Tear down to build up with Carmelo? Shaky strategy for him, suitors

Would Carmelo Anthony be a good fit with Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls? (Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)

Would Carmelo Anthony be a good fit with Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls? (Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)

If Carmelo Anthony leaves the New York Knicks as a free agent this summer and signs for less money elsewhere – and it’s a huge “if,” roughly the size of 30 million dollar bills stacked one atop the other – his avowed motive will be to join a team with which he’d have a better shot at winning an NBA title.

OK, fine. Those teams exist, because the Knicks’ avenues to improve are largely blocked by massive salary obligations to other players and a shortage of draft picks. Locking in with the Knicks for another five seasons, at approximately $129 million, mostly would assure Anthony of more of the same: frustration, eliminations and his nose pressed against the Finals glass while his buddies are grabbing hardware.

So even among Anthony’s supporters and critics – rarely on the same page about the high-scoring, ball-dominating All-Star forward’s polarizing game – there seems consensus that, if he truly craves that which he cannot buy, he’d best be served by seeking it somewhere else.

[Insert decision tree here: Those who doubt Anthony's single-minded lust for a championship, over all the attention, fun and earning opportunities that flow to him win or lose by virtue of playing in New York, can stop reading right now. So, too, can those who believe the extra $30 million, mostly at age 34 in the fifth year of a deal he cannot get elsewhere, renders moot any other-team scenario. What follows is of interest only to readers who actually believe Anthony will change teams in July…]

Then the question becomes: If the team he chooses has to start throwing pieces overboard just to pay him, won’t that be counterproductive to achieving the very goal he purportedly is seeking?

Anthony, remember, has been there, done this. When he leveraged his trade out of Denver in February 2011, he ostensibly got what he wanted – New York in all its Big Apple glory. But it came at a hefty price in the form of valuable Knicks players (Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov) and draft picks (including the 2014 first-rounder this June).

Even as the Knicks added Anthony as a marquee scorer, what they gave up all but killed the plan at its genesis. Cue the sad trombone.

So, fast-forwarding to the summer of 2014, what can we expect? Anthony and a team that covets him making the exact same mistake?

If, say, the Chicago Bulls – the team currently in the media’s crosshairs as fitting, wanting and flat-out needing Melo, with or without center Joakim Noah‘s supposed “recruiting” advice – tries to dredge enough salary-cap space to compete monetarily with the Knicks, it effectively will have to do what New York did. Either via sign-and-trade or the outright purging of players, Chicago would start any Anthony acquisition process by taking several steps backward.

First, the Bulls would have to amnesty Carlos Boozer to shed the $16.8 million due him in 2014-15. They would have to renounce cap holds on players such as Kirk Hinrich, D.J. Augustin, Nazr Mohammed and a few other near the bottom of their payroll.

And still, Chicago might need to shed more. Power forward Taj Gibson, for instance, might have to be traded to clear his $8 million salary. So what if Gibson, the Bulls’ Boozer replacement, has become a legitimate candidate for the NBA’s Sixth Man Award? His money would be all that mattered, just so VP John Paxson and GM Gar Forman could shove it across the table toward Anthony.

At which point Anthony – if he were really serious about wanting to win – ought to push it right back and say, “Not necessary, gentlemen.”

That’s right. Turn down money. Turn down a lot of money.

It’s the only way a move by Anthony to another team makes sense and serves both parties’ needs. And both parties’ needs do merge: If the Bulls or anyone else tear down their roster so much that they go backward before they can go forward, they likely won’t get where they want to go and he won’t either.

A team that has or painlessly can create cap space to max out (or near-max) Anthony’s contract probably doesn’t already have in place the pieces or track record he can trust to win big now and into his late prime. A team that would wince to do so ought to beware.

Chicago is way more viable as a contender with Gibson, to name one, than without him. Which looks better, a frontline of Anthony, Noah and Gibson, or one of Anthony, Noah and Phil N. DaBlanc, some low-salary schmoe scrounged after the rest of the money is in Anthony’s pocket?

The thing is, Anthony should want this, too. And he can afford it.

By the end of this, his 11th NBA season, Anthony will have been paid approximately $135 million. That’s about $6 million more than LeBron James, a four-time MVP. Since the start of the 2010-11 season, Anthony has pulled in more than $10 million more than James, who was playing for less money while going to three straight Finals and winning two of them.

This is where critics might ask: What has Anthony done to justify premium pay over what the game’s best player earns? Sticking to the topic, though, we’ll simply ask: Why can’t Anthony afford to take less now, the way James (and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) did, to chase what he allegedly really craves? When Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen negotiated new deals in their 30s to keep their Big Three together in Boston, they took a combined pay cut of $23 million annually.

Keep in mind, Anthony’s off-court income from endorsements and other enterprises was recently estimated to be $8 million annually. His wife LaLa is an entertainer, bringing more cash into their celebrity household. The Anthonys might end up hosting telethons but they’ll never need to be the beneficiaries of one.

Fitting into Chicago’s ideal cap number would push Anthony’s paycheck down considerably; without stripping themselves of Noah, Gibson, Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell and a few others, the Bulls might only be able to offer $11 million or $12 million in starting pay, building out to about $52 million over four years. That’s even a steep discount from approximately $95 million over four if he maxes out with a new team.

An insult? No, because Anthony would be getting while giving. He’d be getting the best possible cast of teammates, into which he could air-drop as the primary scorer. He’d be getting a fresh start in a market poised to adore him for what he might bring. He’d be getting one of the league’s most respected and resource coaches, Tom Thibodeau, who engenders blood loyalty in his locker room (if not his front office).

There would also be a bonus benefit of Anthony accepting a much lower offer, as in, money, meet mouth. If he prefers to max out financially, then he’s tracking a vastly different scoreboard than James, Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant. But no team should prostrate itself at that particular altar for him, least of all the Bulls. I’ve already gone on record that his and their cultures, at any price, would mix about as well as brown shoes and tuxedos or, y’know, Mike D’Antoni and Dwight Howard.

If, on the other hand, Anthony truly wants a title, he in essence could buy an enhanced path to one by making sure the roster he joins is the strongest possible. That’s how four years, $52 million, compared to five years, $129 million, can literally have a better ring to it.

46 Comments

  1. good luck with bulls my idol…

  2. Paul says:

    ummm……? Why would the bulls: intense,hard working, underrated, overachievers want Melo? Carefree, overrated, underachiever? Thibo and Melo are like oil and water. Stay in NY. Fashion, glamour… facade.

  3. PAPPY says:

    LOOK MELO IS GOING TO THE BULLS FOR LESS MONEY AND KEVIN LOVE AND WESTBROOK WILL BE GOING TO THE LAKERS AT SOME POINT OH AND KEVIN DURANT IS GOING TO THE ROCKETS

  4. Glenn says:

    He can’t go to Miami, not enough money for a decent deal. Chicago, Cleveland or Houston would be ideal if they offer him enough. Overall it’s up to him, he wants money, New York. If he wants an NBA championship before the end of his career, most likely Chicago. As long as Chicago doesn’t sell Joakim, Taj, or even Derrick Rose

  5. Daquan says:

    MELO TO LA! KOBE ON THE WAY OUT . THAT CITY NEEDS SAVING AND MELO IS BRUCE WAYNE!!!!

  6. Kevin Gogana says:

    You want to win a title or ring, come to the BULLS

  7. Coolman0 knows says:

    Carmelo should give a shot with the heat.

  8. Boris says:

    Welcome to Chicago Melo :) .
    What a signing that would be for the Bulls !
    Melo See Red

  9. HEATLES says:

    CARMELO ANTHONY SHOULD SIGN WITH THE HEAT NEXT YEAR!!

    PG – CHALMERS
    SG – WADE (10mil)
    SF – LEBRON (22 mil)
    PF – MELO (15 mil)
    C – Chris Andersen

    Bench : Oden , Battier , Ray Allen , UD , +another good PG + Another Role player ala Battier.
    Bosh will go somewhere else!

  10. Love wont go to a shambles team like knicks! he wants to go to proven contender or stay with wolves. I like melo at bulls. Rose needs some1 to take pressure off and rose not to push his body and re injure

  11. J4CK Nicholson says:

    I think Lakers is a good destination for Melo. IMO Lakers has a decent supporting cast (Hill, Young, Johnson, Meeks, Henry, Marshall, Bazemore) better than the Knicks. The only big letdown is D’Antoni and Jim Buss. If Gasol is willing to take less pay, if only Kobe signed for a smaller pay, if only they amnesty Nash and fire D’Antoni…..

  12. Jayson says:

    If the bulls amnesty boozer, and trade dunleavy leaving around 43.5 million. Leaving 17 million, offer Anthony 13 million(and more if we can use MLE) for the first year and hope Mirotic signs for about 6mil and sign the 1st rounders and fill out the roster with veteran’s minimum players

  13. msbtg says:

    Everytime i try to comment on nba.co it wouldn’t let me, now once and for all I can speak my mind.
    I’ve been visiting nba.com regularly for a solid 8 years and everytime I see a Melo’ read by Steve Aschburner, I can already know how the article is gonna play out.

  14. dustydreamnz says:

    Why would Love go to Portland?

  15. EL_Ninjah says:

    D. ROSE
    JIMMY BUCKETS
    MELO
    TAJ
    NOAH

    The favorite to win a championship. You already know

  16. NBALogics says:

    Melo can win with the Bulls if they keep as much pieces as possible and get a good rookie in 2014/2015 season. Having Melo will also take off stress from D-Rose which is also great for him.

  17. Singaporean says:

    he is one of the most selfish players in NBA history, superstar Yes, reliable winner? Not so…. KD has been sharing, Kobe starts to share after age of 30.. whatever team he joins, NO WAY he can march to any Finals… But i like the fact idea of him playing alongside Noah, who doesnt like to be in the spotlight.

  18. crazy54542 says:

    I’m a huge Knicks fan but if Carmelo leaves i would not be mad Melo is an awesome player and everything and if knicks cnt get some help for him I really dnt mind watching him go to Miami to help them become the big 4 lol, but ppl gotta remember its not about the 30mil or 14mil how many of us can actually make that as quick as pro players do. Most players I think want to put their name in history books still ofc make some money on the way and I’m pretty sure 14mil is good enough and to add a ring which is literally given out once a yr to 1 team is hard to get but who wouldnt do that

  19. Manuel says:

    hey whats up everybody… stop talk melo will go to bulls LAL or Portland and maybe heat stop it.. or anywhere.. he will sign in New York knicks again take the max contract or take less money contract. and knicks will get another star player like kevin love.. starting 5 will be PG felton, SG Smith SF Anthony PF Kevin love Center Tyson chandler maybe bonus lucky chances sign LeBron with Knicks but is a dream only

  20. Mr.Smith says:

    MELO SAID…….. he’s not worried about money,he has plenty of money. Melo wants to stay in N.Y,but if they can’t get anyone over there to play beside him,then he’s leaving.I think he should leave if that is the case. Even though i would love to see him stay.LET’S GO KNICKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. LoneWolf47 says:

    @Carmelo Anthony : As a Knicks fan, Carmelo should definitely think about getting that ring.he deserve to have at least two ring championship. And that is why I think he should leave the Knicks and join a better team like Lebron did. And there is no better team than the Bulls that fits him best. He already is getting invited by Noah to Join the team so why not give it a shot? We all know that Ray Allen left the Celtics (which is one of the greatest organization ever) just for a purpose to get a ring. He did not care about his salary or anything else. He just wanted the ring. Thats how bad Melo should be if he really want that championship ring. Carmelo sure made a huge impact during his struggling season but everybody in the Knicks team expect t too much of him and his leadership. Furthermore, Knicks seems like they are not even trying to help him out a little.Instead, they just made the team worst by having some players arrested and suspended. IT IS JUST A SHAME. The Bulls however, unlike the Knicks, always seems to be strong even without one of their superstar Derrick Rose.And that is thanks to hard work and cooperation of all Derrick and Noah’s teammate. It did just happen like that .They really did work hard enough to earn their 4th spot in the east conference even after Deng was being traded. So, that beeing said, imagine Melo to that line up. it could be one of the biggest threat team in the east and also a better contender for Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers next year.

  22. Jeremymichel says:

    I kinda wanna see him go to dallas just to see what it would be like. They’re already horrendous on defense so might as well go full fledged offense. It won’t happen but they would no doubt be an offensive powerhouse.

  23. Erik B says:

    I can agree that Melo should take less money, and even considerably less money, but the 52 mil over 4 years is just insulting. The man averages over 20 points per game against his worst opponent, and is an elite level rebounder + prolific one on one scorer. What do the Bulls lack? Offense. What can Melo bring? Offense. The unfortunate thing for Melo is he never was a natural born leader and is cast as one and paid as one. I’m amazed that we are crying about the Bull’s amnestying Boozer and shooing away Taj Gibson when the last few seasons upper management has been looking for the right deal to get rid of them anyway. Boozer is on a deal that’s paying him more than his value and Gibson, albeit his recent play, has more value elsewhere. Gibson is on a very favorable contract and I see the Bull’s finding a quality piece for him. We forget Carmelo was young when he wanted out of Denver and at the time the trade seemed beneficial for both sides. Unfortunately Amare had some injury riddled and less than stellar years and never returned to his Phoenix form. We all know New York has a troubling past concerning their management coughDOLANcough. I don’t think Melo should sign away the rest of his career to a franchise that has shown no inclination of making winning decisions. I still think Chicago is the most ideal landing spot for him because he can play more PF as he ages and he can thrive in Big Tom’s defensive system. That team has plenty of leadership and discipline. Melo doesn’t have to be burdened with fixing a locker room or taking the blame for defeats after scoring 35. If Chicago can lose their leading scorer for the season, and trade away their next best offensive threat and still be a top seed in the conference, then I think they can shave a little more off the side to add 25+ pts instantly and compete.

  24. kelton says:

    I’d honestly rather have an additional 77 million dollars than an NBA championship lol. The bulls can offer him way more than that. Amnestying Boozer and trading Dunleavy allows them to offer something like 18 million per.

  25. Subhas Dhodapkar says:

    What is more important to Melo, the money or the championship? With the championship will come additional opportunities for endorsements and, as such, more money. Some of the money he leaves behind at the table can be made up through these added endorsements.

    Chicago seems the best option if Gibson and all the current players stay, and Rose is healthy. Even without Rose the Bulls have been playing extremely well, just imagine Melo in the lineup.

  26. inmani says:

    Now for the other hypothetical why can’t he stay in NY and take less money. Wade, Bosh, and Lebron did in order to keep and re-sign Haslem so why can’t Anthony take less in order for NY to sign another star player alongside him such a Love which in NY would have a nice media ring to it LoveNY.

  27. Unkle Daddy says:

    Ok, so Melo to the Bulls, I just don’t see it. If Rose could come back at full strength they could have a chance to win a title, if Melo buys in, but he isn’t a buyer-inner. If you don’t buy in for Coach Carl, I don’t think your buying in for anybody. People need to face the fact he isn’t a great player, he is a really really good scorer. He needs to be around a great player-leader to go any further.

    • justsayin says:

      You mean George Karl – makes me doubt the sincerity of the esteem you hold him in if you don’t know his name tho.

      He and Hollins both deserve to be coaching again. Maybe K to LAL and H to NYK.

  28. Rangers says:

    Rose-butler-Carmelo-Gibson-Noah with European player of the year, Augustine,snell and 1st round pick on a big man off the bench would be a fantastic team.

  29. melo ain’t worth a max contract look what kd and lebron have done they don’t even earn close to melo money probably going to la or portland

  30. Patty says:

    Carmelo needs to head to Los Angeles Lakers @ the end of the season.

    • An Unlikely Fantasy says:

      Sorry to bum off of your comment, I just want this to be seen. I’m an appreciater of Basketball, not a bandwagon. I watch all of the good matches, you know, on ABC Sundays. But imagine this. At the end of the year, LeBron, Wade, and Bosh all opt out and take less money. Ray Allen and Shane Battier retire. And then, Pat Riley gets Melo to come for less money. And if the whole Greg Oden thing works out, imagine this: Greg Oden, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Mario Chalmers as the starting lineup, with an aging Wade coming off of the bench along with Norris Cole, Michael Beasley, and Chris Anderson (the 8 man rotation). Aside from that they have Rashard Lewis and Udonis Haslem. I would seriously feel bad for all of the other teams if this happens though. Probably won’t.

  31. allaroundballer says:

    Noah is more useful and loyal player than melo. I’ll hear some advice from him before recruiting melo

    • Cam says:

      As a Chicago fan and observer, I actually like the move by Melo to the Bulls. Here’s why.

      The Bulls are naturally a strong defensive team and that doesn’t just come from the players they bring in. Think about it, they have some supposedly average defenders in Boozer, DJ, Dunleavy etc – but the culture of the team itself turns them into capable defenders. They have strong defensive coverage and they look out for each other – knowing the mismatches and being able to cover their lesser skilled teammates. Not to mention the defensive coaching prowess of Thibs.

      If Melo came, I think they could turn him into a stronger team defender and the Bulls would lose none of their defensive specialty. I also think the comradely and win every game at all costs atmosphere/demeanor there could be what is needed for Melo to finally turn him into a non-selfish player capable of challenging for a ring.

  32. goatcomment says:

    time to move the parasyte, new york has to be liberated from carmelo anthony, he is like the independance day aliens, finding a new planet (franchise), eat it to the death (i’m a max contract player, yoyo), then go away to find another max contr.. planet

  33. dustydreamnz says:

    He can’t stay in New York with the shambles there, I can’t see him going to the Bulls. I think he’ll leave, just don’t know where he’ll end up.

  34. marty says:

    Stay in NY, if the Bulls can’t keep their core I would stay and take the $$.

  35. Ryan says:

    That’s simply unrealistic to ask anyone to take $50M less. If the Bulls have to dump Gibson, they still have a front line of Noah, Melo and Butler, with Rose leading the way at PG. Pawn Gibson for a relatively cheap SG, or draft a SG……but if the Bulls haven’t yet learned that landing a star is MUCH harder than filling out a roster with role players, they need to throw i the towel!

  36. bballjunkie1 says:

    Melo would be a good fit anywhere, he’s got to get his teamates involved everynight early and play defense himself every nite. Chicago aint gonna let the ball stick and you will play defense, talk defense throughout the whole game, Look what KD, Lebron do night in night out get others involved and then determine what you need to do. Also he can’t hang outside, but take advantage down low more we all know he can shoot. Now we know it wasn’t Denver, (George Karl) New York with Stoudimiere, West Chandler, and others were very good actually.

  37. NOCHIPSNYC says:

    Boycot Dolan

  38. #dwade#flash says:

    looks like the picture is telling the future of Melo

    • melo talkes 50 shots a game and ain’t worth all that money if he wan’ts a championship he shouldn’t be asking for a max contract he is still a good scorer but isn’t anywhere near lebron or durant he should go to the losangelas lakers or portland trailblazers

      • Nope says:

        Nah most likely K. Love will go to either Portland or Los Angeles. Melo is most likely going to Bulls.