If you haven’t heard already, Knicks superstar forward Carmelo Anthony can become a free agent at the end of the 2013-14 campaign. With an early-termination option, he could very well opt out and hit the open market, looking to sign another max deal that would keep him up near the top of the leaderboard when it comes to NBA salaries. Fortunately, he’ll have plenty of teams willing to sign him. Not too many teams will have enough cap space to sign a max-contract player (which Anthony will surely be), but most of those squads wouldn’t mind adding one of the NBA’s best scorers to their roster. After all, not many players are capable of exploding for 62 points against the Charlotte Bobcats, as ‘Melo did on Jan. 24. Melo has never been the one people see as a team player or the type of player that makes those around him better, but nonetheless he has separated himself as an invaluable asset in this league. As we look into the future, many spots could benefit Anthony as he looks to add a championship ring to his collection of accolades. But who will be sign with?
New York Knicks
Melo, if he’s smart, will opt out of his current contract with the Knicks. This decision makes the most financial sense for Anthony, as he could potentially increase his per year earnings by millions. Due to rules in the collective bargaining agreement, Anthony can make more money if he re-signs with the Knicks instead of another suitor. With New York, Anthony could ink a maximum five-year contract worth $129,135,806. If he signs with another team, the maximum he can earn is $95,897,372 over four years. The only debate waiting to be settled is if Carmelo would be willing to leave the Knicks for less money, like Dwight Howard did last offseason when he joined the Houston Rockets after leaving the Los Angeles Lakers. Are we watching Anthony’s last days wearing a Knicks uniform? The Knicks have grossly underachieved this season, posting a 17-27 record and hold the No. 10 spot in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks have not had a losing season since the 2009-10 campaign in which their three leading scorers were David Lee, Al Harrington and Wilson Chandler. At this point it seems that Melo’s time in the Big Apple is coming to an end and, if that’s the case, it will have been four seasons to remember.
Los Angeles Lakers
One of the most captivating theories surround Anthony’s free agency is the possibility of him joining Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. When asked about the situation Sunday afternoon before the Knicks and Lakers squared off, Bryant gave his two cents. “Everybody wants to play in Los Angeles. New York’s a beautiful place; don’t get me wrong. But it’s cold as (expletive) out here.” You might interpret some of Bryant’s comments as a recruiting pitch for his friend to leave the Knicks for the Lakers via free agency this summer. It was clear, however, that Bryant wasn’t really intimating anything with regard to Anthony. In fact, Bryant said “all jokes aside,” he leaves it up to each player and his family with the caveat on Anthony “if he wants to call me for advice later.”
The main issue here is whether Kobe and Melo could coexist on the floor and produced effective results. Over the past five seasons Anthony has taken an average of 20.3 shots per game and Bryant has taken 21.2. This is not exactly a favorable statistic for the Lakers if Melo joins them due to Bryant and Anthony’s proven reluctance to consistently share the ball. Melo joining the Lakers will result in fighting for shots, poor offensive execution and, ultimately, poor team chemistry. Another reason for the unlikelihood of Melo signing with the Lakers is D’Antoni and Anthony can’t co-exist, as evidenced by their time together in New York. D’Antoni was practically squirming in his shoes before the Lakers’ 16th loss in 19 games not because of how bad his team has become, but because the New York media probed him with questions about Anthony. Many factors has the smart money against Melo going to LA this offseason, and there’s a reason they call it the “smart” money.
Where the smart money does lie, however, is Carmelo joining the Chicago Bulls. With Derrick Rose presumed to be at full health either some time this season, if not by the start of next season, rumors have been swirling around that Melo would like to join D-Rose in Chicago. The possible big-three tandem of Melo, D-Rose and Joakim Noah, combined with the defensive-minded coaching of Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls would certainly be a force to reckon with as they would put the best team on the floor since Michael Jordan retired. This also presents the best team situation for Anthony. Derrick Rose, while one of the league’s best scorers (when healthy) also has the innate ability to distribute the ball with great success. Rose will also be the best point guard Carmelo has played with in his career (no offense to Jason Kidd, but he was far past his prime when joining the Knicks). Tom Thibodeau’s presence is also another factor that would lure Melo to the Bulls. With Thibodeau’s proven defense-first scheme combined with Anthony’s superior scoring ability, he would have the potential to evolve into the complete player. Melo would obviously have to change his mindset from a shoot first, pass never type of player to one that facilitates a bit more and includes the entire team in the offense. This would be the best possible situation for Melo if he is in fact looking to win a championship.