NBA star Carmelo Anthony will decide on Monday if he wants to opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent. It’s almost a certainty that Anthony will inform the New York Knicks of his plan to test the market and sign a new deal.
Other than LeBron James, Anthony will be the most coveted player when free agency officially begins on July 1. The Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets are considered legitimate candidates to steal the 30-year-old away from New York.
In making the biggest choice of his professional career, several factors will contribute to Anthony’s decision.
The Knicks can pay Anthony more money than any other team. New York can offer their star player a five-year contract worth approximately $129 million. Any other team that has enough room under the salary cap can only give him a four-year deal worth close to $96 million.
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While the Lakers are certain to be under the projected $63.2 million salary-cap threshold, the other contenders for Anthony will likely have to do some maneuvering to reach that point. The Mavericks and Rockets might be attractive to Anthony because Texas has no state income tax, but he’d still be making less than if he stayed with New York. If the Heat keep their "Big Three" intact, there’s no chance they’ll be able to offer Anthony a max contract. Even if James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all agreed to make the same money as Miami’s newest free agent, Anthony could only make a little over $60 million, during the course of his contract.
Anthony certainly doesn’t need any more money. According to Forbes, he made $29.4 million last season in salary and endorsements, and he’s been in the league for 11 years. Still, he’d have to leave a lot of money on the table to play for a new team.
Advantage New York
The Heat may have lost the 2014 NBA Finals in five games, but they’ve been the league’s most successful franchise in the last four years. During that time, they’ve won the Eastern Conference in every season and won two titles. Miami’s Big Three agreed to take pay cuts in 2010, and doing so with Anthony on the roster would make the Heat overwhelming favorites to win the 2015 NBA title.
Along with Miami, Chicago would also present Anthony with a great chance to win. Assuming Derrick Rose is healthy, Anthony could make the Bulls the most complete team in the conference. Chicago’s top-rated defense has made them a competitor in recent years, but their limited offensive ability has kept them from winning the East. Adding a dynamic scorer like Anthony might be the piece that the Bulls have been missing. While forming a Big Three with James Harden and Dwight Howard in Houston might be appealing, Anthony has a much better chance to reach the finals by staying in the weaker conference.
If winning a ring is Anthony’s top priority, he won’t return to New York. The Knicks won 37 games in 2013-2014, and have no cap flexibly to make major improvements next season. Even when the team gets under the salary cap in 2015 and finally has a first-round draft pick, the Knicks will still have a long way to go to put a consistent contender on the court.
If Anthony learned anything from James’s “The Decision,” he discovered that the way he handles being a free agent could make him one of the biggest villains in sports. Joining multiple superstars could force many fans to look at the forward in a different light.
As a perennial All-Star and always one of the top scorers in the NBA, Anthony is considered by many to be one of the league’s top players. By joining other established stars in Miami, he’s certain to receive backlash for taking the easy way out and riding James’s coattails. Staying with the Knicks and bringing New York its first title in over 40 years would greatly benefit Anthony’s legacy.
Winning a championship with the Knicks, however, might not be realistic, and Anthony needs at least one ring if he wants to be considered an all-time great. Anthony is perceived by many as a great offensive player, but nothing more. He has never reached the finals and only won three of 13 playoff series. If Anthony is concerned about his perception, he’ll join a team that can help him win a title, while being the No.1 scoring option.
The wives of NBA players are almost never mentioned in free agency discussions, but that’s not the case with Anthony. His wife, La La, could play a significant role in where Anthony decides to play for the next four or five years.
La La is in the entertainment business, having appeared in movies and television shows, even writing her own book. If she has any say in Anthony’s decision, and she recently told TMZ that she does, Anthony might be leaning towards playing in Los Angeles or New York. The couple likely wants to stay in the limelight, and living in the middle of the country might not be ideal.
Signing with the Lakers could be the perfect fit for La La. It wouldn’t hurt her career, but it could give the two a change they’re looking for. La La spends a lot of her time in L.A., and the couple already have a house in Los Angeles.
Advantage Los Angeles