Carmelo Anthony has officially decided to opt out of his contract with the New York Knicks and become a free agent.
“Carmelo loves being a Knick, he loves the city and the fans,” Anthony’s agent, Leon Rose said in a statement. “At this stage of his career he just wants to explore his options.”
New York is almost certain to offer him a max contract of five years and approximately $129 million. While other teams can only give Anthony, at most, a four-year deal worth close to $96 million, he will give strong consideration to a few possible destinations.
Multiple teams are reportedly planning on making a play for Anthony, but some will be able to give him a better contract than others.
A Lot Of Money To Spend
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Los Angeles Lakers
L.A. will almost certainly make a run at this summer’s top free agents. The Lakers will have plenty of cap space, and the organization is looking to make up for one of the worst seasons in franchise history. Kobe Bryant is under contract for two more years, and he’s expressed his desire for the front office to make changes and put together a winning team.
The Lakers are committed to just four players next year, who will make a little more than $34 million. They can easily offer Anthony a max contract, or sign two top free agents, if Anthony were willing to take a little less money. Los Angeles also has the No.7 pick in the draft, which could make them an attractive option.
Playing in Los Angeles could be a draw for Anthony, but the Lakers might not put him any closer to winning a championship. If Anthony is going to leave more than $30 million on the table, it may not be so he can play for a team that lost 10 fewer games than the Knicks.
Dallas ended the season with the most money to spend of any legitimate contender in the Anthony Sweepstakes. The team enters the summer with just over $27 million committed to players under contract.
Dallas’s payroll is somewhat deceiving, since the organization is almost a lock to re-sign Dirk Nowitzki. After signing the face of their franchise, though, Dallas will have a lot of money to spend. Nowitzki has acknowledged that he’ll have to take a pay cut from the $22.7 million that he made last season, which could leave the team with plenty of money to give Anthony. Considering there’s no state income tax in Texas, Dallas’s contract offer could be more appealing than that from other teams, outside of New York.
Nowitzki has admitted that he doesn’t expect the team to land Anthony, but Dallas could be a legitimate threat to New York
Should Be Under The Cap
The Bulls might be the biggest threat to the Knicks. If they use the amnesty provision to rid themselves of Carlos Boozer’s $16.8 million deal, they will be well under the projected salary cap $62.3 million salary cap threshold. Anthony fits Chicago’s need of a top scorer, and could be what puts them over the hump and past the Miami Heat.
According to ESPN, Anthony has been looking into playing for the Bulls, speaking to a famous person who lives in Chicago about what it’s like to be a celebrity in the city. The Bulls are doing their homework, as well, as the Chicago Sun-Times reports that head coach Tom Thibodeau has spoken to former coaches of Anthony.
Chicago could be hurt by what kind of contract they can offer Anthony. Before getting rid of Boozer, they are committed to paying more than $63 million of salary for the 2014-2015 season. Even if the team makes a trade or two, they might be limited to giving Anthony closer to $20 million a year, instead of the near $24 million per season that he’d earn with a max contract.
Up In The Air
Assuming LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all opt out of their contracts, the Heat will have very little money committed for next season. Their plan is to bring back the Big Three, but one or two defections from Miami could open the door for the team to give Anthony a lucrative deal.
Even before the Heat were eliminated in the NBA Finals, reports began to circulate about the team’s plan to add Anthony to their group of already established stars. If James, Wade and Bosh all re-sign with the Heat, that would mean Anthony would have to take a major pay cut to play for Miami. If all four players agreed to make the same amount of money, Anthony’s contract would be worth less than half of what the Knicks could offer him.
The Rockets are reportedly looking sign Anthony and create a Big Three of their own. Adding Anthony to a team that already has Dwight Howard and James Harden could make Houston the favorites in the West. While that may be the organization’s hope, they aren’t close to being able to make that happen.
Houston is currently in position to be well over the projected salary cap, with more than $70 million in committed salary. The team would likely have to deal both Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin to have a chance at signing Anthony. Both players could be attractive options because of their expiring contracts, but general manage Daryl Morey has a lot of work to do, before he’ll be able to sign a top free agent.