Whether New York has a season similar to last year’s (a premature playoff exit) or even takes it to the NBA Finals, one matter no longer in doubt is Anthony opting out of his final year and at least testing the free-agent market. There will be callers.
If Anthony has another statistical and team-MVP season like 2012-13, it’s a sure bet he’ll execute his option, looking for more money and more years.
After flaunting mad game in 2013-14, why would he risk playing on essentially a one-year contract that wraps up when he’s 31?
If Anthony’s not as good but still better than most, and/or is quietly (non-surgically) carrying around nagging shoulder or other injuries to not much notice, he’ll go for the opt-out extension to cover his financial assets.
If the Knicks lay an egg—say take a fifth (or even a sixth) seed behind the Miami Heat, the Pacers, the Chicago Bulls and the Brooklyn Nets (all of which are favored over New York, per Bovada)—and are bounced in Round 1, Anthony might want to jump ship. He’ll opt out.
Even if the Knicks win it all, Anthony opts out. His value will be the highest in his career, and it would be poor business not to relay his title into gobs of money and years.
If you want Anthony to be his best this upcoming season—and if you’re a Knicks fan, you do—then expect the opt out to follow any commanding performance. Don’t be surprised or put off, warns Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.
The clock is ticking on Anthony’s career as well as his time in New York. The All-Star forward can become a free agent on July 1, and he will almost certainly opt out of his contract because it makes financial sense. The Knicks can offer Anthony the most money but the Los Angeles Lakers will be players in the free-agent market next summer.
The only ways Anthony doesn’t opt out are if, one, he gets hurt mid- or long-term in a performance-impacting way, or two, he has a straight-up major downturn in play that gets everyone around the league wondering.
Oh yeah, and three, Melo’s flip, somewhat-manufactured emotional attachment to his home city (Red Hook, Brooklyn, to be exact) of eight years might keep him around (you think?). By this argument, he should be on the Nets.
The high probability that Anthony executes his option leads us to that much more important question: What happens after the opt out, and where will Anthony sign?
Perennially contending teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat may throw comparable and perhaps beatable money Melo’s way.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith “thinks it’s a 50/50 proposition” Melo stays in New York.
The answer will be based on two parameters more than any other: how the Knicks do and Amar’e Stoudemire.
The better New York does this year, the more likely Anthony goes for a contract extension in New York, which James Dolan and company look obliged (and even eager) to offer.
A title? Anthony stays. NBA Finals? He stays. Eastern Conference Finals? He probably stays for the next-season rematch at least—it could be his chance.
Anything short of that will have everything to do with the Knicks’ personnel—in particular Stoudemire.
Facing another cap-restricted offseason practically guaranteeing the same roster—off another postseason disappointment—will give Anthony pause. He and everyone else in New York will understand this is as far as this constructed team can take it.
The Knicks were in a similar situation this offseason and then pulled a rabbit out of the hat, plucking Metta World Peace out of amnesty limbo.
That’s where Stoudemire comes in. It will be the last year of his contract—a $23.4 million player option he will cash out. Unless...
Would Stoudemire be willing to restructure for the chance at a title? What if the Knicks can persuade him with more money and basically an annual stipend over the next five or six years, whether he’s playing or not?
Is such a comparably, mildly restricting move worth it for a championship?
Or even better, can the Knicks dump Stoudemire’s expiring contract on another team looking to clear longer term cap space?
Stoudemire is key here, more than anyone else on the roster. If the Knicks go relatively belly up in 2013-14, Anthony and the Knicks will be staring at another desert of possibility next offseason.
In this scenario, the Knicks will have to hope Anthony has the patience to wait it out one more season, until a new team can be built around him.
More likely, Melo puts Dolan and free agency to the test. The next 12 months will tell all.