Jan 3, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) drives the ball during the fourth quarter as Houston Rockets small forward Chandler Parsons (25) defends at Toyota Center. The Rockets defeated the Knicks 102-100. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
We are entering one of the most anticipated free agencies in recent years, and one of those reasons is because New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony will hit the open market. With “big threes” becoming so popular in today’s game, there will be plenty of franchises involved in the chase for Anthony. There were already rumors surfacing as early as the beginning of the 2013-14 season debating whether or not ‘Melo should stay with New York. Unfortunately, only a select few teams are capable of affording the All-Star, unless, of course, he accepts a smaller contract to sign with a contender for the championship. We’ve all heard the rumors involving Anthony, but what teams have the best chance of landing one of the best pure scorers in the league?
1. Los Angeles Lakers
For a second, just imagine a dynamic duo of Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony. Everyone has their opinions on whether or not they will work well together, but if the Lakers have the chance to make it happen, why not give it a try? Since both Carmelo and Kobe are used to demanding the ball, there will be some issues early on, but those issues are capable of being fixed. Besides, if Anthony signs with them he only has to wait approximately two years until Kobe retires and then it will be his franchise.
The thought of those two stars playing together is exhilarating enough. The Lakers have so much financial flexibility which also gives them the biggest opportunity to land ‘Melo. It basically comes down to whether the Lakers want to sign Anthony instead of preserving cap space for the future. Keep in mind, if they do go with signing him, they also have their proposed lottery pick for this year’s upcoming NBA Draft which features projected stars like Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Andrew Wiggins, and Joel Embiid. The future looks bright for this club and the possibility to sign Anthony makes it even brighter.
2. New York Knicks
Other than the Lakers, the Knicks have the best chance on Carmelo. The only thing the Lakers have to offer that the Knicks don’t is a better chance at a title alongside one of the best players in the past decade in Kobe Bryant. If Anthony exercises his early-termination option this offseason, the Knicks don’t have enough money to bring in anyone other than re-signing their own players whose contracts will be up. Since they can offer him the max-contract money that automatically makes them one of the top destinations for him in 2014.
The decision to stay in New York would indicate that he loves the city of New York so much he is willing to stay during a rebuilding process. Team president Phil Jackson has already began the busy off season that is ahead of the franchise by completely cleaning house in terms of coaches. With Jackson in the front office, it will be easier to retain ‘Melo in New York and that will be one of their pitches to keep him in New York. It is obvious Phil knows exactly what he wants to do and that may be the deciding factor for Anthony.
3. Houston Rockets
Back in early March, a statement was released by New York Post’s Marc Berman:
"“According to a league source, the Rockets will make a bid for Carmelo Anthony this summer, even though they probably won’t have cap space and would have to orchestrate a creative sign-and-trade. The source said Houston asked the Knicks about Anthony before February’s trade deadline.”"
If the Rockets do make a push for him they could potentially have one deadly big three in Dwight Howard, James Harden, and Anthony. So far, the ongoing struggles throughout the series against Portland has become one of the biggest disappointments of the playoffs so far. Although, the series is not over they still have not looked as good as they did during the regular season.
In that process of signing ‘Melo, the Rockets would have to convince him to leave New York and take a pay cut. According to Pro Basketball Talk, Houston would almost certainly have to arrange a sign-and-trade with the Knicks to offer ‘Melo his new-team max. Even if the Rockets cleared their roster of every player besides Howard and Harden, they still wouldn’t have enough cap space to sign Melo outright. Unless he is willing to decline seven million dollars during the next four years, and the Rockets are willing to dump all their valuable players beyond Howard and Harden – a sign-and-trade is the only solution. In a sign and trade deal, Houston could trade Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer’s unguaranteed contract to New York. Since they have so much to offer as well as the Lakers and Knicks, that makes them a front runner to land the seven time all-star.
4. Chicago Bulls
Dec. 21, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) dribbles past Chicago Bulls small forward Jimmy Butler (21) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Bulls won 110-106. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
According to a source close to Yahoo Sports! writer Adrian Wojnarowski,”Chicago is much more in play for him than L.A.” The main issue with the Bulls pursuing Melo’ is that they are basically banking on the return of guard Derrick Rose next season to determine their future. The future of the Bulls is uncertain and that makes them less attractive to him. Obviously on paper, the starting five of Rose, Butler, Anthony, Gibson, and Noah looks fantastic. Gibson would be in the starting five since the Bulls would definitely have the amnesty Carlos Boozer and replaced by Nikola Mirotic according to Bleacher report columnist Adam Fromal.
A problem that may be faced if the Bulls do pursue him is he is generally an offensive player and almost a liability on defense which doesn’t fit Chicago’s dominant defensive system under coach Tom Thibodeau. After reports were surfacing during the all-star break that Melo’ was curious about Thibodeau’s coaching methods which indeed already shows he’s somewhat interested. With defense not being one of his strengths he needs to work significantly on his on-ball defense and rotation on defense as well. Not being used to defense being a main focus not only could cause some problems between coach Thibodeau and Anthony and also the possibility of him landing there.
5. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers indeed are already a contender without Melo, but still have a desperate need at the small forward spot. Currently, the Clippers are already well over the salary cap for 2014-15, so the only way for them to get Anthony is through a sign-and-trade deal. With that being said, the Knicks general manager James Dolan would have to agree to the deal which makes it more tough to complete. If sign-and-trade does become an option involving these two teams the Clippers would then have to trade their assets possibly including an emerging Blake Griffin. Outside of Griffin and Chris Paul, the Clippers aren’t left with much to offer for a player like Anthony. There are players who could be brought up if a deal is discussed such as: Danny Granger, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Deandre Jordan, etc.
The main thing that makes the Clippers so attractive for Melo’ is the fact that he would be potentially playing alongside Paul and Griffin and that is what matters most to him if he does decides to leave. Although, it is hard to believe this happening they are still a possibility since they have other players and picks to add to the proposed deal.