Potentially, the biggest name in free agency this season will be Carmelo Anthony. If he decided to opt out of his contract, which the New York Knicks are trying to stop him from doing, while the Chicago Bulls and the Houston Rockets seem to be the first in line to intercept and sign him if he actually does.
Anthony has been a Knicks player since 2011. He averaged 27.4 points per game this season on a team that didn’t make the playoffs. Last year he helped the Knicks reach the conference semifinals, but as disappointment was imminent from a certain stage this season, Anthony stated pondering opting out of his deal (one more season next year) just to test the market and maybe to get a bigger long term deal.
Phil Jackson has been trying to convince Anthony to stick around. With or without him, the Knicks have no cap space, no draft picks and a lot of luxury tax to pay next season. In short, it’s better to have little hope than none because unless Jackson makes some miracle trades at some point, there is no rebuilding next season, only decay and waiting for the summer of 2015.
Anthony himself changed last season. Maybe it was the talk around him. Maybe it was taking a look South at Miami where three players from his draft class have already won two NBA rings and have now made it into their fourth consecutive NBA finals. Suddenly, he sees himself hitting the fourth decade in his life, reaching 11 years of NBA experience, and the best he’s ever done in the playoffs is making the conference finals, once.
So opting out suddenly makes more and more sense – but are there teams that are title contenders that can bring him in, or those that can become contenders with him on board? Right now the most interested parties seem to the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets. Both teams need to trade players in order to open up some room for Anthony, which also means giving up on some depth, unless they can make up for that with some clever signings.
Anthony played a lot of ‘4’ over the last two years, but if he joins the Bulls there is no doubt he’ll fit in the small forward position instead of Mike Dunleavy. Two questions: Who do the Bulls give up for him, and how does Anthony, a selfish offensive player who has never shown a lot of interest in playing defense, fit in in Thibodeau’s system?
The Rockets don’t have system demands, but they’ll need to make some trades to make this happen. The other issue here is ego and possessions. James Harden loves the ball in his hands. Dwight Howard isn’t exactly there to simply act like a Kendrick Perkins. Anthony takes 21.3 shots a game according to last season, The math doesn’t add up, not to mention the Rockets don’t need another defensive liability.
Staying on the Knicks means a wasted season for Anthony, even if he’ll get more money than elsewhere. The biggest x-factor in this decision is his ability to change who he has been as a basketball player for over a decade. Without that, even joining a potential contender won’t give him the results he seeks.