It seems like a foregone conclusion that Carmelo Anthony should and will get a max contract in free agency this summer, and according to reports, the New York Knicks are about to re-sign Anthony to a five-year deal worth $129 million dollars.
How willing a team should be to give Anthony the max is another question. Despite his great statistical production, Anthony’s individual accomplishments haven’t really translated into team success; Anthony has never been able to take a team to the Finals and last season the Knicks missed the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference in what can only be described as ugly fashion.
He’s already 30 years old and likely heading for some regression. Committing an average of $25.8 million dollars in salary and over 30 percent of your cap should mean that you are getting a player who can instantly and single-handedly turn your team into a title contender.
The truth is that Anthony probably isn’t that player.
Melo is a terrific offensive force himself, and the first guy to average over 27 points and 8 rebounds in a season since Shaquille O’Neal in the early 2000’s. But $129 million over five years is a lot of money, and there’s probably only three to five players in the league who are worth that much.
Based on players with similar career production as Carmelo, the graph below shows calculated estimates on how much he is likely to decline in the next five seasons (in terms of wins shares per 48 minutes):
So how much should Carmelo be paid based on what you would expect from his future production?
My favorite stat to estimate how much a player contributes to his teams wins is John Hollinger’s EWA (Estimated Wins Added: How many wins a player produces above replacement level). Carmelo ranked fourth last season at 20.8 wins added behind Kevin Love, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. The metric probably overrates Carmelo a bit, and other metrics that calculate produced wins estimate Carmelo is ranked in the 10 to 20 range in terms of value added.
Based on Win Shares and EWA, and the fact that the average win in the NBA cost about $1.63 million dollars last season, Anthony’s worth to an NBA team last season was about $25 million. Project that over the five years on the assumption that he declines in a semi-expected fashion and my model predicts that Melo’s value per season over a five-year contract should be $19.4 million per year, totaling $97 million and $32 million less than the Knicks’ reported max offer.
Carmelo Anthony is going to get overpaid, and the question has to be asked; Is this a potential disaster for the Knicks?
Assuming Knicks get him they will probably looking to add another star in the summer of 2015 when they will have max-level cap room. The best unrestricted free agents that summer will be Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, Tony Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol. Do the Knicks really have a realistic shot at any of them? Even if they did, would adding, say, Rajon Rondo along with some low paid rotation players make them a title favorite? Absolutely not. Which is why it’s so surprising that the Knicks aren’t more interested in potential sign-and-trade scenarios.
The only way for Carmelo to come out from this summer’s free agency without getting overpaid was to sign with Chicago for a starting salary of around $17 million a year and in about a year or two there’s a realistic possibility that the first “Carmelo Anthony Albatross Contract” columns will start being published. Melo is a great player, but with 11 seasons under his belt and him going towards the back nine of his career, there’s just no way you can justify a $129 million extension as a great value proposition.
*Stats per Basketball-Reference.com. Click here for more info on Wins Produced.