Despite the pitching and pleading, the New York Knicks know what everyone has for a long time – Carmelo Anthony is going to opt out of his contract and test free agency. He might remain eventually with his current team, but there’s also a strong chance he’ll try to make his way to a team with a much better shot at winning a title right now, as the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and even the Miami Heat are hoping to be the focus of his decision.
Anthony can make $23.3 million next season if he remains with the Knicks and even more if he signs a contract extension with them. Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher have tried to convince Anthony that staying with the Knicks gives him an excellent chance at greatness, but also requires patience of him, because they’ll need to wait until the 2015 summer in order to start making some big moves in free agency, when huge contracts like the one Andrea Bargnani and Amare Stoudemire have go off the books.
Maybe the Knicks aren’t as bad as they were last season. Maybe it was the injuries and Mike Woodson losing control over his team that led to such a fall – from a conference semifinal to winning only 37 games in the regular season. But Anthony according to those around him isn’t convinced that the best thing for him is staying in New York. The whole becoming a local legend angle of this story doesn’t seem quite as tempting to him compared to being on a contender right now, even if it means less money.
And for him to be part of a team that doesn’t get gutted for adding him, Anthony needs to make compromises. However, like James and Bosh four years ago, Anthony should be able to accept less money in order to be part of a much more successful program. From being a $20 million+ player he might have to accept $15 million or something along those lines in order to make things work.
The Dallas Mavericks, in terms of competitiveness and cap flexibility, might be the most appealing option. They can re-sign Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion for cheaper contracts to make way for Carmelo Anthony and still add significant players in the offseason. Playing for a head coach like Rick Carlisle should be another point that appeals to Anthony, although it’s hard to imagine Anthony, Dirk Nowtizki and Monta Ellis occupying the floor at the same time.
The Houston Rockets are eager to add a third star, but that means trading some players. This playoff showed them that bench and depth are just as important as having big names like Dwight Howard and James Harden, who might not be as good as the money they’re being paid. Anthony will certainly add another interesting scoring dimension to this already fantastic offensive team, but the price to pay might be too great.
The Chicago Bulls might be the best fit in terms of basketball. He won’t be the only scorer, he’ll have players who can cover for him defensively, and it’s another big market for him to star in. However, unless he takes a huge pay cut, it’s hard seeing the Bulls adding him without having to give up pieces like Taj Gibson which are a big part of their identity and what they’re trying to do.
And then there’s the surreal option of the Miami Heat. It happens if the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decide to opt out of their deals and take a massive pay cut to free up some cap space, add Anthony and remain relevant for other players in free agency as their bench needs some shaking up. It might sound like its a fantasy option, but it exists.