What Does the Offseason Hold for Free Agency's Most Wanted Man?
Carmelo Anthony has a monumental decision to make in the coming weeks. Stay with the Knicks or bolt town to join a more promising contender? Will it be as dramatic as LeBron’s “The Decision”? That’s not possible. Still, one of the most lethal scorers in the NBA will get his fair share of attention from suitors this offseason.
Carmelo has recently stated that he wants the “Dwight Howard Treatment”, meaning he’ll expect all seriously interested parties to send the house to New York in order to convince him that their teams are the right fit. He’s right in the thick of his prime, so wherever he signs will likely be his home for the remainder of his career, a place he'll be searching for championships and sinking silky smooth jumpers night after night.
From the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks, it hasn’t exactly been a comfortable ride for Melo. Given ample opportunity, management has failed to provide him with adequate partners in order to make a postseason run. Some of the responsibility rests with him, but in time Anthony has realized that to excel in this league, he must take matters into his own hands.
Coming soon to a city near you: the second best scorer in the NBA (Kevin Durant is just too good). But, where, you ask? Below are the 3 most probable destinations for the star.
1. Houston Rockets
Houston wants Melo the most, and that’s a good place to start. Logistically, signing Anthony would take some work. With the contracts of James Harden and Dwight Howard, there’s hardly any cap room left to lure a player of Carmelo’s caliber. Some sort of sign-and-trade would have to happen, and that would leave the cupboard bare for the Rockets outside of their big three. Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, and Omer Asik are potential trade pieces as a part of any deal. The Rockets would likely have to part ways with a fair amount of draft picks for the Knicks to accept the deal, so it looks like Houston would be taking a championship-or-bust approach to the situation.
Dwight Howard, a player the Rockets sacrificed so much to acquire this past year, has been vocal in his recruitment of Carmelo. Howard has experience playing in both big markets (Los Angeles) and small ones (Orlando). His career path has been relatively similar to that of Carmelo. There’s a chance that Melo follows in Superman’s footsteps and abandons the Knicks for Houston. One underrated factor: There’s no state income tax in Texas, and we all know how much Melo loves his cash.
2. Chicago Bulls
This summer Chicago will almost certainly amnesty Carlos Boozer, who’s been a major disappointment in Chi-town. Boozer was supposed to be the answer after signing in 2010, but four years later it’s clear that project has failed miserably. With Derrick Rose coming back from injury this year, the Bulls are ready to shed their dead weight and make some offseason moves to vault them back into championship contention.
The team will have enough cap room to sign Melo, and without all the messy maneuvering that the Rockets need to pull off. Chicago doesn’t need the Knicks to agree to anything, they can acquire No. 7 in free agency if they ditch a few of their role players this summer. Adding Anthony to a well-coached team featuring a healthy Rose and Joakim Noah, the reigning defensive player of the year, immediately turns the Bulls into one of the East’s best. Melo’s presence would take the pressure off Rose to carry the team, in effect helping the point guard recuperate from his knee issues. It seems like a nice fit, but it’s odd that the Bulls’ stars haven’t been as outspoken about signing Carmelo as Howard has.
Anthony would probably only net about $18 million if he signs with the Bulls. Chicago could push that number up higher if need be, but in doing so they would be trading away many valuable assets. If Rose, Noah, and Anthony are on board, and Carmelo buys into Coach Thibodeau's system, the Bulls could be very dangerous for years to come.
3. Dallas Mavericks
Another team that plays in the Lonestar State is in position to score big in free agency this offseason. In my opinion, the third spot is a battle between the Boston Celtics and the Mavs. However, Carmelo wants to win now and the Celtics are in major rebuilding mode. The Mavs, who nearly eliminated the 2014 NBA Champion Spurs in the first round of the playoffs, are just one player away from hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the second time in five years.
Mark Cuban is quietly one of the best owners in the NBA. Well, “quietly” isn’t the best wording. Cuban has proven that he's unafraid to speak out on his concerns about officiating, the salary cap, and the Donald Sterling fiasco. But behind the scenes, he keeps the Mavericks on the top of the West annually. Now, it doesn’t hurt to have Dirk Nowitzki on your side, but that’s just proof that Cuban knows how to handle stars. Last year, Cuban negotiated well enough to reach the interview stage with Howard and you can expect Dallas to be active late in the running for Carmelo this summer too.
Reports claim Nowitzki has said, “If Carmelo would really love to come here, we would love to have him”. A trio of Dirk, Melo, and Monta Ellis would be easy on the eyes and brutal for opposing defenses. The Mavs will have enough cap space to offer Melo a max contract, so that gives them an edge on other competitors for Anthony’s services. I have some doubt about the Mavs’ abilities to convince a big time free agent to come to Dallas, though. In the past few years, the team has missed on targets LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, and Derron Williams among others. Cuban and the entire organization will be working and wishing for their fortune to change this offseason.
It appears Melo will have a lot of options on the table when it comes time for him to make his decision. His most preferable scenario is staying with the Knicks. Ideally, Phil Jackson brings multiple stars to the big apple and builds a championship-caliber team around Melo. But for now, Anthony is stuck alongside ball-hog J.R. Smith, mystery man Amar’e Stoudemire, and a barren supporting cast. If positive changes don’t come soon, Carmelo will be scoring points in a different jersey later this year.