Carmelo Has Options: As the 2014 NBA Finals draws to a close and the San Antonio Spurs hoist their fifth championship in the Tim Duncan era, all eyes in the NBA will now shift to the 2014 NBA Draft next week in Brooklyn and to free agency the following week in July. No bigger name tops the would-be free agent list than New York’s Carmelo Anthony, and it seems far more likely than not that he’ll follow through with his season long pledge and opt-out of the remaining $23.41 million left on his deal. There have already been reports suggesting that Carmelo has eyes for the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets, both win-now franchises, however those will not be the only teams to make a pass at him. While both grab headlines, both have their own issues in trying to obtain Carmelo at a price that makes sense. Before we get into which teams make the most sense, it would be smart to re-visit what the Collective Bargaining Agreement will allow Carmelo to re-sign for. Carmelo is eligible for a starting salary worth 105 percent of his last contract year, so that’s $22.5 million regardless of where he signs. If he remains in New York, they can give him higher annual raises and a guaranteed fifth year for a total package worth just north of a $129 million. If Carmelo leaves New York, even via a sign-and-trade, the best he can hope for is a four-year deal worth roughly $90 million. So who are the suitors? Chicago Bulls: The Bulls are considered a frontrunner mainly because they have a lot of parts in place and a head coach that could maximize Carmelo’s bid for a championship. Keep in mind that as much as he may have eyes for Chicago, the Bulls are not nearly as ready to rip apart their team to run after Carmelo with cap space. There is real interest on the Bulls part, but it has to be at the right price and under the right structure. Currently the Bulls have $63.95 million in guaranteed salaries for next season, giving them no cap space to pursue Carmelo. In order to get in the game without a sign-and-trade, the Bulls would have to use their Amnesty roster cut on Carlos Boozer’s remaining $16.8 million salary, find “giveaway” trades for both Taj Gibson and Mike Dunleavy Jr. and not take any money back in return. That’s not exactly palatable to the Bulls, even for a talent like Carmelo. The Bulls would prefer a sign-and-trade that offloads Boozer’s cash and allows them to keep Gibson. The Bulls are sitting on four young assets: Last year’s first round pick Tony Snell, third year swing man Jimmy Butler and two first round picks this year. Under the current cap rules a deal of Boozer, Dunleavy, Butler and the draft rights to one of the first round picks is more than enough. The question because would New York take that back as compensation for Carmelo if he declares that he’ll walk to another team for nothing? The Bulls have been here before in 2010, where they made moves, ate contracts and traded away assets hoping to get gems from the 2010 free agent class only to be left alone at the altar. They are not overly eager to repeat that process with Carmelo. So its unlikely the Bulls start shifting money, until they sit with him in July. There is interest, but as one source close to the Bulls process put it, it’s not unlimited interest; it has to fit into a bigger plan to be workable. Houston Rockets: The Rockets are in a similar situation with Chicago, in that they will not have the free cap space to sign Carmelo outright. They are currently sitting on $56.98 million in salary commitments for next season, meaning they too won’t have anything close to the cash needed to sign him without either a sign and trade or a secondary deal that offloads cap cash. The belief is that Houston would gladly shed the expiring contracts of both Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin in order to clear the cap space to get Carmelo. The wrinkle with both is how their deals are structured. Both were acquired using the CBA’s poison pill provision, which allowed the Rockets to offer massively back loaded years in order to pry them away from their respective teams. Both players have a cap value of $9.374 million next season, but are owed more than $15 million in actual cash payments. Moving that kind of money in the NBA is not easy, especially if you can’t take any of it back in trade. This is where Houston’s draft pick this year and current roster assets like Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones are going to play a role. Last year the Golden State Warriors needed to offload a similar amount of contracts and found a partner in the Utah Jazz, who extracted two future first round picks and three second round picks for eating Golden State’s bad money. Houston is facing something similar to clear Asik and Lin, simply because teams know why they want to move them and can up the asking price on their cap space. The Rockets are more than interested in obtaining Carmelo and doing it via a straight sign-and-trade deal would be more advantageous. However, if they have to go the liquidate to get cap space route they can, it might become harder and more expensive. Given the bar that Golden State established on their cash dump, there may be a point in which that’s too much for give for Carmelo.
Who Gets Carmelo Anthony?
Basketball Insiders | Jun 17