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Is Carmelo Anthony’s smart play to opt in and play out contract with Knicks?

Mar 7, 2014, 5:46 PM EDT

New York Knicks vs Miami Heat Getty Images

According to every reliable source, Carmelo Anthony is going to opt out of the final year of his contract this season and look either to re-sign a five-year deal with the Knicks or move on to another team to be part of a contender. If Anthony wants to jump ship and go somewhere like oft-mentioned Chicago, he is going to have to take a serious pay cut. More and more fans seem to think he will.

But is that really the smart play here?

The smart play may be to play out his current deal, make $23 million next season on an likely struggling Knicks team, then join a potentially huge free agent class in 2015 where he could team with someone or someones to form a serious contender.

First, let’s look at what Anthony is giving up if he really wants to bolt to a contender like Chicago — it’s a lot. Ken Berger lays it out at

If the Bulls amnesty Carlos Boozer, the starting point for the cap room they could offer Anthony, according to league salary sheets, is $13.8 million. To even get there, they would have to renounce free agent Kirk Hinrich (and lose his Bird rights) and trade their first-round pick and the pick they are getting from Charlotte (which together would amount to another $2.7 million on Chicago’s books)…

But let’s play along, shall we? Let’s say the Bulls renounced Hinrich ($5.2 million cap hold gone), kept their picks, and traded Taj Gibson ($8 million) and Mike Dunleavy ($3.3 million) while bringing back no salary in the process. They would be able to start Anthony at about $20 million in the first year of a four-year, $85.4 million deal — give or take, depending on how much they need to sign (hot European prospect Nikola) Mirotic….

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s back up to where Anthony’s four-year deal with Chicago would start: $20 million. That’s $1.7 million less than Anthony is making this season and $3.3 million less than he’d make in the first season of a five-year, $130.9 million deal he could get from the Knicks. The compounding effect of Anthony’s initial sacrifice, plus forgoing the fifth year the Knicks could offer at $30.3 million, would mean that Anthony would be leaving $45 million on the table to sign with the Bulls.

That’s a lot of cash to leave on the table. This isn’t a simple “winning vs. money” situation because he already learned that if you go to a gutted team it may not work out as expected.

Which brings us to an interesting idea put forward by Brian Windhorst over at ESPN — Anthony should not opt out. He should play out his contract with the Knicks and make $23 million next season and suffer through what likely will be another rough season in New York.

Why? To really control his destiny in the summer of 2015.

The market this summer for top-line free agents is relatively weak. The teams projected to have at least $15 million in cap space this summer are the Dallas Mavericks, Orlando Magic,Philadelphia 76ers, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers. (Note that teams such as the Bulls and some others could make moves to get into that range, but they have to weaken existing rosters to do it.)…

Here are some of the teams in 2015 that are projected to have large cap space: the Knicks, Lakers, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs and possibly the Houston Rockets. The Heat and the Bulls, in better cap position that year, could be very much in the game again as well.

Now, here are the list of players who have the option to be unrestricted free agents in 2015: James, Wade, Bosh, Anthony, Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker, Marc Gasol, Roy Hibbert and Goran Dragic. Plus names like Randolph, Gay, Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap, David West, DeAndre Jordan, Thaddeus Young, Arron Afflalo, Al Jefferson and Monta Ellis.

Again a quick note on 2015: Whether any of the big three from Miami are available depends on what they do this summer. Also, it is expected around the league that LaMarcus Aldridge will stay in Portland with a new deal now that the team is successful. There could be other changes as well, this is more than a year away.

All that said, the chance to partner with a bigger name in a major market — or draw one to play with him in New York — is better in 2015 than it will be this summer. If winning really matters, there will be more potential options that season.

But it means likely another season of struggles with the Knicks to get there.

Could Anthony be that patient? Or does his desire to get out of this deal — and maybe out of New York — trump that?

There are no easy answers for ‘Melo. But with the Knicks season ending mid-April he’s going to have a lot of extra time to think about the options.

  1. sportsfan18 - Mar 7, 2014 at 5:56 PM

    You can’t use the word smart and Carmelo Anthony in the same sentence…

    • stayhigh_247 - Mar 8, 2014 at 1:07 PM

      yeah ok, he’s smarter than you, unless you have 10’s of millions hidden under your mattress and a sexy ass wife laying next to you. he seems pretty smart to me, he’s living his dream & being paid well to do it, so how is he not smart?

  2. minilb - Mar 7, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    Why, would the Bulls need to gut the team of starting talent to get a large enough of an offer to appease Melo? They can clean up some of the bench while keeping Taj Gipson. Won’t need Dunleavy or Heinrich, could possibly give up the two rooks from this yr as well to get $$. Or better why would take a large contract if Melo does in deed care about winning. Players take less all time if it gives them the best opportunity to win. i.e. Wes Welker took less to play in Denver bc it presented him with the best opportunity for Welker to win.

    • spursareold - Mar 7, 2014 at 6:17 PM

      NBA players in their primes never take less. There is NO way to keep Gibson and sign Melo. as that $20M would be reduced by $8M to keep him.

      • sportsfan18 - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:44 PM

        What? “NBA players in their primes NEVER take less.” you said…

        Dwight Howard took over $30 million less to leave the Lakers…

        One, best player in the game, LeBron James took LESS money to come to the Heat (good choice, he has rings now).

        This is his fourth season with the Heat. Do you or others realize that King James and Chris Bosh have made the SAME salary each of the past four yrs while on the Heat together?

        James took less to team up with D Wade and Bosh to win and win they did.

    • cantonbound13 - Mar 7, 2014 at 6:24 PM

      It really didn’t turn out so well for Welker.

      • eugenesaxe1 - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:04 PM

        He made it to the Super Bowl, only one team did better than his.

      • sportsfan18 - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:48 PM

        and the team he left didn’t play in the super bowl either…

        so being on the Broncos at least gave him a chance as a team has zero chance to win the super bowl if the are NOT in it…

  3. azarkhan - Mar 7, 2014 at 6:09 PM

    Kurt, This is the third story today on the Knicks, a team with a 22-40 record. Who is the fool now?

    azarkhan – Mar 5, 2014 at 1:06 PM
    The Spurs are professionals so they don’t rate many mentions in PBT. PBT would rather cover the soap opera that is the Knicks.

    Kurt Helin – Mar 5, 2014 at 1:51 PM
    Maybe the most ridiculous comments on this site daily are the ones from people who feel slighted because their team didn’t get mentioned in one of the 4-5 nightly grade paragraphs. As if we just hate and ignore your team and don’t just think something else is a better storyline that night. Fools.

    • Kurt Helin - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:27 PM

      We write about what people click on too, you just told me to write more Knicks. Still doesn’t mean I hate your team.

      • bellerophon30 - Mar 8, 2014 at 9:49 AM

        It’s a somewhat sad fact of sports life that an entertaining train wreck is more interesting to read about than a merely ‘good’ team that’s boring (Spurs). But that sadness doesn’t make it any less accurate.

        And let’s face it, Jimbo Dolan is always going to make the Knicks interesting.

  4. sportsnut101 - Mar 7, 2014 at 6:59 PM

    well what happens if he has a knee injury that ends his career then he only gets 23 mill instead of longer deal so not the smart play

    if he stayed with knicks he wouldnt do 130 mill deal cause their would be no cap room to sign any other stars for another yr another yr of losing maybe

    if he signs with bulls for 15 mil to start it will increase to over 20 by end of deal he made so much money already he will be what 32 at start of deal might as well sign long term now

  5. sumkat - Mar 7, 2014 at 7:12 PM

    Situations like this is why Philly was smart to stock up on 2nd round picks. Because teams like Chicago that would rather not make a pick, and keep the space, than make a pick late in the 1st on a guy that if he has an impact, won’t right away. They would rather trade that late 1st for a 2nd, have about 1/4 on the books and use that cash to sign a FA or avoid the tax

  6. rdav29 - Mar 7, 2014 at 7:29 PM

    Signing a 30 year old Melo for $130 million is putting your franchise in a hole they won’t get out of for many years

  7. Gordon - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:13 PM

    He’s not taking less money to play with the Bulls. He is all about the money…as is his right. I just don’t want to hear him complain about not having talent around him when he takes a max deal.

    Also, the Bulls aren’t a championship contender if they guy their roster to give him max money. They’d be well-served to wait for a better option.

    • apkyletexas - Mar 8, 2014 at 12:51 AM

      Melo might want to ask people like Jordan and Ditka what the value of winning a championship in Chicago could be, from a marketing and advertising perspective. Many, many, many millions.

    • gmsingh123 - Mar 8, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      The moves described in the article that the Bulls would have to do can be summed up with the phrase “cut off their nose to spite their face.”

  8. mcjon22 - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:32 PM

    Looking at that list of free agents in 2015, I could argue Melo would be crazy NOT to opt out this year.

    Would you rather have a 31 year old Melo who at this point has MAYBE 2-3 years left in his prime? Or sign Lebron, Bosh, Kevin Love, Tony Parker or Lamarcus Aldridge?

    Which one of those players would you not rather have over Melo? Maybe Chris Bosh? And, all of those guys are getting max contracts and the top choices of where they want to go. Melo would still most likely be taking a less than max deal. Even if you team up with another star, how many teams will have enough depth, talent, and quality coaching to beat teams like the Heat, Thunder, Clippers, Bulls, and Rockets?

    Melo should either opt out and move on to a contender, or opt out and milk the Knicks for a max deal.

    • fanofthegame79 - Mar 7, 2014 at 10:54 PM

      I have to agree with you mcjon. What if Melo has a sub-par 14-15 season because the Knicks are even worse (or he gets hurt) and lowers his value? That won’t help his situation in 2015 with that crop of free agents. There are several younger and/or more successful players in that group which may cause Melo to miss out on the big pay day (or championship).

    • jhuck92 - Mar 8, 2014 at 1:28 AM

      I’m curious to see what the Bulls do if they don’t sign ‘Melo this summer. If it were up to me, I’d forget about him and chase Aldridge next summer instead. I think he’d be a good fit.

      • sportsfan18 - Mar 8, 2014 at 12:33 PM

        If not Aldridge, then Kevin Love. Aldridge is similar to Noah.

        Love shoots the 3 at a higher percentage than Carmelo Anthony does for his career.

        Love grabs more boards per game for his career than Dwight Howard does and way more than the all time great Shaq did (Love 13.6 boards a game, Shaqfu 10.9 boards a game).

        Love shoots like 81% from the free throw line, uh no need to mention Dwight’s and Shaq’s.

        Love can really PASS the ball. His one handed full court fast break outlet passes are beautiful.

        No, he doesn’t play great D (neither does Melo, but he shoots the three better and passes better than Melo).

        Love is younger than Melo.

        Aldridge is a beast, but he plays down low like Noah. Aldridge doesn’t shoot from outside.

        Aldridge only averages 8.2 boards a game for his career (11.0 this yr, his best ever total by far in his career and his only season to date averaging double figures in boards a game.

        Love only averaged less than 10 boards a game his rookie yr and he averaged 9.1 boards that yr. He upped it to 11.0 his second yr and he has NOT been below 13.2 boards a game since for a yearly average.

        Aldridge is good from the line, very good… not as good as Love, but very good for a man his size.

        Aldridge and Noah together wouldn’t work out so well (think of the Detroit Pistons this year with their bigs).

        Love can play off Noah and roam out by the 3 pt line, cause he shoots them better than Melo.

        Also, D Rose knows Love. A couple of summers ago, D Rose, Love and R. Westbrook all trained together with a trainer out in L.A. for the offseason.

        D Rose got to know Love that summer and came to appreciate his game… Westbrook and Love played together at UCLA.

    • money2long - Mar 8, 2014 at 2:53 PM

      Only Lebron and mayb Kevin love. A case can be made to take MELO over the rest of those names

  9. brianjoates - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:53 PM

    Play out the deal and see what everyone else is doing, as far as teaming up. Doubt the Heat break up what they have, possible chance at 4 in a row. Fans can’t be mad if they leave after 4 titles for a new challenge. Isn’t kyrie on that potential 2015 class?

    Just get to the playoffs so we can leave all the speculation for the off season. Maybe Jordan will convince all of the stars to come to Charlotte for league minimums to be a part of helping mike become the GOAT of owners.

    • Kurt Helin - Mar 8, 2014 at 12:09 PM

      Kyrie Irving is only on the 2016 list if he plays out two seasons with his rookie deal not signing any other offers. He will take the max money this summer, he may just do what LeBron/Love did and get an opt out in three years.

  10. justb95 - Mar 7, 2014 at 10:04 PM

    Kurt –

    I’m not sure I understand why it has to be New York and the money or Chicago and title contention. If Melo wants to go to Chicago badly enough, then he could opt out, then force the Knicks’ hand to facilitate a sign and trade to the Bulls. In the article it states Chicago owns two first round picks this year, in what the media is coining “the deepest draft in years”. If the bulls were motivated to trade for Melo they could start there. Granted they won’t be the highest of picks, but New York really can’t be too picky if Melo wants out and won’t go anywhere but Chicago. If we look back to Lebron’s trade to Miami, the Cavs got back peanuts (5 picks and a trade exception). The Knicks would be talent starved post-Melo, but a few peanuts would at least be a start in the rebuilding process.


    • Kurt Helin - Mar 8, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      Under the new CBA you cannot do a sign-and-trade that takes you over the tax line. However, in this case that would not necessarily impact the Bulls. The issues would be twofold: Getting the Knicks to agree to this (the REALLY want to keep ‘Melo); the bigger issue is getting the Bulls to go over the tax line and plan to stay there for a couple years. That franchise just does not spend like that.

      • justb95 - Mar 8, 2014 at 4:45 PM

        Got. It. Thanks for the clarification. Makes sense.

  11. psly2124 - Mar 7, 2014 at 10:29 PM

    I don’t know what the taxes are in Chicago but in willing to bet it would be less the 58% he’s paying in New York. I see Carmelo going to the wizards and team up with John wall.

  12. blakegblogs - Mar 8, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    The spurs if anyone would want Melo, considering Tony and Tim will be retiring in the next few years…

  13. csbanter - Mar 8, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    Melo is gone, the picture is starting to take shape. If Phil Jackson accepts Knicks offer to be GM or President of Basketball Ops he is not going to want Melo. Melo is not a Jackson type of player. Phil had Jordan, Scottie, Kobe. Melo is not in that class. He’s one dimensional.

  14. jerryreesespieces - Mar 8, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    three letters explain why this would not make sense: ACL

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