s no other place I’d rather be than Orlando. I want them to understand that.

“But, at the same time, I do want to win, make sure everything is in line — our team, just everything from top to bottom — and everybody is reaching for a championship.”

Howard is the best center in the NBA and would undoubtedly make any team better, and there isn’t any team who wouldn’t want him. What I can see is that this saga will drag out until next year and next summer when Howard becomes a free agent, sees what the situation is like in Orlando and then makes a decision.

The part about winning a championship is something every player wants, but let’s face it, the Magic are not winning a title next year, and unless they can pull off some amazing trades, the next few years. Orlando are committed to huge salaries for the next few years, which severely limits the flexibility to make trades. They traded for Hedo Turkoglu, who’s got about $30m and 3 years left on his contract, and swapped a bad contract in Rashard Lewis for an even worse one in Gilbert Arenas, who still has about $60m owed for the next few years. If Hedo and Arenas rediscover their old form, the Magic could make some noise in the playoffs (I’m not saying win anything), and at least get past the first round, which is of course better than last year.

After that, you’ve got the likes of JJ Redick, Chris Duhon, Brandon Bass and Quentin Richardson, all with money owed and years left on their contracts – hardly the basis for a championship team. And with the Heat and Bulls better in the East (we’ll see what the Knicks do in the summer), Orlando won’t be competing for a title in the near future.

That’s the problem for the Magic though – they are in a Catch 22 situation. Trade Howard now and get worse, or wait for a year and then lose him for nothing, and Cleveland knows how that turned out. What I think will happen is they will wait till the February deadline, if Dwight hasn’t signed an extension by then, trade him and get something back in return, a la the Carmelo Anthony trade from Denver to New York in February.

I’m not blessed with the gift of foresight, but let’s have a look at some possible destinations for Howard if he does want out of Orlando. Obviously cap situations can change (with the new CBA) and a lot can happen in a year. Here’s a few ideas if Howard wants to win a ring (I’m ruling teams like Miami out, as there’s no way they can afford to turn the Big 3 of Lebron, Wade and Bosh into a Big 4, as Howard’s going to get max money):

Lakers:

Now I know Dwight has said he doesn’t want to follow in Shaq’s footsteps and leave Orlando for LA. And the only way the Lakers are going to be able to get Howard is via trade, as they have the huge contracts of Kobe and Gasol on the books. And that requires Andrew Bynum being traded (I know the Lakers have declared him “untouchable”, but for Dwight, you would trade him). A Howard-Gasol-Kobe trio would be deadly.

Bulls:

Again, this would have to be a trade, as Chicago owe big money to Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joachim Noah over the next few years, and will have to pay max-money to Derrick Rose. But a Noah-Howard trade wouldn’t be that bad for Orlando, as Noah is a defensive force and one of the top centers in the league (unless Chicago can somehow persuade Orlando to take on Boozer’s contract).

Knicks:

Theoretically, the Knicks can afford to give Howard max-money next summer, and a trio of Howard-Anthony-Stoudemire would be exciting. But that’s all the Knicks would be able to afford, and with a thin roster, would have no quality at the guard spots. An interesting proposal, and you are bound to hear constant Howard to NY rumours until he makes up his mind, but wouldn’t it be better for New York to have a more well-rounded team with a quality PG and a couple of quality defensive wings in there?

Nets:

The Nets have the cash and an elite PG in Deron Williams. That’s it though, as they are rebuilding, have traded away their last lottery pick in Derrick Favors, and given this year’s pick (#3) to Utah. They would be able to give Howard max money and if they can convince Williams to stay, New Jersey is appealing, especially with the upcoming move to Brooklyn.

What do you think? Do you think Howard will stay or go?

 

A summer of uncertainty for the Timberwolves?

The league’s worst record. A roster full of players stuck in the “potential” category. Life isn’t very good if you are a fan of the Minnesota Timberwolves. But with a number 2 pick in the NBA draft and the prospect (and I use that term loosely) of Ricky Rubio finally coming to the NBA in the summer, can the T’Wolves start climbing towards respectability? Or is it another summer of uncertainty.

Without doubt, Kevin Love confirmed this season that he is the player the Timberwolves need to build their team around. A double-double machine, Love just needs someone in the frontcourt to play next to him. Wes Johnson can be a nice piece going forward, Michael Beasley showed some flashes of what he could be and if Jonny Flynn can rediscover the form of his rookie season, he could be a nice piece off the bench. They’ve got a few young pieces and cap room going forward, so the future doesn’t look that bad for the T’Wolves. I’m not saying they will be challenging for a championship in the next few years, but would a playoff push be too big a challenge?

Let’s start by breaking down the big questions for the Timberwolves this summer. Firstly, this year’s draft. The T’Wolves pick second in what many have described as a terrible draft. Kyrie Irving would be a nice fit for them, as the team needs a point guard to run the team, but as Irving is the consensus number 1 pick and set to go to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he will probably not be available at number 2.

I would probably go for Enes Kanter at number 2. I know the motto for a draft is “best player available” and draft on talent instead of need, but I don’t believe Derrick Williams would be a good fit in Minnesota. Williams is a “tweener” forward, not big enough to play PF and too slow to play SF. And with Mike Beasley, Martell Webster and Wes Johnson all on the roster, Kanter may be the better fit. Also, Williams isn’t a great defender and it’s debatable whether you could have Love, Beasley and Williams and actually be good on defence.

Now I’m sure the T’Wolves would love to trade their pick and get out of this draft, the question is what they could actually get in return without taking on some bad contracts.

The T’Wolves are pinning their hopes on finally being able to get Ricky Rubio over to the NBA , two years after drafting him with the 5th pick in 2009. Now if Rubio actually wanted to play in Minnesota he would be in the NBA, he would be here by now, as it’s believed that the Spanish point guard wants to play in a big market like New York, LA or Miami. If he comes over and wants to play in Minnesota, great, but should the Timberwolves think about trading his rights?

Most teams would be interested in Rubio, as he’s young and there is still that perception that he could be the next Jason Kidd? If Minnesota did want to trade his rights and the number 2 pick from this draft, they could be able to get something special in return? If New Jersey can get Deron Williams for Devin Harris and Derrick Favors, would it be absurd to rule out getting someone like Chris Paul for Rubio and Derrick Williams or Kanter?

The T’Wolves need a good defensive center to pair with Love and a PG if they want to get out of the NBA basement and back to the Kevin Garnett days of respectability. To do that they need to improve through trades and the draft, as none of the superstar free agents of 2012 (Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams), will be going to Minnesota in free agency. This summer? There aren’t many options for the T’Wolves. If they opt for Derrick Williams in the draft, it would be interesting to see if they went for someone like Yao Ming or Greg Oden in free agency. If there isn’t much interest from the league and they can get them quite cheap, they might be worth a go (if they can be persuaded to go to Minnesota that is).

What do you think? What does the next year hold for the Timberwolves?

After destroying the Lakers, can Dallas conquer their playoff demons and win it all?

No one expected it. The Dallas Mavericks have proved everyone wrong and swept the defending champs, making a mockery of the Lakers. Can they now go on and win their first NBA title?

Dirk and co. Obliterated the Lakers, winning the game by a staggering 40 points yesterday, with a record-breaking 20 3-pointers (including 9 from Jason Terry). All the Lakers could do was look on in amazement, unable to put up a fight and counter. All they could do is take their frustrations out on poor JJ Barea.

The Lakers, with their formidable front line of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, had no answer for the Dallas Mavericks. The main reason: the form of Dirk Nowitzki. None of the Lakers big men could guard Dirk and it showed, as the Mavs dominated the series. Throw in Tyson Chandler’s presence in the paint and you have an excellent frontcourt for the Mavs.

And that’s the thing with the Mavs – it’s their incredible strength in depth. As well as Dirk, you’ve got the age-defying Jason Kidd setting everyone up, the firepower of JJ Barea and Jason Terry off the bench, the defence of Shawn Marion and the shooting of Peja.

That’s why I think the Mavs can finally win a title, which they deserve after a decade of 50-win seasons with Dirk. Think about it, the Lakers and the Spurs are out, and the Mavs will have to face the Thunder or the Grizzlies in the final, which I think they can win. Yes, the Grizzlies have surprised everyone with the amazing play of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, but I don’t think they have an answer for Dirk.

And that’s the X Factor: Dirk. His detractors moan that he’s soft and isn’t clutch, but Dirk is one of the most clutch players in the league and if he and his supporting cast show up, they can beat anyone on their day.

I’m predicting a rematch of the 2006 Finals and can see Miami coming out of the East. Lebron and Wade will get their points, but if Dirk, Chandler and Brendan Haywood can boss and bully Chris Bosh and render him ineffective, then Dallas have a chance to avenge the loss five years ago.

Obviously this is speculating a bit, as the Mavs have to progress in the next round, but they have shown their true colours and that they have what it takes to beat the best.

What do you think? What are the Mavs chances of winning an NBA title?

Rose for MVP? Maybe. But can the Bulls win it all this season?

I think it’s safe to say that the Chicago Bulls have surpassed everyone’s expectations this season. I for one, never thought the Bulls would be leading the Eastern Conference at this point in the season with a 51-19 record and looking favourable to claim that #1 seed.

And that’s all been down to one man – superstar point guard Derrick Rose. The #1 pick in the 2008 draft has shone this year, stepping up his game and leaving opposing guards trailing in his wake, unable to cope with his blistering speed.

Rose has averaged 24.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists this season, ranking 7th in the NBA in scoring and the highest-scoring PG in the league. Rose’s play has been the catalyst for the Bulls’ success this season, and he was worked on some of the weak elements of his game, such as his outside shot, to make him more polished offensively.

Derrick Rose is my choice for MVP. Without him, the Bulls would not be number 1 in the east. Dwight Howard puts a strong case for MVP, particularly considering his monster February. But the Magic are the fourth seed, behind the Celtics, Heat and of course, the Bulls.

Lebron James has had another strong season, but the fact that he plays with two superstars in Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade will count against King James, as well as the fact that Miami’s record isn’t as good as many predicted (49-22, compared to the 70+ games that many were expecting them to win). Whereas Amar’e Stoudemire, despite a strong start with the Knicks, has struggled recently and the Knicks’ record isn’t exactly good at the moment.

MVP debate out the way, how far can the Bulls go in the playoffs? I’m not sure. But I’m thinking Eastern Conference finals. Ultimately I believe the Celtics will prevail and reach the Finals, as they have been there before and have a wealth of veteran experience.

At this point it looks like the Bulls will get a team like the Pacers, Bucks or Bobcats in the first round, which they will progress from. After that I’m not too sure, as defences will try (“try” being the operative word) to shut down Rose and stop his influence on the game. I just think that the Bulls are a piece short of a title (mainly a two-guard, as Keith Bogans isn’t the answer). By that time, the Celtics will be struggling and the Bulls can challenge the Heat for dominance in the East.

What do you think? Can the Bulls and Rose win it all this year? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Can Troy Murphy fill that Kendrick Perkins-shaped void for the Celtics?

Last week’s trade between the Boston Celtics and the Oklahoma City Thunder, which saw Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson go to OKC in exchange for Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic, was a big shock to everyone.

I’ll admit it, I wasn’t a fan of this trade. Perkins is one of the best big defenders in the NBA and can cope with the likes of Dwight Howard on his own. Especially at a time when the Celtics are leading the East and primed for a title run.

The Thunder definitely got better, there’s no doubt about that, as they got the big man they have coveted for so long in Perkins. The Celtics? Not so much.

I can understand that the Celtics and Danny Ainge didn’t want to have to pay Perkins in the summer, as he was going to become an unrestricted free agent (the Thunder signed Perkins to a four-year, $34.5 million deal this week), and if he had a good playoff series, Perkins could be looking at getting $10 million a year (which is a lot for a center with no offensive game) and have left for nothing anyway.

The Celtics got Jeff Green, who can fill in for Paul Pierce at small forward and will provide some scoring and energy off the bench. Green is averaging 18 minutes a night since the trade, getting you 6 ppg, and is a building block for the Celtics, along with Rondo, when the “Big Three” of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retire.

The Celtics signed Troy Murphy yesterday after agreeing a buyout with Golden State Warriors, on a one year deal. The 6 foot 10’ forward will provide cover for KG and is another big body in the paint against the likes of the Lakers.

Is Murphy a good replacement for Perkins? He won’t provide the toughness and defence of Perkins, he’s basically a short-term rental for the Celtics. Murphy will be a good enough buy if the likes of Shaq can stay healthy and Jermaine O’Neal find form and remember he used to play at an All-Star level.

The Celtics are still strong and, if healthy, I can see them coming out of the East, I just think it would have been beneficial to keep the roster intact. Because if the Celtics don’t win it all in June, then the “What If’s” will certainly be coming.

How good will the Nets be with Deron Williams’ arrival?

The New Jersey Nets, fresh from seeing their rivals steal Carmelo Anthony from under their noses this week, pulled something out the bag this week when they traded for All-Star Deron Williams this week, which gives them the franchise centrepiece they have coveted ever since Mikhail Prokhorov took over as owner of the Nets last year.

How good does Deron Williams’ arrival make the Nets though? Are they set for a huge playoff push this season, or should they prepare for the lottery and build for next year?

Deron Williams was traded to the New Jersey Nets yesterday from the Utah Jazz, with rookie Derrick Favors and Devin Harris going in the opposite direction. Williams’ rumoured fall-out with Jerry Sloan, which saw the veteran coach resign last week, is cited as Williams’ main reason why he left the Jazz.

The Nets are currently at 17-40, 12th in the Eastern Conference and about nine games behind the Indiana Pacers, who occupy the eighth spot in the East, with a record of 26-30.

The Nets have the sixth worst record in the NBA, which means they could potentially get a top-5 pick in the NBA Draft in June, and land a good prospect (only Cleveland, Minnesota, Sacramento, Washington and Toronto have worse records), and then acquire a few free agents and a good lottery pick in the summer.

The Nets have definitely got better with the arrival of Deron Williams, who is a top 5 point guard in the league (alongside Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Steve Nash, in my opinion). Deron is an upgrade over Devin Harris, there is no doubt about that, and gives New Jersey a franchise superstar that they can use to attract prized free agents.

But the problem is, with the current roster, the Nets are not going anywhere. Brook Lopez is in at center and you have Williams at the point. After that, you have a collection of role players and backups in Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar and Travis Outlaw, as well as the likes of Kris Humphries and Sasha Vujacic, which will not win you a championship, or get you past the first round of the playoffs (or even get you into the playoffs.)

What the Nets do have though is cap space and the lure of a big city, when they move to Brooklyn. New Jersey need a rebounding power forward to make up for Brook Lopez’s new-found allergy to rebounding, as well as a good two-guard, and then hopefully get a high pick in the draft (seeing as they just traded away last year’s #3 pick in Favors).

The problem is though, the lack of free agents this summer, and the impending lockout and CBA. Melo is gone to the Knicks, the likes of Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Tony Parker signed extensions with their clubs, and no superstar-calibre players are available.

Zach Randolph would be a nice addition to the Nets. He’s a career 20-10 power forward who would fit in well next to Lopez. Z-Bo will want to get paid in the summer, but the Nets have the cap space to afford him.

Failing that the Nets could trade Lopez away for a good two-guard or small forward and take a risk on oft-injured centers like Portland’s Greg Oden or Houston’s Yao Ming. Now I know Oden and Yao are always injured, but if they can somehow stay healthy and you can get them on the cheap, then they could be valuable pieces for the Nets.

Does Carmelo’s arrival make the Knicks a championship contender?

It’s finally happened, and about time! Carmelo Anthony has finally been granted his wish and been traded to the New York Knicks in a blockbuster three-team trade this week. But how could can it make the Knicks – are they know championship contenders?

Melo got his wish and was traded to the Knicks, along with team-mates Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams. The Denver Nuggets get Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov in return, as well as a few draft picks and cash. Corey Brewer also moves to the Knicks from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Eddy Curry’s expiring contract and Anthony Randolph.

I like this deal for both sides. Denver get something back for Melo in the form of Chandler (a good sixth man), three-point shooting in Gallinari, a good point guard and valuable trade chip in Felton and frontcourt depth in Mozgov.

The Knicks get their wish of a superstar next to Amar’e Stoudemire. Carmelo is one of the best offensive players in the NBA and Chauncey Billups is a veteran point guard that knows how to win and even though not as good as he once was, Billups is at least a good trade asset that the Knicks can use to bait the New Orleans Hornets for if they want to entice Chris Paul to the Big Apple in the summer.

Melo’s arrival is NYC gives the Knicks a buzz and a genuine hope in the city that they haven’t had since the Patrick Ewing days. But can the Knicks contend for a championship in the near future?

The answer is no. At least until they get a few more pieces. Carmelo and Stoudemire are nice, but they are not exactly the most defensive-minded players. And as you know, defence wins championships. A starting lineup of Billups, rookie Landry Fields, Carmelo, Amar’e and Ronny Turiaf is not good enough to get out of what is a stacked Eastern Conference, with the likes of Boston, Miami, Orlando, Chicago and Atlanta.

If the Knicks can add some decent pieces in free agency in the summer, a bit more frontcourt depth and a Tyson Chandler-type center to play next to Stoudemire, as well as a few decent role players, then they can challenge the East’s elite. For this season though, I see the Knicks’ ceiling as around fifth place in the East, at a Chicago Bulls/Atlanta Hawks level, in the second tier of the East.

But this trade has definitely got New York going in the right direction, and gives Knicks fans a sense of optimism after years of suffering.