The price was steep, maybe too steep considering Carmelo Anthony's well-documented intentions. It appeared to everyone outside of "the know" that upon opting out this summer Anthony would sign with the Knicks, and only the Knicks, making such a trade superfluous. However, as we've seen before (I'm looking at you, Carlos Boozer!), appearances aren't everything, and crazy things can (and do) happen. Donnie Walsh, James Dolan and (depending on who you believe) Isaiah Thomas did what they had to do in order to ensure Melo's long-term services, and no one can blame them for that.
The 2010-2011 Knicks may not be a "super team" according to the contemporary definition, but if the pending CBA cooperates, the 2011-2012 Knicks very well could be. For better or worse, this whole soap opera was nothing if not an illumination of the inherent gravity of the New York media market. That fact, along with the current landscape of the NBA, almost guarantees that a third "star" will inevitably and eventually land in The Big Apple. Whether it be Chris Paul, Deron Williams, or some other dark horse (my current favorite is Timberwolves' property Ricky Rubio), Walsh et. al won't be placated until they have their own "Big 3".
All four players headed to Denver had started for the Knicks during the '10-'11 season, but only two players heading back to Manhattan are first-team quality players, so depth (specifically in the frontcourt) really does become the issue. Chauncey Billups and Landry Fields will start in the backcourt, with Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and presumably Ronny Turiaf logging heavy minutes up front. New York will bring Toney Douglas, Bill Walker and Corey Brewer (among others) off the bench, but Shelden Williams and Shawne Williams will have to hold down the frontcourt for the Knicks' second team.
The Knicks are currently 5 ½ games behind Atlanta for the 5th seed in the East, slated to play the Chicago Bulls in the first round if the season ended today. While a meteoric rise is certainly possible over the season's last 27 or 28 games, it seems unlikely, especially with the Knicks' rotation changing so drastically. With that said, the current seedings are about the best the Knicks could imagine. As noted, the Knicks' biggest weakness is frontcourt depth, which would be the most vulnerable against Boston's deep frontcourt group and Orlando's Dwight Howard, two teams the Knickerbockers would avoid until at least the Conference Finals under the current standings.
Even if everything works out perfectly for New York's not-so-super team, their lack of depth would be exposed by the physicality of the elite teams in the West. The best-case scenario for the '10-'11 Knicks is a Conference Finals loss, while their worst-case scenario is a First Round loss.
The Nuggets aren't necessarily done wheeling and dealing, but they're already well on their way to rebuilding in the post-Carmelo era. Moving forward, it appears that Ty Lawson, Aaron Afflalo, Nene Hilario, and Chris Anderson are the only players Denver is truly committed to keeping. Kenyon Martin and Al Harrington are essentially untradeable because of their contract situations, but any and all of the incoming former Knicks are moveable. Sources say the Nuggets have moved their focus to working out an extension with Nene, the Nuggets de facto franchise player, who has an Early Termination Option this summer. There has also been speculation that Denver is fielding offers for newly-acquired forward Danilo Gallinari, with teams such as the Nets, Clippers, Cavaliers, and Raptors all interested. The compensation would likely be draft considerations rather than physical assets because of salary and luxury tax implications.
The remaining pieces in Denver may not be enough to secure a playoff spot in the very competitive Western Conference this season, but the Nuggets will save roughly $25 million in salary and luxury tax this year alone, along with the young pieces and draft picks acquired in the deal. After seeing Cleveland and Toronto lose their superstars last summer for pennies on the dollar, the Nuggets have to be ecstatic about their haul for Anthony.
The Wolves' role in this deal is largely an afterthought, but in actuality, it may have been the most important domino to fall. Previous reports had the Timberwolves sending Corey Brewer and a first round draft pick in exchange for Anthony Randolph's services and Eddy Curry's fat gut. As it turned out, Minnesota was enamored with Randolph, but unwilling to part with an immensely valuable future draft selection. GM David Kahn realized that no Timberwolves' involvement meant no Carmelo for the Knicks, and was able to leverage that fact into a very favorable deal for the Wolves.
Brewer and Curry are eligible to become free agents after the season, and with New York picking up $3 million of Curry's cap number, the salary difference for the rest of the season is minimal (between $1 and $1.5 million). Randolph, on the other hand, has two years remaining on his deal, and is eligible for a qualifying offer in the summer of 2012.
In the end, the Timberwolves got the player they truly coveted for a below-average asset and under $2 million in cash, without sacrificing any future draft considerations, which has to be considered a success for a rebuilding, young franchise.