As the month of June rolls on, we get closer and closer to the inevitable. New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony will by all indications opt out of his contract within the next week, becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent. The first thing currently on team president Phil Jackson and new head coach Derek Fisher’s to-do list is convince Anthony that staying in New York is the best recipe for success he will hear this summer. As we know, other teams are interested in adding Carmelo to their rosters and some are better fits than others. So who is the biggest threat to the Knicks to slide in and make a play for Melo?
When it comes to New York’s competitors for Melo’s services, it’s the usual suspects in the conversation along with some newer developments. Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles (Lakers) and most recently Miami are the cities we’ve heard connected to Anthony beside the big apple. We don’t know much about Mark Cubans pitch for Melo to the Mavericks and who knows what direction the Lakers will go but if the opportunities arise, you can bet we’ll hear all about both. As of now, the Bulls and Rockets remain the frontrunners for Carmelo.
Houston’s capability to acquire Anthony is extremely limited and would require a multitude of roster moves to make room before asking Melo to take a severe pay cut. They may need to package players and draft picks in deals without getting much in return to clear the necessary space and there may just not be able to compete with the other offers in a timely fashion. Due to that awful payroll situation the deal could even require and sign and trade, something the Knicks are incredibly unlikely to do. It’s an interesting destination for Carmelo but the feasibility is a bit murky.
The Bulls would have a slightly easier time making room for Melo but it’s no sure bet. They would have to amnesty Carlos Boozer before making a few roster moves of their own before also asking Anthony to take a dramatic pay cut. It seems like a perfect fit since the Bulls are in need of scoring and have plenty of defense but going to the Bulls would force Anthony to point his blind faith in another direction: Derrick Rose’s health. Melo provides what the team desperately needs but they need a healthy D-Rose to get over the hump in the postseason and its no guarantee he will be back at that MVP level. Is it worth the money Melo will lose to take his chances in Chicago?
Pat Riley and the Miami Heat could really be the thing keeping Phil Jackson up at night. We know that both Riley and LeBron James aren’t taking their NBA Finals loss too well and if James is to remain in Miami, the team needs to improve around him. It’s not to say they aren’t a great team because their accomplishments over the past four years have been astounding. But as time has gone on the standards for greatness have risen with the amount of success they’ve had. The NBA champion Spurs picked the Heat apart and made them look human. They were able to expose holes in the Heat like their rebounding issues, scoring outside of LeBron and weak play off the bench. Things we didn’t talk about much before because winning keeps it under the rug.
Sure, Anthony made the effort on defense this season but isn’t great at playing it, something the Heat rely heavily on. He isn’t the presence in the paint Miami needs badly but he’s surely a weapon they would be getting at a heavy discount. If there’s a way to fit Carmelo onto that roster, he opens up so much offensively that Erik Spoelstra & Co. will live with his defensive efficiencies and search elsewhere for help in other need areas.
The fact that Miami lost on their quest for a three-peat may indicate changes are on the way and we know how badly Melo wants to win. If the ring is the thing, don’t be surprised that Melo would consider taking a pay cut to join Miami’s winning pedigree. The Heat is the only team I could currently see Carmelo taking a massive pay cut for and besides, the lack of income tax in Florida will have Carmelo making up a bit of the difference that he is sacrificing monetarily. That’s why I see them as currently the Knicks’ biggest threat to keeping Carmelo. Of course that will change if James decides to leave there himself (pipe dream: to New York maybe?) but if not it feels like the rumors about their push for Carmelo could come to fruition.
Still, the scenario depends on Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade’s player options which will dictate how much space they have to use. Not one of these big players for Melo has a simple game plan; all require teams to run around in circles when free agency starts, making transactions to acquire players or shed money or both. These other teams in contention could execute the moves needed to make their play but it’s hard to seriously consider that until they make the necessary room.
Reports from major media outlets have contradicted as far as what Melo is thinking—something we can’t possibly know. The most recent thought from the Knicks beat reporter at the New York Daily News, Frank Isola, suggests Anthony wants to stay in the big apple but is keeping his options open in case they aren’t the winningest option in his eyes.
What we know for sure is that the Knicks can and want to re-sign Carmelo and they can still pay way more than anyone else. Jax and the Knicks brain trust are playing ball in Anthony’s court; it’s crucial to the Zen Master’s plan not to turn it over and make sure they deliver Melo’s return to Broadway.