The NBA’s salary cap has been projected to jump from $58.6 million this year to $63.2 million next season, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.
For the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls, two of the top teams expected to recruit soon to be free agent Carmelo Anthony, this would increase their chances significantly of signing him outright.
The New York Knicks can re-sign Anthony for close to $130 million, but the 11-year veteran will have to decide what is most important to him at this stage in his career, similar to what Dwight Howard did last July.
If it’s about the money, he’ll stay in New York under Phil Jackson‘s leadership and championship pedigree. If it comes down to finding the best place for him to win, he’ll opt for greener pastures, such as Houston and Chicago.
He could play with James Harden and Dwight Howard and form possibly the best big three in the entire league. Or, he could join forces with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, but the only question is how healthy will Rose be going forward?
With a few moves here and there, the Rockets and Bulls will offer Anthony the best chance to win. Here’s a look at the new salary cap implications and the moves each of those teams could make to sign Anthony.
The team has about $59 million on the books for next season, assuming Francisco Garcia opts into his $1.3 million deal. The team option on Chandler Parsons for just under $1 million is also included in that projection. The numbers do not include the nonguaranteed contracts of Omri Casspi, Patrick Beverly, Robert Covington and Josh Powell, who would be waived to save the team around $4.1 million. The Rockets could also decline the option on Troy Daniel’s $816,482 salary.
What’s next? The team would look to trade either Omer Asik and/or Jeremy Lin who are both scheduled to make $8.3 million in 2014-15. According to Stein’s report, they’re confident in their ability to move both of them to create the cap space needed. Trading both of them brings the team’s salary down to approximately $42.4 million.
Those moves would give the Rockets over $20 million to offer Anthony on the open market. He could even opt for slightly less so that the team could add a few more pieces, such as bringing back the defensive minded Beverly.
Anthony, Harden, Howard, Beverly and Terrence Jones would be the projected starting lineup.
The Bulls have a much easier path to clear the cap space for Anthony. When they use the amnesty clause on the final year of Carlos Boozer‘s contract ($16.8 million) as widely expected, they’re guaranteed salaries will total only $46.7 million. That’s about $16.5 million to offer Anthony right there if he wants to take that much of a pay cut. If not, the last piece would be to trade Mike Dunleavy and his $3.3 million to give Anthony closer to the $20 million he’ll likely command.
Ideally, the Bulls want to keep Taj Gibson and the $8 million he’s due next season, as he would be Boozer’s replacement in the starting lineup. They could start Anthony, Rose, Noah, Gibson and Jimmy Butler.
Wherever he goes, Anthony will have to decide how much money he is willing to sacrifice in order to win. The Rockets and Bulls give him the best chance to win.