2010 was the Summer of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh and while King James and his merry men may opt out again, the free agent star that may have the most interesting off season is Carmelo Anthony. While the Knicks can still trump any and all offers for their main man, if 10-21 turns into something like 35-46 the grass may seem greener elsewhere. So we will look at all the teams that are the Knicks and aren’t the Knicks (lucky them) and see just who will be in MELOttery (trademark pending) and order them from most likely to least likely.
1. New York Knicks
Could it really have been anywhere else? Carmelo wanted to be a Knicks so badly he pretended New York was his hometown (he grew up in Baltimore). The Knicks are essentially run by his agency, CAA, so much so that Coach Mike Woodson fired his long time agent to team up with CAA and the Knicks signed CAA client and not NBA worthy Chris Smith to a guaranteed contract this year before inevitably cutting him last week.
The Knicks have worked to build their roster around Anthony, bringing in a defensive anchor in Tyson Chandler to hide poor defense from other players, signing his former Nugget friends JR Smith and Kenyon Martin, letting Jeremy Lin walk in part because he and Melo didn’t mesh well at all, and most recently bringing in an inexplicably Melo favorite, Andrea Bargnani from Toronto for three draft picks among other assets.
There is also that never confirmed but often mentioned point that Carmelo’s wife, La La Anthony, wants to be in a big city like New York because it is good for her career. She is (or was?) a DJ who also launched a fashion line in Miami last year. She now has a fashion website too, which she can have maintained literally anywhere so I am not sure she will be keeping Anthony in New York this time around.
The biggest reason the Knicks are the favorite though is the money. 5 years $129 million is awfully hard to turn down for anyone, especially a professional athlete whose main earning window may open and close in the span of less than two decades. While Dwight Howard spurned the Lakers in a similar contract situation, he never forced his way to Kobe’s team. Speaking of LA…
2. The Los Angeles Lakers
Yes, Despite Kobe Bryant’s giant contract the Lakers are still real players here. Their cap number will be $35 million before the 8-9 league minimum holds are placed on their cap. This would prevent them from giving Anthony the non-Knicks max of 4 years $95 million but they could cut Steve Nash’s ever rehabbing corpse on the stretch provision or he could just retire, both making a deal for Anthony a lot more likely.
Anthony and Kobe are famously very good friends and for some reason want to play together (have they seen each other’s games? Is it lack of self-awareness?). LA is also the second biggest city in the country and the best place to make cameos in all sorts of media from movies to websites if Anthony is into that kind of thing.
The Lakers, who finally seem to be smartening up and tanking, could have Kobe and a very high lottery pick to go along with the Lakers name to help lure Carmelo across the country. LA could also sell Anthony on the fact that Kobe contract ends when players like Kevin Love are free agents and there are more than a few Love to the Lakers swirling around at the moment.
3. Chicago Bulls
Not many would have pegged them as a real player in the MELOttery before the year started but when your young star point guard just keeps tearing up knee cartilage the team’s future needs to be reevaluated.
Getting Melo to Chicago would be tough considering they are $6 million over the cap next season but that is before possibly amnestying Carlos Boozer, which would allow them to do a sign and trade for Anthony if they are so inclined. The players coming back to New York would have to be Taj Gibson and guys like Mike Dunleavy and Tony Snell to make it happen and I’m not even sure if that would be enough.
The Knicks and Bulls can also do an in season trade consisting of Boozer, Jimmy Butler, Marquis Teague, and 2014 first round pick but I’m not sure if either team is dying to make that move.
Chicago though has a track record of hiding bad defensive players in a good defense (see Derrick Rose in his MVP season and Boozer since becoming a Bull) and are in desperate need of more offense with or without a healthy Derrick Rose.
While I think it would take a horrible season for the Knicks for Anthony to go to Chicago, especially in a sign and trade, it can’t be ruled out.