NEW YORK -- With the trade deadline less than three weeks away, the topic of a potential Carmelo Anthony deal is sure to come up at some point.
Let’s put aside for a second the question of whether the Knicks have any plans to trade Anthony. Or whether Anthony has any desire to waive his no-trade clause.
With Anthony back on the floor following a two-game absence, the Knicks rolled past the Suns to snap a four-game losing streak. The 31-year-old Anthony had another complete game in a season full of them, finishing with 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
“He didn’t try to take over the game,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said afterward. “He has been playing that type of basketball for several weeks now. When he’s sharing the ball and making everyone else better, we’re a much better basketball team.”
Fisher’s right. There’s ample evidence to show that the Knicks’ success this season is, to a large degree, tied to Anthony’s success.
New York is 0-6 in games Anthony missed due to injury and a respectable 23-20 in games he has played.
Without Anthony, the Knicks have been outscored by 7.8 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. With Anthony on the floor, New York has outscored its opponents by 1.7 points per 100 possessions.
All of the numbers above are another way to say that Anthony’s value to this club, at this time, is incredibly high.
Trading Anthony before February’s deadline would almost assuredly take away any chance the Knicks have to make the playoffs.
And finishing outside of the playoff picture would be problematic for New York. Missing the playoffs -- and finishing in the NBA lottery -- might significantly increase the value of the Knicks' first-round pick in June, a pick that will be sent to Toronto as part of the Andrea Bargnani trade.
Still, the idea of trading Anthony is attractive in some corners of the Knicks' fan base. The idea, of course, is to deal Anthony away and begin a rebuild in earnest around Kristaps Porzingis.
The Knicks would certainly get some valuable pieces in any Anthony trade. Depending on whom you ask around the league, New York might be able flip Anthony for a package of high draft picks or young talent.
And maybe in past seasons, when Anthony wasn’t operating within the confines of the Knicks' offense or wasn't giving a complete effort on defense, it would have made sense to trade him for the opportunity to chase a brighter future.
But Anthony is sharing the ball at career-high rate this season. And it's worth exploring just where this approach can take him -- and the rebuilding Knicks.
It's worked out well so far for New York this season; the club is 10-4 in games in which Anthony hands out at least five assists, as he did on Friday.
So the biggest concern for the Knicks right now shouldn’t be where to deal their eight-time All-Star, but how to heal the soreness in his bothersome knee.
Anthony returned to the court Friday after missing the previous two games due to soreness in his left knee -- the same knee that was surgically repaired in February.
Both Anthony and the Knicks say there is nothing structurally wrong with his knee. But the 13-year veteran said late Friday night that he still is feeling some discomfort.
“It’s still there,” Anthony said. “But if I wait until there’s no soreness, then I’ll be out the whole season.”
That’s the last thing the Knicks need right now as they try to get back into the playoff picture. Forget about finding a trading partner for Anthony; they need to find a way to get him healthy.