Well, it’s official. Carmelo Anthony has opted out of the final year of his contract with the New York Knicks and is now a free agent, free to be wooed by the rest of the league.
To this point, Anthony has been to the playoffs 10 times in his career and has been eliminated in the first round eight times. He’s played in a conference finals one time and never set foot on an NBA Finals court.
Like many an athlete, Melo has talked about being at a stage in his career where he wants to win. Chasing championships trumps all. If that means he has to take a little less money to increase his odds of bringing home a ring, so be it.
He will have an opportunity be a man of his word and put himself in position to make a boatload of money (albeit a slightly smaller boat than the yacht he could afford on a Knicks salary) AND have a realistic shot at winning a championship.
How can he do that, you might ask? By forcing his way into a sign-and-trade to the Chicago Bulls.
This is the portion of the program where we go into “full disclosure mode.”
As a student at Syracuse when Anthony led the Orangemen to a national title, Melo has given me what I safely assume will be one of the Top 5 moments of my life. I imagine my future wedding will be one and I tell people if I have more than three kids, I feel bad for the one that gets booted out of my Top 5 Moments list to accommodate the SU championship. So, clearly, Melo holds a special place in my heart.
Now, if it were not for his Syracuse affiliation, I would not hold him with such high regard. His style of play is not exactly conducive to my personal tastes. I love a guy who can make scoring look so easy. But, let’s just say I’m not a fan of some of Anthony’s on- and off-the-court decision-making throughout the years. He has proven to be a little too me-first and a little too knuckleheaded for my liking.
But, wait…there is one more thing I must disclose before we continue on: I’m also a Chicago Bulls fan, too.
But even if I took my biases out of the equation, this marriage between the Bulls and Melo would be a happy union, capable of bringing a title back to the Windy City and raising Melo to elite status amongst his peers. The match makes too much sense.
Despite maximizing the talent on the roster under head coach Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls have sorely lacked a scoring punch, with or without a healthy Derrick Rose. Enter Anthony and his 27 points per game average from last season and that problem is basically solved. Seemingly every title contender needs a Big Three nowadays and Rose, Anthony and Joakim Noah would be one of the best in the game.
But, back to Melo’s money situation. If he had opted in to the final year of his contract with the Knicks for next season, he stood to make $23.3 million. If he re-signs with the Knicks this offseason, the most he could make next season would be $22.5 million. However, if he were to sign with the Bulls, the number that makes the most sense for him and the team is reportedly $17.8 million. Depending on who you ask, Anthony would have to forego anywhere from $30 – $50 million over the life of a contract if he signed with Chicago instead of New York.
The Knicks are going nowhere next season, still a salary cap mess mixed with an underwhelming roster.
The Houston Rockets (another rumored possible destination for Anthony’s services) would be a good fit for Melo, as he would slide in nicely to form a Big Three with Dwight Howard and James Harden. But as Matt Goodman noted last month in this space, the Rockets have serious salary hurdles to jump as they try to pawn Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik off on someone else to clear the cap space to sign Anthony. The Rockets also belong in the much-tougher Western Conference.
And, the Miami Heat? Good luck trying to convince four of the game’s top talents in LeBron James, Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to pass up tens of millions of dollars EACH for the chance to form a Big Four. And if they did, I shudder to think of how the rest of the roster might be comprised on even less scraps than they have been used to operating in South Beach the past four seasons.
Nope…it doesn’t appear likely that Anthony would end up on any of those rosters. Chicago, though, offers the perfect blend of a talented roster (a sign-and-trade involving Carlos Boozer, draft picks and non-guaranteed salaries would also allow the Bulls to keep Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler in the fold) and a reasonable salary. That could be the combination needed to bring a ring to Anthony’s finger for the first time in his career.
Melo is 30 years old. He is running out of seasons left in his prime. After earning over $135 million in salary alone throughout his career, it’s time he figure out the best way to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy after the last game of the season. The focus is on winning titles now, so he says.
If he signs with the Bulls, we’ll know his head is in the right place. If he’s back in the Big Apple next season, we’ll know the power of the almighty dollar won out once again.
And I’ll have to re-consider letting my theoretical fourth child back into the Top 5 Moments list after all.