NBA Free Agency: 7 Reasons Carmelo Anthony Will Sign with L.A. Lakers in 2014
Stephen A. Smith of ESPN believes (via Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles) that there is a "50 percent" chance that Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks will leave Gotham for the bright lights of Los Angeles. The same lights that Howard shunned in favour of the small-market Houston Rockets.
As a Lakers fan, I do not trust this organization to currently do anything right. But I believe there are an overwhelming amount of reasons why, if I were Carmelo Anthony, I would sign with the Lakers.
It's so obvious he should, that even Lakers owner Jim Buss can't screw this up. Lets review seven reasons why No.7 should make Staples Center his new home.
The Knicks Have No Cap Room
When you're a superstar like Carmelo Anthony and you know you can get maximum contract dollars anywhere you go, you don't worry about forgoing the last year of your contract with the Knichs to explore options.
After the 2013-2014 season, Anthony can opt out in New York, and he will absolutely do so if the Knicks don't prove themselves to be a team capable of contending in the Eastern Conference, which they won't.
Why? Because they can't do any better than what they have right now.
They were the No.2 seed last season, but it's hard to read much into that. They aren't in the same stratosphere as the Miami Heat, and were soundly beaten by the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the playoffs.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, the Knicks are on the hook for $77.4 million in 2014-15, with $24.3 million of that being Anthony's salary. They are well over whatever the cap will be next year, so they can't sign anybody decent unless it's for the mini mid-level exception.
They also can't trade for anyone, mainly for the simple reason that no Knick, other than Anthony, has any trade value whatsoever.
The pieces around Anthony are what they are. Their offense completely stagnates at times because the only guys who can create offense are Anthony and J.R. Smith. Describing Smith as "erratic" does a disservice to the word.
Carmelo Does Not Fit with Amare Stoudemire at All
The most stylish $100 million cheerleader of all time.
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Amare Stoudemire makes almost as much money as Carmelo Anthony does. But I can say that Stoudemire, the former All-Star and MVP candidate, has officially become a contract albatross.
Stoudemire averaged just 14.2 points and 5.0 rebounds last season, numbers you can get from a guy making a third of the money that he makes. Not to mention the fact that Stoudemire contributes nothing on the defensive end.
He played 76 games combined for the Knicks over the last two seasons. His knees are so bad, his contract doesn't even have insurance on them.
The only good thing that Stoudemire is good for is scoring, except in the Knicks' last four playoff appearances, Stoudemire has seen his scoring average dip from 22.2 points to 14.5, to 15.3, to a pathetic 3.8 in 2013.
The Knicks were 43-18 without Stoudemire this past season and barely a .500 team with him. According to 82games.com, they have a minus-3.0 points per 48 minutes when he is on the floor.
On the Other Hand, the Lakers Will Have a Ton of Cap Room
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The Lakers have a payroll of $120 million for next season.
For now, at least.
Looking ahead to next summer, when Anthony will become a free agent, the Lakers have a payroll of just about $9.7 million, which is only owed to Steve Nash. They could even slash that total by two thirds if they were to use the "stretch provision".
The point being that the Los Angeles Lakers have money to blow. Similar to how Howard received a four-year deal for about $88 million in Houston, the Lakers are in position to offer Anthony something like that since the Knicks own his "Bird Rights".
Kobe Bryant is currently the league's highest-paid player with a salary of well over $30 million annually. Players, however, balk at taking pay cuts in the middle of their career, especially if they are the face of the franchise for various reasons.
But consider that Bryant's only goal is to get a sixth NBA championship ring (something he has no chance of doing next season) and the fact that players like Tim Duncan took a pay cut as well, resulting in a Mavericks' cap hit of just over $10 million in each of the next two seasons.
I don't think Kobe would balk at taking something like $12 million per season in order to play with a superstar like Anthony who can help him get that sixth title.
LeBron James Will Still Be in the Eastern Conference
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Unfortunately for Carmeolo Anthony, in the same year that he can opt out of his current contract, so can the best player on the planet in LeBron James.
The Lakers will probably go after the King as well, but it's pretty hard to envision him leaving Miami, where he just won two straight titles with potentially a third by the time the 2014-15 season rolls around.
Assuming James stays in South Beach, it doesn't bode well for 'Melo staying in the East.
Again, the Knicks cannot get better. Four teams outclass them right now—the Heat, the upgraded Brooklyn Nets, the Indiana Pacers and the Chicago Bulls, who will be getting former MVP Derrick Rose back.
Meanwhile in the West, maybe the San Antonio Spurs will have finally faded two years from now. The Los Angeles Clippers are building momentum, but haven't proven anything yet. Same with the Houston Rockets.
The Lakers with Anthony would match up decently with Memphis and Golden State.
No, they probably wouldn't be as good as a healthy Oklahoma City Thunder roster, but at least you can't definitively say that the Lakers' ceiling would only be as the fifth-best team in the conference.
Are you an unhappy superstar? You can cry, whine, and get what you want. And it's usually change.
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If NBA superstars aren't totally happy with their situation and can opt out of a contract or force their way out of town, they will.
You can include Carmelo Anthony as well, stemming from the time he forced his way out of Denver. Now, the Knicks are in the same stagnant situation as the Nuggets were in with Anthony a few years ago.
There's nothing fancy about this theory. These days, when superstars aren't in a winning or ideal situation, they force their way out.
There Is No Other Viable Team for Anthony
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We've established as to why Carmelo Anthony could leave New York, and a couple of reasons why the Lakers could be the destination.
But sometimes, all it takes to win is to be the least-worst candidate in a flawed crop of suitors.
In 2014-15, there won't be a lot of other desirable suitors to draw Anthony's attention other than the Los Angeles Lakers. Again, it's simple salary cap numbers that tell the story.
The NBA salary cap is currently $58.5 million. Now, I am being overly simplistic because the league's collective bargaining agreement has all kind of loopholes. However, because another team cannot use the Larry Bird Rule and go over their own cap to sign Anthony, simple mathematics tells us that since Anthony can command about $23-24 million annually, any team that wants to get Anthony can have a maximum of about $35 million in payroll.
Basketball-Reference.com's salary chart shows that 12 such teams will have that cap flexibility in 2014-15. Again, we're being simplistic and not accounting for cost-cutting trades that some teams could make in the future, but those would be purely speculative anyways.
Meanwhile, Indiana, Golden State and San Antonio are pretty happy with their core.
Put your hand up if you think Carmelo would go from the Big Apple to any of the remaining cities other than Los Angeles or Dallas. Now put your hand down, you blatant liar.
I admit that Dallas is the one wild-card in the picture, with Mark Cuban's checkbook and their willingness to be players in free agency, most recently for the likes of Dwight Howard and Deron Williams.
But Dallas is similar to Los Angeles in that they are both former contenders that have one really old superstar and a bunch of moving parts that don't really intrigue anybody.
I'm sure Dirk Nowitzki is a pleasant dude, and everyone who plays with him loves him.
But I'm almost positive his recruiting wouldn't be as effective as that of Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles.
Carmelo and Kobe Bryant Are Best Friends
Two peas in a pod
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Ever used Google for "man crush", or "BFF"?
The first image that shows up is Chad Johnson with Terrell Owens. The second one has NBA lovebirds Carmello Anthony and Kobe Bryant.
Here's an Instagram picture, via FoxSports, of a "Get Well" gift basket that Anthony sent Bryant when it was announced Bryant would be out six to nine months with a blown Achilles tendon.
Alex Kennedy, a senior writer at HoopsWorld, attended a UC Santa Barbara psychology class where Bryant was the guest speaker and dished some candid thoughts on his legacy, teammates and who he'd like to play with in the same lineup.
Who was his first choice? You guessed it, Carmelo Anthony.
Before you dismiss this, remember how selective Kobe is. He's never ever stated that he'd wanted to play with LeBron James or any other similar contemporary. We all know how he feels about Dwight Howard.
We could go on and on. From accounts of Bryant defending 'Melo from the New York media, according to SLAM Online, and 'Melo making gushing statements about Bryant on YouTube, there is an undeniable mutual respect between these two that I'm not sure any other two non-teammates in the NBA have right now.
Anyone who followed the 2008 and 2012 USA Olympic Games knew that these both men were inseparable. Their interactions at All-Star games are the same.
So how does the dynamic of this weird "bromance" matter to how likely 'Melo is to sign with Los Angeles? If you don't think that LeBron and Chris Bosh went to Miami because of their relationships with Dwyane Wade, you're absolutely insane.
Would This Really Work?
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It's definitely not all sunshine and rainbows with the proposition of Carmello Anthony going to the Lakers
Critics and doubters have plenty of ammunition when disputing the validity or feasibility of this scenario. They have just as much material to draw on when talking about whether a Kobe Bryant-Anthony combination would actually work.
The biggest issue, for one, is Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni. Don't forget that D'Antoni also coached Anthony in New York and they didn't exactly get along. As much as Carmelo would love Kobe and the Lakers, he might dislike D'Antoni just as much.
The second issue is Lakers owner Jim Buss. He's kind of an extension of the first issue. He wouldn't listen to Kobe about hiring Brian Shaw as head coach, and he wouldn't listen to Dwight Howard on hiring Phil Jackson. What if 'Melo's sticking point for coming to Los Angeles was that a different coach be hired?
Well, the road would end there, because there's overwhelming evidence that Dr. Buss' son doesn't give two cents about what his best assets think about their coach.
It's one thing to do what the Los Angeles Clippers did and pay top dollar for a good coach. It's another thing to do that after still owing two previous coaches that much money to sit at home or coach another team.
As for the issue of whether Bryant and Anthony would work well together, who knows?
We have a wealth of evidence that they wouldn't, given the fact that they're both alpha dog scorers who need the ball in their hands to be effective and both rely heavily on their isolation games when they're at their best.
As we established, that dynamic doesn't work well with Anthony and Stoudemire, and it never worked when Anthony was in Denver with Allen Iverson while he was still at an All-Star level.
On the other hand, we have just as much evidence that it could work. For one, Anthony and Bryant both managed to have supremely different roles that allowed them both to be very effective for two summers with the U.S. Olympic squads. Bryant played the role of defensive stopper in the backcourt, and Anthony played the scoring role at power forward.
By the time Anthony signs with the Lakers, Bryant will have recovered from his Achilles injury, but will be older. Maybe he organically passes the torch to Anthony as the main scorer on the team.
This would be similar to the situation where Dwyane Wade was banged up in the 2012 postseason and LeBron James was forced to be the do-it-all forward who assumed control of the team.
That arrangement ended in a world championship for them.
It's too early, and all too speculative, but Lakers fans can only hope for a brighter tomorrow, and their best chance of that is by signing Anthony.