After months of speculation, Carmelo Anthony has decided to opt-out of the final year of his contract with the New York Knicks on Monday to test the free agency waters, according to his agent Leon Rose.
Rose added that his client loves New York and the Knicks, but at this point in his career, he just wants to “explore his options.” But where could these options be?
Here are the Top 5 destinations for Melo:
1. Growing Horns: Chicago Bulls
When the Bulls traded Luol Deng in the middle of the season, it was obvious that they wanted someone bigger. Late in the season, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose made it public that they were campaigning for the Knicks’ star to join them in the Windy City. Chicago’s route is not easy, but it is very much possible:
First they have to amnesty Carlos Boozer’s $16.8M salary for the 2014-15 season. Then they have to trade someone like Mike Dunleavy Jr., who has a $3.3 payroll, in a salary dump. That would give them enough cash to offer Carmelo the maximum contract allowed by the CBA.
2. Ready for Take-Off: Houston Rockets
The Rockets lost in the first round of the playoffs. And although they already have Dwight Howard and James Harden, they believe they can still sign one more superstar with the maximum salary. But this one is more difficult than Chicago’s case because they have to move more pieces here.
Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik will make $8.3M each next season. The Rockets need trade partners to dump their salaries. Asik can be dumped easily because of his size as Atlanta and Boston were reportedly interested. Shopping Lin would be difficult, and perhaps they need to add a sweetener like a Patrick Beverly or Terrence Jones.
Then there is Chandler Parsons. If Carmelo asks for the max, then Parsons will not be re-signed. But if Melo takes a pay cut to retain a key component, Parsons stays. Houston needs to part with a lot of pieces to get Melo, but they believe he is worth all the sacrifices.
3. California Dreaming: Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have all the salary cap in the world with only three players under contract for next season. Only Kobe, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre are on board, so Mitch Kupchak has a chance. But because of Kobe’s $23.5M salary, the Lakers will have a line-up of minimum wagers to support Kobe, Carmelo, Nash and the 7th pick in the draft. But regardless of who else is on that squad, the one-two punch of Kobe and Carmelo is a lethal one and has no limitations.
Business wise, Los Angeles is good for Carmelo since aside from New York, it’s the biggest market in the NBA. Anthony will get plenty of advertisement and endorsement deals in Hollywood. When Kobe retires two years from now, Carmelo Anthony will become the next franchise player of the Lakers while his wife Lala Anthony should fit well in the bright lights of tinseltown.
4. Taking it to South Beach: Miami Heat
Really? From the Big Three to the Fantastic Four. Realistically, this is farfetched because the Heat already have three high paying superstars. But if the Big Three and Carmelo are willing to take huge pay cuts for a chance to assemble an improbably good team, then this one is possible.
The most important thing here is motive, and it won’t be cash because James, Wade and Bosh would make at least $20M a piece next season. But if each of them are willing to make “just” $15M each and give the remaining $15M to Carmelo, well then it’s mathematically possible. With Pat Riley steering the Miami ship, you’ve got to believe in magic. For Carmelo, this is the best shot at winning a title.
5. Madison Square Guardian: New York Knicks
When Carmelo opted out, it did not mean that he won’t sign with the Knicks again. The Knicks can offer him a maximum of $129M for five years while the other teams can only offer him $96M for four years. Financially, this is the soundest decision for Anthony. Realistically, this is probably where he is going.
Exploring options doesn’t necessarily mean leaving town. It just means testing your market value. At the same time, Carmelo is telling Phil Jackson that he is the master of his destiny. He is telling the Knicks to build now and win next season. The Knicks are on the way.
It started with Jackson’s hiring. Phil’s job is to woo Melo back. Once he does, everything else will be easier and the Knicks should be in the playoffs next season.