When asked what he’d be doing the moment NBA free agency commenced, Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak responded, “In our business, the phones are really moving. You make your list. We have a lot of cap room, so we have a lot of opportunities.”
With the NBA’s 2014 summer free agency off to a hot start, the Los Angeles Lakers haven’t separated themselves from the phone in the last 48 hours. Sources confirmed to ESPN that the Lakers have scheduled a meeting with Carmelo Anthony and his representatives Thursday in Los Angeles.
Most consider the Lakers a long shot to land Anthony, but they’re really not. Currently there are only seven teams with enough cap room to acquire either Anthony or James. In addition to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic are all potential suitors who’ve expressed interest.
Certainly if Anthony wants to force his way to a team that doesn’t have much space to retain him, he can push the New York Knicks to complete a sign-and-trade, upon which the Knicks would accommodate if they’re interested in receiving talent in exchange.
However, the teams that can sign Anthony without massive headaches will have the best shot, and the Lakers are one of them. Pitching Melo to join the Lakers seems like it wouldn’t be a tough job. You’d think the Lakers’ rich history of championships, the prime location that is Southern California and a Hollywood lifestyle would be enough.
In the event that a four-year, $96 million deal and the aforementioned isn’t too convincing, the Lakers will need to appeal to Carmelo Anthony’s hardwood sensibilities. More than being paid it seems this year’s free agent class wants to win – now. The Lakers’ ability to land Anthony will depend on how much basketball sense they make. There are a few reasons why the Lakers currently trump all other teams looking to add Anthony.
Choice of coach
One of the impediments that can prevent a team in signing free agents is coaching style. Certain players feel their strengths lie in particular offenses. In the majority of Mike Woodson’s Knicks era, Melo has operated in an isolation-loaded offense with minimal pick and roll, pick and pop play.
Signing with the Lakers would mean Bryant and Anthony in the Lakers front office, taking pitches from coaches on how they would make it work between both stars to net Kobe his sixth ring and get Melo his first. In a league where most players want some front office input, that’s the pinnacle of inclusion. His entire playing experience can be tailor-made to fit.
Playing with Kobe
Playing with a second superstar is a benefit, and a luxury that Anthony wouldn’t have with the Magic, 76ers, Suns or Jazz. Although there’s constant criticism of a team looking to join two superstars who need take a high amount of shots, Kobe and Carmelo’s playing styles actually work well together. With Melo and Kobe working in tandem, the Lakers would secure an equal threat from both wings.
Kobe’s favorite place to fill it up is on the right side of the floor where he hit 479 of 1,526 shots (2012-13 season) and Melo’s is on the left where he poured in 585 of 1643 shot attempts. It seems neither player would step on the others toes, as their comfort zones are on opposite ends of the court.
Which other team can offer Anthony the best chance to grow individually? Signing with the Lakers gives Melo at least two years of tutelage under the best guard the NBA has had in more than a decade. It would raise his game, and perhaps push him back into the best in the league conversation.
Choice of teammates
It’s well known that Melo wants to play with LeBron James. Very few teams can offer enough cap space to accomodate. The Lakers are in an advantageous position to work this out. They’d have to renounce all free agents they currently have in the interest of removing minimum and larger free agent placeholders and push Steve Nash out paired with Julius Randle via trade. Those moves would clear up to $35 million in cap space, in which the Lakers would be able to offer both superstars contracts starting at $17 million in the first year.
More help down the line
While most franchises will gut their team to create the amount of space needed or insert pieces to immediately contend for a championship, the Lakers will be able to strategically add quality players now and in two years. One of the biggest factors which prevented the Knicks from flourishing was the big contracts signed that placed them into a cap stranglehold with a lack of wiggle-room.
Once Bryant’s $25 million comes off the books after the 2015-16 season, most believe he will retire. Melo will once again have his choice of teammates for a second time in three seasons. That’s a good amount of player control, and a bevy of great players Anthony will have the chance to recruit (Kevin Durant, Joakim Noah, Brook Lopez, Al Jefferson, Roy Hibbert, etc).
The Lakers will know on Thursday as to whether Melo’s interest in a meeting was out of respect, or actual interest. He’s been linked to the Chicago Bulls since opting out of his contract with the Knicks. The Lakers will be fighting an uphill battle as the Knicks will have the last meeting with Carmelo, but they’ll have to prove they’re the best destination for him in right now and in the long run.