A Primer on Melo’s Free Agency

(image via Chicago Tribune)
(image via Chicago Tribune)

Carmelo Anthony is currently the talk of the town in Chicago and many other places. With so many scenarios in play, I thought it would be helpful to compile a little FAQ.

Is Carmelo gonna sign with the Bulls?

This is the question on all of our minds, and it’s not that simple to answer. Because Melo probably doesn’t even know yet. Carmelo was drafted by Denver and played his whole career there until forcing a trade to New York. While Melo got to pick the team he signed his third contract with, he never experienced free agency. So Melo is gonna have a lot of love and flattery thrown his way this week and will have to make a tough decision that depends on many factors.

Okay, but shouldn’t he sign with the Bulls?

Chicago certainly seems like the best option from an on-court perspective. Combining Anthony with Joakim Noah and a healthy Derrick Rose would instantly make the Bulls favorites to reach the Conference Finals. Furthermore, the Western Conference remains insanely stacked, so even if Houston offers a better roster, Melo would face far more within-conference competition. However, the Knicks can offer Carmelo five years and $129 million while the Bulls could max out at an offer of four years and $96 million. Even so, rustling up an offer of even $80 million (let alone $70 million) would require some serious salary cap voodoo. Thus, the Bulls will have to sell Melo very hard on the idea of winning, and winning now.

Who else is Carmelo meeting with this week?

Melo took his first meeting in Chicago yesterday. Today, he’s in Texas to meet with the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks. Both, presumably, will have very enticing presentations. Anthony plans to meet with the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday (a dark horse, if only because of their amount of cap space), and finally the New York Knicks. He will play for one of those five teams next season.

How do sign-and-trades work?

The long answer is that few people understand all the small details that must be in place to make one of these trades. The short answer, however, is that a team losing its free agent (the Knicks, in this case) can recoup some assets by signing the player to a new deal and trading him to his preferred team (the Bulls, or maybe Rockets). The team losing its free agent generally has very little leverage because the player can simply sign elsewhere.

What would a Bulls/Knicks sign-and-trade look like?

Interestingly, it was reported last night that the Knicks would not be interested in taking on Carlos Boozer’s contract in a potential deal. While the accuracy of this leak can be questioned, if we take it to be true, it gives us some insight into the process. Simply put, the Knicks would have very little control over what they receive and are simply posturing to try and gain a better position. They don’t want Boozer. A Boozerless S&T could be something like Mike Dunleavy, Jimmy Butler and a future first round pick. Nikola Mirotic and Tony Snell could also be involved. Keeping Taj Gibson appears to be a priority, however. Of course, taking Boozer’s expiring deal would probably help the Knicks tank and build future cap space. So in the end, I would expect him to be included if a deal were to happen. (Bonus nightmare scenario: Reinsdorf insists on including Boozer, Knicks balk, Melo signs somewhere with more cap space and no trade necessary).

What’s the plan for the Bulls if they whiff on Melo?

The first move the front office likely makes in this event would be calling up the desperate Flip Saunders (GM and coach of Minnesota). The buzz all along has been that Minnesota is waiting to trade Kevin Love until the market balances out a little. That included waiting for the draft to occur and for the key cogs of free agency to fall into place. If Carmelo returns to New York, and the Big 3 re-sign in Miami as anticipated, the Wolves will look to Chicago, Houston, Golden State and others to make offers for their big man. If THAT fails, the Bulls will likely focus on signing Nikola Mirotic (if that hasn’t happened yet) and rounding out the rest of their roster with available free agents (and Kirk Hinrich. Fuck.). This isn’t a “sexy” scenario, but a core of Derrick Rose (assumed near full strength), Jimmy Butler, Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Nikola Mirotic and Mike Dunleavy is still quite possibly the strongest team in the conference.

 

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