The LA Lakers should do everything possible to sign Carmelo Anthony...right?
Though Anthony is one of the premier scorers in the game and may well be the biggest name available in the free agent market this summer, L.A. should refrain from handcuffing themselves to the New York Knicks' All-Star forward.
This season has been one of the worst in history of the Lakers franchise. The fans—as well as the Buss family—aren't used to losing like this, making the urge to acquire the brightest star in the free-agent galaxy without hesitation completely understandable.
But when building a perennial contender, as the Lakers have been throughout their storied history, it's important to always keep the big picture in mind.
Signing Anthony would be nothing more than putting a Band-Aid on the Lakers' problems.
He would be a big draw, and the idea of teaming him up with Kobe Bryant sounds enticing, but it doesn't make enough basketball sense to justify a four-year deal in excess of $90 million for a 30-year-old who only plays one end of the floor—which would tie up all the cap space the team has worked hard to free over the last couple of seasons.
Even Bryant himself has admitted that he won't be actively recruiting his good friend to join him in L.A.
According to ESPNLA.com's Dave McMenamin, Bryant stated before last month's loss to the Knicks that he tries "not to think about it too much. If he wants to call me for advice later as a friend, I will be more than happy to give it to him."
In a vacuum, Melo is awesome.
There aren't five players in the league who can score with the ease, grace, and variability that Anthony can.
I don't buy the argument that he's never been a winner and therefore can't be the best player on a championship team. He absolutely can.
But he needs an extremely specific set of teammates to pull it off.
Due to Anthony's incredibly high usage rate (his career usage percentage is the fifth-highest in NBA history, just behind Bryant), you have to surround him with low-volume, high-efficiency players on offense—bigs who can clean up the garbage around the rim and sharpshooters who can spread the floor.
And, perhaps more importantly, you have to have the personnel to hide Melo on defense.
His shift to power forward has helped in that regard. He doesn't get burned repeatedly by quicker wings as he conserves energy for offense, but you still need to pair him with an elite rim protector and run a tight defensive ship where everyone buys into the scheme and executes it with precision.
It's the same type of team that Knicks have tried to put around Anthony in New York. It worked to stunning effect last season, with Nowitzki's old frontcourt partner Tyson Chandler anchoring the defense and a bevy of long-range snipers setting an NBA record for three-pointers made en route to helping New York produce the league's third-highest mark in points per possession.
And therein lies the problem—the Lakers don't have the players to recreate that roster, nor the cap flexibility to assemble it from scratch.
Shooters are usually in abundance, but the modern NBA climate has boosted their market value considerably, making it difficult to acquire more than one or two decent marksmen.
No defensive anchors reside in 2014's free-agent class. Even if there was such a specimen, L.A. is so atrocious defensively there would still be no speculative path for the Lakers to climb significantly from their 27th overall ranking in defensive efficiency.
The one player guaranteed to be on the roster next year is Bryant. And that's not a good match for Anthony's skill set.
Two extremely high-usage perimeter players don't produce quality results unless they are both exceptional shot creators.
Miami's superstar pairing of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade works because both men are gifted, creative and willing playmakers.
Kobe and Melo don't measure up to that competition.
Bryant, at least, is close to that level as a passer. He has upped his assist rate over the past two seasons, but he still has a tendency to hold the ball too much.
Plus he's going to be 36 years old, is coming off serious injuries which may alter the way he plays and his alarming turnover rate offsets any gains made in the passing department if it holds at this level.
Should the LA Lakers make signing Carmelo Anthony their No. 1 offseason priority?
Anthony, meanwhile, is nowhere near that type of creator.
Over his career he averages just three assists per 36 minutes, and has been under even that mark this year and last.
Having two ball-stoppers on offense is not a recipe for success.
On paper, it seems like a no-brainer to pursue Anthony this offseason. He's a bona fide superstar who is good friends with Bryant off the court.
But even with the end of Bryant's career rapidly approaching, the Lakers should remain patient and not be compelled to attempt a quick fix.
Rather, L.A. should concentrate on getting Bryant fully healthy, gathering as many ping pong balls as possible for the 2014 draft lottery and rolling over their cap space for another season and more enticing free-agent prospects. (Hi, Kevin Love.)