After the first five days of free agency, major moves by some the NBA’s biggest stars appear imminent.
After his five-team, four-city free agency tour, forward Carmelo Anthony has been a highly courted player, yet staying with the New York Knicks may still be the most likely option. Anthony met with the Bulls, Rockets, Mavericks, Lakers and Knicks during the week to discuss how he would fit in their plans for the future, with New York reportedly playing its best card by offering him a maximum contract worth $129 million over five years.
According to CBS Sports, the 30-year-old former scoring champion was most wary about repeating New York’s dreadful 37-win campaign and missing the playoffs again. Otherwise, Anthony has reportedly liked the additions Knicks president Phil Jackson has made such as hiring Derek Fisher as head coach, and he was “intrigued” by how his game could flow in the triangle offense.
All five teams still believe they have a chance to land Anthony, but they are preparing contingencies. The Bulls have already worked out the possibility of a sign-and-trade with New York involving forward Carlos Boozer and his expiring $16.8 million contract, but will need Jackson and the Knicks to agree.
Much of Chicago’s pitch centered around Anthony teaming up with now-healthy point guard Derrick Rose, All-Star center Joakim Noah and forward Taj Gibson, but the plan always hinged on Anthony taking less money with a starting salary of roughly $15 or $16 million so the Bulls wouldn’t have to give up any assets in a sign-and-trade.
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According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls are moving forward with their free agency plans hoping Anthony chooses the Windy City, but are currently negotiating a buyout deal with Real Madrid for big man Nikola Mirotic, who was a late first-round selection in the 2011 draft. The 6-foot-10 power forward’s buyout clause with the Spanish powerhouse is $3.4 million. Chicago can only cover $600,000 of the buyout with anything more considered a signing bonus under NBA rules, and thus counts against the salary cap.
Completing a deal for Mirotic would likely end Chicago’s chances of landing Anthony, but they could also use their cap space to land Lakers center Pau Gasol and give Noah more help on the block, as reported by the Tribune.
The Bulls met with Gasol in Los Angeles, but face stiff competition from the Knicks, Thunder, Spurs and Heat. However, Chicago can likely offer him a longer, more lucrative deal and rise back to the top of the Eastern Conference.
At 33, Gasol has maybe two or three good years left in the league, but he’s coming off a solid season with the Lakers, averaging 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds, and he’s one of the best passing big men in the league.
Gasol’s case is one example of the secondary free agent market growing out of the Anthony and LeBron James spotlight. After teams chase and later assess their chances of landing either superstar, they decide whether to continue the full-court press or move onto other players, like James’s Miami teammate Chris Bosh.
Miami’s plans hinge on whether James decides to stay or not, but Bosh has plenty of possible landing spots, as well. CBS reported that Bosh could receive a near-maximum offer from the Rockets, Lakers or Mavericks, and he’s much more inclined to sign a four-year max deal for more money rather than take a pay cut so the Heat can adhere to James’s demand for a max salary.
James’s situation remains the most intriguing and possibly league-altering. As reported by ESPN, James’s agent and friend Rich Paul met with the Suns, Rockets, Mavericks, Cavaliers and the Lakers, and it seems like the four-time MVP is seriously considering a new home.
The Suns, Mavs, and Lakers can offer James a max salary, while the Rockets would have to facilitate a sign-and-trade with Miami and Cleveland might ask James to take less money or also go the sign-and-trade route.
Phoenix has enough salary cap space to sign James and pair him with either Anthony or Bosh, and has a leg up on the Lakers who have very few pieces in place, other than Kobe Bryant, to contend right away.