Much of the New York Knicks’ offseason will be based around Carmelo Anthony’s free agency. Anthony has stated that he intends to opt out of his contract to test the free agent market and that he looks forward to the courting process — something he hasn’t gone through yet in his career.
Subsequently, Phil Jackson has claimed that he and Anthony have had discussions about taking less money with the Knicks so they can rebuild around him with more flexibility. Jackson said last week that he hopes Anthony will “stay true to his word” about giving the Knicks that flexibility. However, Jackson also seemed to hint that if Anthony wants a max. contract, he may have to look elsewhere.
Right now, however, Anthony’s free agency options don’t look all that appealing. The Knicks, of course, aren’t even in the playoffs; their advantages in signing Anthony lie solely in Anthony’s love of New York and the hope that Phil Jackson can turn the franchise around. But elsewhere, in the playoffs, some of Anthony’s suitors aren’t playing so well, either.
The Chicago Bulls went down 3-1 to the Washington Wizards, falling 98-89. The Bulls are in a better position for the future than the Knicks — they have a top center in Joakim Noah, a masterful coach in Tom Thibadeau, future draft picks, and whatever Derrick Rose may still have left in his knees. However, there still are some issues. The Bulls don’t have much youth on their team, Derrick Rose’s future remains a big question mark, and their owner has been critically tight on spending money in the past. The Bulls are a good team, but adding Anthony may not really make them a true championship contender. And right now, it appears they’re destined to fall out of the first round of the playoffs.
Out West, the Houston Rockets have been considered contenders for Carmelo’s services. While a trio of James Harden, Dwight Howard, and Anthony would certainly draw an audience, there would still be issues to work out. In a crowded Western Conference, the Rockets would have to deplete their team to make room for Anthony, and that trio alone may not be enough to top teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, or Los Angeles Clippers. Those three players could have potential offensive struggles (like the 2010-11 Miami Heat), and they wouldn’t have the needed back-up depth. A sign-and-trade is possible, but again, the Rockets would need to give up some of their best assets and depth to make it work.
Currently, the Rockets are down 2-1 in their series with the Portland Trailblazers, but could easily be down 3-0 if not for rookie Troy Daniels’s late-game heroics in Game 3. The Rockets could certainly turn the series around and win, but currently, they don’t look like contenders, and stripping their team to add Anthony may not get them any closer.
For Anthony, these playoffs can act as good testing material. If he’s sincerely looking around for potential matches, he can watch these teams and weigh his options. However, whereas it once seemed obvious that Anthony had better options by leaving New York, early on in these playoffs, it may not be so obvious.