With Carmelo Anthony scheduled to become a free agent this offseason, it’s worth pondering whether the Golden State Warriors should be on his list of potential destinations.
Anthony can opt out of his contract this summer and hit the open market. Earlier in the season, Anthony publicly manifested his desire to become a free agent to Rafi Kohan of The New York Observer:
I want to be a free agent. I think everybody in the NBA dreams to be a free agent at least one time in their career. It’s like you have an evaluation period, you know. It’s like if I’m in the gym and I have all the coaches, all the owners, all the GMs come into the gym and just evaluate everything I do. So yes, I want that experience.
If taken at face value, one gets the impression that the former Denver Nugget simply wishes to be wooed. Being at the center of a bidding war (something he has never experienced in his professional career) is certainly an ego boost, given that players get a true sense of the value other franchises attribute to them.
Thus, Anthony might only be interested in listening to offers before ultimately re-signing with the New York Knicks. The evidence certainly suggests this at first glance.
Melo shared with Newsday’s Al Iannazzone that he would be willing to take a pay cut if it meant the Knicks would enjoy more flexibility with respect to acquiring players. What’s more, Anthony’s wife stated her husband would definitely remain with the Knicks in an interview with BravoTV (transcript available at ESPNNewYork).
One would be inclined to believe these two factors are a clear sign of Anthony’s willingness to remain in the Big Apple, but his desires appear to conflict with that.
Prior to the All-Star Break, Anthony offered this salient point to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork:
Championship is the only thing that’s on my mind, is the only thing I want to accomplish, I want to achieve, and I’m going to do what I got to do to get that. That’s my motivating factor. Nothing else even motivates me anymore, just that.
The seven-time All-Star wants to win a title in the worst way it would appear, but his current organization appears far too dysfunctional for this to happen.
The Knicks have had a habit over the years of acquiring players with whose production never quite fit their mammoth contracts.
Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire immediately come to mind. Furthermore, New York’s salary structure makes it as such that the team will not have any cap space until the 2015 offseason per Sham Sports.
Granted, with the aid of compromising photos, the NY front office could get Stoudemire and Bargnani to opt of their deals this summer (highly unlikely considering they will make roughly $34.9 million combined if they play out their 2014-15 campaigns), which would give the Knicks just about $7 million in cap space.
For argument’s sake, if Anthony were to take an annual reduction of say $5 million in re-signing with his current team, New York would be armed with $12 million in cap room this summer. That’s not enough to bring in a superstar caliber player.
Make no mistake, the Knicks need another elite talent on the roster. Melo is enjoying the best season of his career this year, and the Knicks are projected to miss the postseason per Hollinger’s Playoff Odds. That alone could lead Anthony to relocate according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
Within the past several weeks, a longtime confidant of Carmelo Anthony confesses, something changed. Never did he believe there was a chance Anthony would leave the New York Knicks – never the Madison Square Garden stage, never the $129 million contract extension.
Only now, the gloom of the Knicks’ season – the uncertainty of the franchise’s future – left that man to believe it’s possible Anthony could leave New York in free agency.
Unless Anthony is willing to wait until 2015 when some key free agents might be interested in joining him in Gotham, his title aspirations might take him to another town.
Los Angeles Clippers
Theoretically, the Los Angeles Clippers are contenders for the services of Carmelo Anthony.
In actuality, the likelihood of Melo joining Chris Paul seems incredibly unlikely. The Clips are projected to be above the luxury tax line this summer, which means they will not have any cap space to sign Anthony out right.
Thus, the only way Melo ends up with the Clips is through a sign-and-trade transaction. The one move that makes sense for the Knicks revolves around Blake Griffin. New York probably agrees to re-sign and then immediately trade Anthony provided that Griffin is the player coming back in a deal.
Griffin is locked into his contract at least until the end of the 2017-18, although he has an early-termination clause allowing him to hit free agency in the 2017 summer.
New York probably won’t be interested in any other player on the Clippers’ roster unless his name is Chris Paul. Paul would be the better player in any exchange involving the Knicks, thus there is no way Los Angeles parts with him.
As it pertains to Griffin, one could argue that he is equally as good as Anthony if not better. There is an actual debate to be had on this front, which basically makes a swap of Anthony for Griffin somewhat laughable from L.A.’s perspective.
Griffin has improved in every season in the league and will only be 25 years old when next season tips off (while Melo will be 30). In addition, his salary is inferior to that of Anthony’s. In other words, Griffin might unequivocally become the better player in this comparison by next year and still come at a cheaper rate than his counterpart.
Unless Lob City magically convinces NY to take on DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford (or J.J. Redick) for Anthony, Melo probably is not ending up with the Clippers this summer.
The Chicago Bulls are probably the best destination on the board if everything breaks just right.
Unlike the Knicks, despite a multitude of injuries in the past two seasons, the Bulls have found ways to win games and make the playoffs. Chicago is one of the most mentally tough teams in the league, and they complement that with actual physical aggression.
Derrick Rose has essentially missed the last two seasons because of injuries, but a return to the lineup next season undoubtedly makes this team a title contender provided that he is back to his old self.
In the last instances in which Rose was truly healthy under Tom Thibodeau’s watch, the Bulls managed the best record in the league on two occasions. The one thing Chicago’s been missing in the Rose-Thibs era is a solid secondary scorer.
Anthony certainly helps on this front and likely makes Chicago a prime contender for a championship with Rose at the peak of his powers.
The Bulls will technically be over the cap this summer, but they can get creative. For instance, they could use the amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer’s remaining $16.8 million figure for the 2014-15 season.
From there, they probably have to trade away Mike Dunleavy and Tony Snell to make room to sign Anthony via free agency. All of this makes sense on paper, but it’s worth noting that Anthony might not want to tie his future to a player that has barely played in the last two years.
Also, Chicago might be wary about bringing in Anthony at a salary averaging just about $23 million annually. Remember, Anthony is a great scorer, but he offers very little else. Anthony is not a particularly great defender (typically a must under Thibodeau), nor does he facilitate the offense on a regular basis for his teammates.
Chicago and Anthony can still be a match, but the price is up for negotiation. That alone might insult the forward and prompt him to look at other options.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers were interested in bringing either LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony to the City of Angels last summer according to Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.
It would appear as though those plans have been altered as a result of Kobe Bryant’s $48.5 million extension. Bryant’s contract makes it difficult for the Purple and Gold to add Anthony to the team and fill out the roster.
It’s not necessarily impossible, but it’s quite close to that. Bryant has only appeared in six games in 2013-14 because of his Achilles tear and knee fracture, which means his health is a question mark.
Anthony might be a bit uncomfortable with the idea of signing with the Lakers when Bryant and Steve Nash are both broken down. And again, the inability to add quality players means Anthony probably gets the opportunity to carry a team with nobodies and a Kobe Bean that can barely jog up the floor.
Then again, instead of going back to NY, Melo might be willing to ride things out with L.A. in 2014-15 and then, watch the Lakers reload in the 2015 summer where it seems like a forgone conclusion that Kevin Love will join the Lake Show per Chris Broussard of ESPN.com (Insider):
As for the Kevin Love-to-New York rumors, most executives believe Love is destined for the Lakers when he becomes a free agent in 2015. “That’s a 100 percent certainty,” one GM told me.
The entire scenario might seem preposterous now, but consider this: New York has done little to give Anthony a roster capable of competing for a title. He might be inclined to believe that a team with actual championship pedigree can get the right pieces in place within a season or two.
Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors might be the best option of them all for Carmelo Anthony despite the fact he has not been linked to the organization at any point in time.
The Dubs have a young emerging star coupled with rotation players to potentially surround Anthony. The Warriors are missing that one guy that can consistently put points on the scoreboard and carry the offense while Stephen Curry sits, and Melo can certainly fill that position.
Anthony scores from multiple spots on the court, which makes it difficult to defend him. Indeed, Melo is lethal from downtown, midrange and on the block. With Anthony in Golden State, the Warriors more than likely become a title contender for the remainder of his prime.
The Warriors do not have any cap space and cannot technically secure the services of Anthony through free agency. Still, the sign-and-trade route is available. Golden State has some pieces that could be interesting to New York.
Therefore, the GSW might be able to package some players for Anthony. For instance, the Warriors could send David Lee, Harrison Barnes and Marreese Speights to the Big Apple for Melo.
Golden State could send Klay Thompson instead of Barnes, but given that Thompson is a natural 2-guard, he would probably be the better fit next to Anthony. From a contract standpoint, Barnes is quite cheap (give or take $4 million annually until the end of 2016-17) while Speights would cost the Knicks $3.7 million in 2014-15.
New York would then have a team option for the following year that they could choose not to exercise per Sham Sports and let Speights walk (for the sake of cap space). The big deal belongs to Lee, who is signed until the end of 2015-16 at $15 million per season.
New York might not want Lee at that price for such a lengthy period of time. If such is the case, Golden State probably has to part with Andre Iguodala instead of Lee. Iguodala’s contract ends at the conclusion of the 2016-17 campaign, but the dollars decrease in each subsequent season.
He will make $12.3 million next season and progressively go down to $11.1 million in the final year of his deal (2016-17).
The Knicks still have to be willing to entertain such discussions, but it stands to reason they would probably rather get a few assets for Anthony as opposed to watching him walk away without the Orange and Blue getting anything in return.
Ultimately, it’s difficult to figure out where Anthony ends up. Nonetheless, the mess that is New York probably forces his hand this offseason, and Melo will find a new team to play for.
What’s your best guess on which team he joins?