- Bradford Doolittle
Carmelo Anthony speculation remained at the forefront of NBA offseason buzz over the weekend, but this time there was real news. Anthony has informed the New York Knicks of his decision to opt out of the last year of his contract, and he will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the month. This is no surprise, but as Anthony heads for the open market for the first time in his career, it is clear: Anthony is willing to sacrifice some money in order to maximize his chances of winning a championship next season. Anthony would have made $23.3 million had he opted in. Now, even if he re-signs with the Knicks, the maximum he can get is 5 percent more than his salary last season, which would put him at about $22.5 million. Also, by hitting the market, he's faced with the likelihood that teams are going to ask him to give up even more than the $900,000 or so he's already kissed goodbye.
Anthony will look at other teams beyond Chicago, with the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat the leading possibilities. From the Knicks' perspective, there is a debate about whether it's better to just let Melo walk or do everything they can to get him to stay. At this point, the decision is really out of their hands. As of now, Chicago looks like the leader in the Melo derby, so let's look at the most likely scenarios that would put Anthony in the Windy City.
Scenario 1: Bulls sign Melo outright for the max
Chicago could probably make this happen, but it's less than ideal. To clear the amount of cap space to pay Anthony $22.5 million for his first season, the Bulls would have to:
1. Exercise their amnesty rights on Carlos Boozer.
2. Trade the Nos. 16 and 19 picks in the draft.
It could be even worse. If the Bulls are intent on bringing European prospect Nikola Mirotic over from Spain, they might have to give up Jimmy Butler as well. That prospect depends on whether Mirotic is able to work out a discount in his $3.4 million buyout with Real Madrid, and how much (or little) he's willing to earn as an NBA rookie. If Chicago is lucky, it might be able to keep Butler and still squeeze in Mirotic, leaving it with a roster of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Anthony, Butler and Mirotic. The Bulls would have to fill out the final eight spots on the roster with the room exception of $2.7 million and at least seven minimum salary contracts. From that group would likely be a starting power forward, unless Mirotic is ready to step in. The Bulls would really be stripping away their depth by bowing to a maximum salary demand from Anthony.
How does Chicago get Melo? Through a sign and trade, which helps the Knicks, too.