Carmelo Anthony recently opted out of his contract with the New York Knicks. Things hadn’t been going swimmingly in New York, as the team was atrocious in the 2013-2014 season, missing the playoffs despite the Eastern Conference’s overall weakness. He still managed to average 27.4 points per game on over 45% shooting in 2013-2014, so he wasn’t the problem. Now an unrestricted free agent, Carmelo Anthony will attract a lot of teams, including the New York Knicks who will try to make a last ditch effort to bring him back.
Melo’s next move will be important with regard to his legacy in the NBA. Since entering the league with Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh—one of the best drafts in league history—Carmelo has shined. Aside from Kevin Durant, he is the most effortless scorer in the NBA; he can get to the rim at will or dominate his defenders with a sweet mid-range game. However, Melo hasn’t enjoyed the same level of team success that his three fellow draftees have. To be fair, James, Wade, and Bosh are coming off their fourth-straight appearance in the NBA Finals as a unit; Melo has never played on such a team. In his Denver days, Melo’s teams were talented but they couldn’t get past the behemoths of the Western Conference like the Tim Duncan-led Spurs or the Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers. In New York, Melo’s teams were inconsistent, counterpoising brilliant with abysmal play. Indeed, despite his personal accomplishments, success in the playoffs has been painfully elusive for the man who, in his freshmen season, led the Syracuse Orangmen to a National Collegiate Championship, a victory that seemed to signal future NBA championships. Team success will ultimately matter when Melo’s career is done, so he needs to chase championships—not personal success.
As an elite scorer, Melo would fit well on several rosters. Though he is one of the league’s best catch-and-shoot guys, he needs the ball in his hands a good deal, so prospective teams will want to surround him with good defenders and rebounders. One thing the Knicks missed this year is the amazing ball movement that Jason Kidd gave them the year before. Playing with a point guard who can spot him in transition and deliver him pinpoint passes will make a real difference for Melo. Defense, rebounding, and passing—these are the most fundamental basketball skills, but, as the San Antonio Spurs recently showed throughout the NBA Playoffs, some teams perform these skills much better than others. Melo will want to keep his eye on a prospective team’s fundamentals, as they are vital to team success.
This list looks at five destinations where Melo would be a good fit. The list also looks at teams that are actually in the running for his services, so no surprises like the Toronto Raptors, a team that Melo is definitely not going to sign with. If you think we missed one, let us know in the comments section. This offseason will definitely be a busy one in the NBA.
5. Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls have been quietly making all the right moves to land a talent like Carmelo Anthony this offseason. Aside from trading away Luol Deng during last season, they have managed their players’ salaries expertly and they can amnesty Carlos Boozer to expunge his salary from their books. All of these moves have put them in a place to make a move for Carmelo. If they succeed in wooing him, he will be surrounded by a very talented and formidable group of players, such as Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson.
Chicago would be a great fit for Melo for several reasons. First, Chicago is not a significant step down from New York in terms of being a big city. In Chicago, the media will still be in full force, and Melo will remain in the national spotlight and attract lucrative sponsorships. Second, the team’s supporting cast is ideal for Melo. Joakim Noah has blossomed into one of the league’s elite big men, a real throwback in an era of FIBA-style centers; Derrick Rose, when healthy, is a top-5 point guard in the league; and Taj Gibson is the quintessential role player who can give you solid minutes late in games. These guys have played together for several years and have experienced a good deal of heartbreak in the NBA Playoffs, so Melo would be joining a squad full of hungry, championship-minded players. Third, and this point cannot be overstated, Tom Thibodeau is an elite coach in the league, and his defensive-oriented mindset will pair nicely with the offense that Melo would bring. The Bulls could be very special with the addition of Melo.
4. Miami Heat
For several weeks now, there has been a great deal of buzz about Melo potentially joining the Miami Heat and expanding the “Super Best Friends Club.” For this to happen, Lebron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade would probably need to opt out of their contracts and restructure them for less money to accommodate the salary that Melo will desire. For Lebron James, this wouldn’t be such a painful sacrifice, since he is making a bundle through off-court endeavors like his stockholdings in Beats by Dre. For Wade and Bosh, however, the sacrifice will be tougher, as both will not see max money again, especially the quickly ageing Wade. Nevertheless, 2010 proved that off-court friendships mean a lot in the NBA these days, so don’t count Miami out as Melo’s landing spot.
If this seemingly impossible move does happen, Carmelo would be a great fit with the Heat. As mentioned, the friendship aspect would play a significant role with this team, squashing Melo’s ego. With his best friend James passing him the ball, Melo would not eat up as many possessions and revert to the style of play that he brings to USA Basketball, which is a catch-and-shoot one. James is an elite passer, and with Wade and Bosh on the floor, Melo would find himself open for three pointers when defenses collapse. Other than the “Big Four,” the Heat’s front office would probably have little difficulty in filling their roster with a respectable group of role players chasing championships.
3. Houston Rockets
Despite signing Dwight Howard last offseason, Houston is another team that will have cap space this offseason in hopes of making a play for Carmelo Anthony. The team will have to move Jeremy Lin, but he is not worth what he is paid in any case. With Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons, and James Harden, Houston is already a team that is on the upswing, so Melo may just find it to be an attractive destination.
With the addition of Melo, the Rockets would be an offensive juggernaut. James Harden is another scorer who needs the ball in his hands, but his past success with Thunder suggests that he would have little trouble sharing the ball with Melo. Dwight Howard, for his part, is arguably the league’s best rim protector, and his scoring ability will complement rather than clash with Melo’s. Coming off the bench, Chandler Parsons could be a real threat on this team, as teams would not be able to soften defensive pressure at any point in the game. The problem for this squad would be its lack of perimeter defense, as James Harden isn’t interested in defense, and Melo is definitely not the answer on that front. They could outscore almost any team, though.
2. New York Knicks
This pick might surprise some readers, since Carmelo just opted out of his contract with New York. Opting out does not necessarily mean that he is leaving the team behind, a team that still really wants to secure his services for the years to come. The Knicks can only go one direction and that’s up. The front office has been bolstered by the addition of Phil Jackson, and Derek Fisher’s consistent success in the league cannot be a bad sign of things to come as he becomes the team’s head coach. The team is already built around Carmelo, so questions of fit are not an issue.
At the end of the day, New York City is the greatest professional stage on earth, and Madison Square Garden is the Mecca of basketball. If Carmelo decides to stay in New York, success might not be immediate, but he would erase all doubt about his legacy if he brought a championship back to NYC several years down the road.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
Like New York City, Los Angeles is another city that loves its basketball. The Lakers will make a huge play for Melo this offseason, hoping to join him and Kobe Bryant for a title run. Having Kobe Bryant on the same roster would alleviate some of Melo’s anxieties about delivering for the team and the city. Indeed, this transition would not be freighted with as much pressure as the other potential ones would be, and Melo would be able to slowly take control of this team as, hopefully, Black Mamba gently fades into retirement.
The team’s roster is bare aside from Bryant, so Melo would fit nicely. Since he and Bryant have played together on Team USA, there is little doubt that they could co-exist. The problem for this squad would be the lack of talent surrounding these guys, and Bryant’s bloated contract compounds that problem. Regardless, one can only hope that Bryant would impart some of his championship-winning wisdom on Melo, laying the foundation for the team’s future success, if they don’t get it done in year 1 or 2.