The Chicago Bulls have been a different team when they've had at least one surefire All-Star scorer to count on. They haven't had the luxury of any for much of the past two seasons, but by the end of NBA free agency, they may very well have two.
Carmelo Anthony has the opportunity to opt out of his contract with the New York Knicks, and he has been linked to the Windy City in multiple reports. The latest comes from Adam Zagoria of SNY.TV and The Knicks Blog, who cites a league source suggesting Chicago is Anthony's likeliest free-agent destination.
"[Anthony] is looking to leave if one of the teams he likes can get a deal done with New York," said Zagoria's source. "He knows New York is not good enough the way they are currently constructed. Melo wants to win now. He will move if he feels that team can win."
After center Joakim Noah reportedly pitched Chicago to Anthony, per ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard, head coach Tom Thibodeau is putting on his recruiting cap, according to Anthony's former coach, who spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times' Joe Cowley:
I even told Tom that there may be days he will want to blow his own head off when it comes to Melo’s defense, but he keeps saying he knows he can make it work. It’s not that Carmelo can’t play defense, it’s just how often. And he knows every trick in the book on getting around that.
[...] There’s no question [the Bulls] would be better with [Anthony], with or without his defensive inconsistencies. As I told Tom: "You’re in the East, Tom. Remember, you’re in the East."
This comes approximately a week after Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported that Anthony's top two landing spots were the Bulls and the Houston Rockets. Going by the adage that defense wins championships and the current pieces Chicago has in place, the best opportunity for him to "win now" is the former.
Thus, this analysis from ESPN's Dick Vitale seems increasingly unlikely:
And all indications are that the interest between the Bulls and Anthony is mutual, which makes him an ideal fit. If Thibodeau believes he can get Anthony to buy in—and he should—this move is a proverbial slam dunk.
Alex Kennedy of BasketballInsiders.com has some intel on the Bulls' draft strategy, which couldn't be more geared toward bringing home a Larry O'Brien Trophy:
With Carlos Boozer near the end of his career and in the final year of his lucrative contract, Chicago has no frontcourt players who figure into the future and can score at will the way Anthony can. Boozer can be amnestied to open up the cap space necessary to claim Anthony.
There isn't much competition in the meager Eastern Conference, and the Bulls will finally have a healthy Derrick Rose returning to the fold in 2014-15.
Some may criticize Rose for shooting too often, but hey, he's good at it. Plus, Rose has never had anyone near Anthony's caliber to complement him on the offensive end. This is an unprecedented opportunity for both studs to join forces.
Thibodeau has preached defense during his tenure with great success, but when Rose hasn't been on the floor, defense hasn't been enough to make the Bulls a true championship contender. They were dead-last in scoring offense this last season, averaging 93.7 points per contest.
Any deficiencies Anthony has at that end of the floor are outweighed by his scoring prowess and how Thibodeau's system can work with even the modest personnel he's had to work with sans Rose.
Adding him back to the perimeter along with a versatile athlete like Anthony should only build on Chicago's biggest strength while improving its glaring weakness by light-years.
There would be chances for Rose to use his blinding quickness in working off the ball, and Anthony would be an effective diversion to open up lanes for the star point guard to attack.
It also helps that Thibodeau was an assistant with the Boston Celtics and was instrumental in building their elite defense. That squad featured three big-time stars in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, along with a smooth distributor in Rajon Rondo to run the show.
Before Boston's Big Three arrived in Beantown, Pierce was all by himself carrying lackluster teams. The same could be said for Anthony. Even though he's the so-called "man" playing in Madison Square Garden with the chance to save basketball in the Big Apple, it won't be until at least 2015 when the Knicks are in position to win consistently in the weak East.
At least on paper, this is a dream scenario. Anthony wants to win. Rose could use some help to redeem himself. Thibodeau is reportedly in on Anthony and would finally have another viable option on offense.
The benefits are boundless.
For the first time since the Michael Jordan era, there would be legitimate endorsements for the Bulls as perennial title contenders if Anthony can be lured to their side. Everyone in the organization appears to be on board, which would ease his transition in a move that would fundamentally shift the Association landscape.
It's bold, of course. Rose and Anthony would vie to be the face of the franchise. However, both should cast any animosity aside in a hurry. Basketball is a team game, and Rose and Anthony can complement each other en route to championship contention.
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