The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly looking to sign both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, since both have decided to opt out of their contracts and become free agents.
According to ESPN, the Lakers are interested in forming their own Big 3, much like James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh did with the Miami Heat. The two All-Stars could join Kobe Bryant, making them the favorites in the 2014-2015 season.
While acquiring both James and Anthony might seem like a pipe dream, L.A. should have the financial flexibility to make it work. Few teams have less money committed to their current roster in the upcoming season. When free agency officially begins on July 1, the Lakers' payroll will be at just over $34 million, giving the team about $29 million to spend under the projected salary cap.
Anthony and James could earn more than a combined $45 million next year, if they were both to sign max contracts. L.A. won’t be able to offer them max deals, but the team could create even more cap space to ensure that both aren’t forced to take major pay cuts.
ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne has reported that the Lakers are trying to trade Steve Nash’s expiring contract and their No.7 overall pick in Thursday’s draft. Doing so could allow the team to offer James and Anthony at least $16 million next year. Such a deal would be a raise for James, who only made $14.5 million in his first season with the Heat. Anthony made $19.4 million in 2012 when he signed his contract with the New York Knicks.
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It won’t be easy to sign both James and Anthony. The Lakers’ roster is barren, and the organization owes an aging Bryant more than $24 million next season. The team was one of the worst in the NBA last year and doesn’t have any young players to surround its free agents. In addition to having little talent, the Lakers can’t match the contract offers of a team that is trying to sign just one of the All-Stars.
The Lakers have only a few players signed for next year and have a lot of work to do before they can think about competing for a playoff spot, let alone contending for a championship. But the same could have been said for the Heat in 2010 before the Big 3 was formed. After James, Wade and Bosh decided to team up, Miami’s front office added a mix of veterans and cheap, young players. The Heat went on reach the NBA Finals in four straight seasons.
Los Angeles can use Miami’s blueprint to create a perennial winner. James experienced how three stars can lead a team to multiple titles. After playing with New York in the Eastern Conference, Anthony saw firsthand how tough a unit like that can be to defeat.
With the 2014 NBA Draft taking place on Thursday, it is easy to reflect on one of the most memorable classes considering this star-packed free-agent market. The 2003 NBA Draft might be remembered as the best of all time, in large part because of James and Anthony. James was taken first overall and has gone on to become the best player in the sport. Anthony, who was drafted No. 3, has achieved individual success, making seven All-Star teams and winning a scoring title, but he’s never played in the NBA Finals. Eleven years later, the two could decide the fate of the league for the next few years.
James and Anthony played together on many occasions as members of the USA basketball team, and they could have an interest in teaming up in the NBA. It’s possible that the Atlanta Hawks or Cleveland Cavaliers could create enough space to offer them the same opportunity, but L.A. is likely the much more attractive option.
The most likely scenario has James returning to Miami, and the Chicago Bulls have been pegged as the favorite to sign Anthony, but the Lakers can’t be counted out as a destination for two of this summer’s top free agents.