The summer of 2014 could have the best free agent class the NBA has ever seen. Superstars like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade will have the option of signing with other teams.
The Los Angeles Lakers could be the biggest players of any team next offseason, since they should have a lot of space under the salary cap. After losing Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets, the club is only committed to paying Steve Nash beyond the 2013-2104 season. There have been rumors that the Lakers are positioning themselves to make a move for James, but according to Eric Pincus of the L.A. Times, Carmelo Anthony could end up being their most likely free agent target.
At the 2011 trade deadline, Anthony essentially forced the Denver Nuggets to send him to the New York Knicks. He has a one-year option for just under $24 million in 2014-2015, but he’s almost certain to opt and look for a larger contract.
The Lakers will certainly try to reload with all that money to spend, and Anthony might be the perfect candidate to join Bryant in Los Angeles. A few years ago, Bryant stated that Anthony would be his top choice if he could play alongside one current star.
"I would actually like to play with Melo," said Bryant. “Championships are won on the inside and I'm always thinking about winning the title. I would love to play with Melo because I would know that I have an inside presence. That's really been the biggest strength with our Lakers team."
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The Knicks are still the overwhelming favorites to keep Anthony. They can give him more than the four-year, $100.5 million contract that the Lakers would be able to offer, and there haven’t been reports that Anthony wants to leave New York.
If Anthony wants to win a championship, though, his best chance might be in L.A. With James and Wade reaching the NBA Finals for three straight years with the Miami Heat, it will be hard for Anthony and the Knicks to have success in the Eastern Conference. His best chance to reach the Finals might be out West with the Lakers, who have cap space to add several assets. Assuming the Knicks re-sign Anthony to an even bigger contract, they would be limited in their ability to improve their roster.
New York may have missed their window of opportunity to compete for a title. After finishing with the second-best record in the conference, the Knicks couldn’t get out of the second round of the playoffs. They are saddled with the worst contract in the NBA in Amare Stoudemire and could find it difficult to compete with the best teams in the league.
It’s not probable that Anthony will jump ship, but it may be in his best interest if he wants a ring. With players like Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace becoming free agents in 2014, L.A. will make a major push to add another star, and Anthony could be their prime target.