Pros and Cons of Los Angeles Lakers Pursuing Carmelo Anthony in Free Agency

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2014

Pros and Cons of Los Angeles Lakers Pursuing Carmelo Anthony in Free Agency

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Carmelo Anthony and the Los Angeles Lakers just can't seem to get enough of one another.

    For over a year, the Lakers' purported interest in signing Anthony as a free agent has been been on again, then off again.

    Then on again.

    Before going off again.

    Now it's apparently on yet again. 

    "The Lakers also are interested in Carmelo Anthony, according to a person with knowledge of the situation," writes the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan, "and plan to seek a meeting with the high-scoring forward, who has officially opted out of his contract with the New York Knicks."

    Well I'll be a monkey's uncle twice removed by divorce.

    This is shocking. Or predictable.

    This is a great idea. Or a terribly bad one.

    The Lakers clearly aren't sure what this is, which means there's only one thing left for us keyboard geniuses to do:

    Pros and cons our way to beautiful, sweet, Anthony-related clarity.

Pro: Superstar Splash

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    Hey! Did you know Anthony is a superstar? The Lakers sure do, hence their interest.

    They only have three players under guaranteed contract next season—Kobe Bryant, Robert Sacre and Steve Nash. There's not a whole lot of star power to be found there.

    Sacre is still a "What do we have here?" prospect, Nash was good two-plus years and infinite injury setbacks ago and Bryant, well, he's Bryant. You can't count him out. Not now, not ever.

    But he's still going on 36 and fresh off a season during which he appeared in just six games. He's a star more so because of his longstanding notoriety than his ability at this point.

    Anthony, meanwhile, is coming off a career season. The end result wasn't pretty. That tends to happen in New York. 

    Nothing about the Knicks' 2013-14 flop was on Anthony, though. He was a stud, averaging 27.4 points, a career-high 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists to go along with a career-best 40.2 percent three-point conversion rate.

    The Lakers want stars to expedite their rebuild. They need stars to help infuse meaning into Bryant's remaining days.

    By name and status alone, Anthony does just this.

Con: Expensive Superstar(s)

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    Talent doesn't come cheap.

    According to Larry Coon, author of the CBA FAQ, Anthony is eligible to earn more than $22.4 million next season. The Lakers have the ability to offer him that much with a little maneuvering.

    Related: That's a lot of money.

    Those of you thinking Anthony will take a pay cut to join Bryant have another thing coming. Bryant didn't offer to take (much) less for his own team. Why would Anthony be any different? 

    If he's coming to Los Angeles to play with Bryant, he's getting his—all $22.4-plus million of it. And that's a problem.

    Bryant is slated to earn $25 million in 2015-16. Combine that with Anthony's salary, and the Lakers will have a little under $50 million committed to two players on the wrong side of 30. Throw in their No. 7 pick from this year, and they'll clear $50 million in salary obligations easy. That doesn't bode well for their planned 2015 free-agency excursion.

    General manager Mitch Kupchak alluded to as much during an interview with Lakers.com's Mike Trudell. He hinted at the Lakers wanting to make a splash next summer—a splash they wouldn't be able to make.

    Even if the Lakers kept their books completely clean between now and 2015, they're still looking at less than $15 million in cap room next summer, if the projected $63.2 million cap holds strong.

    A core of Anthony and Bryant won't get it done in the Western Conference. And the Lakers will have no money to spend on a supporting cast this year—unless they get rid of Nash—and very little to burn through next year. 

    Superstar splashes never seemed so anti-splashy. 

Pro: Happy Kobe

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    USA TODAY Sports

    "That's my guy," Bryant told Lakers Nation of Anthony in July of 2012.

    Case closed. 

    Just like a happy wife makes for a happy life, a happy Bryant makes for a bearable season.

    These two superstars are friends. Sources even told ESPN.com's Chris Broussard that Bryant may be recruiting Anthony already. Bringing in the latter keeps the impatient Black Mamba at bay. That's important.

    The Lakers are still interested in appeasing Bryant, otherwise they wouldn't have committed $48.5 million to him through 2016-17. Consider what he told ESPN's Darren Rovell during a "Sunday Conversation" segment for SportsCenter (via ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin):

    This organization is just not going to go [down]. It's not going to take a nose dive. But I think we need to accelerate it a little bit for selfish reasons, because I want to win and I want to win next season. So, it's kind of getting them going now as opposed to two years from now.

    Signing Anthony creates the illusion that the Lakers are all about winning now. 

    Yes, illusion. As we should all know—and as I've already mentioned—Anthony and Bryant alone aren't getting it done in the gruff and tough and brutal and ridiculous and superteam-stacked Western Conference. It just isn't happening.

    Does Bryant know or believe that?

    Not a chance. If he did, he wouldn't be (allegedly) recruiting Anthony.

    But ssshh. Don't tell him the truth. 

    Simply smile and nod.

Con: Iffy Fit

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Stating the obvious here, but could a Bryant-Anthony coupling even work?

    You know, ever?

    Forget that we've already established the Lakers won't be a championship team. What's their ceiling?

    More importantly, what's their basement?

    Both Bryant and Anthony are ball-dominant scorers. Placing them alongside one another could be disastrous. Never mind not contending for a title, they might not even be good enough to make the playoffs.

    Sounds ridiculous, I know. But neither one of them is accustomed to being a full-time off-ball scorer. Bryant himself isn't accustomed to it at all. He's knocked down more than 33 percent of his standalone treys just once since 2010, according to Synergy Sports (subscription required).

    Combine the career usage rates of both players, and you're looking at 63.5 percent of your offense. Talk about high maintenance. And potential catastrophe.

    Like NBC Sports' Dan Feldman pointed out, there could be better options for the Lakers than a Bryant-Anthony dyad:

    I’d rather pair Kobe Bryant with Love, Aldridge or Gasol, anyway — maybe even Rondo too, health permitting. Melo and Kobe just overlap too much, and they’d step on each other’s toes more than they complement each other.

    Cap space must be used responsibly. Pairing Anthony and Bryant might come to represent two years of reckless spending.

Pro: Plausible Pipe Dreams?

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Remember what we said about talent not coming cheap? About stars not taking pay cuts to play with Bryant?

    Disregard it.

    Sort of. 

    Chasing Anthony could be more about LeBron James than it is Anthony and Bryant, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst:

    With LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony officially opting out of their contracts, multiple teams have begun the process of exploring roster moves that would create sufficient salary-cap space to sign 2014's marquee free agents in tandem this summer, according to sources close to the situation.

    ...

    The Los Angeles Lakers, meanwhile, had begun exploring such machinations even before the opt outs of James and Anthony had become known, according to ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne.

    Now that's how you do an offseason.

    Landing both Anthony and James is, in fact, a pipe dream. But it's not impossible.

    The Lakers can use the seventh overall pick—the actual player they draft—to buffer a Nash salary dump. Bryant and Sacre would be the only guaranteed pacts on their books at that point.

    From there, the Lakers can bring back Kent Bazemore, Ryan Kelly and Kendall Marshall, and, after factoring in the necessary minimum cap holds, be left with $32-plus million in spending power.

    For the math-challenged peeps, this, in theory, means they could offer James and Anthony starting salaries around $16 million each.

    While that's well below market value, Anthony and James want to play on the same team, per USA Today's Sam Amick. If reeling in No. 7 helps them get No. 6, well, then the Lakers have only one problem: Their gold shoes might be too tight.

    Oh wait, two problems, actually: What's the best way to go about recruiting Kevin Durant in 2016?

Con: The Perils of Castles in the Sky

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    Pursing Anthony—especially when a James-Anthony-Bryant troika is at stake—shouldn't have a downside. 

    The Lakers don't actually have to sign Anthony. It can be a Museum of Natural History or tour of a Victoria's Secret runway show dressing room type thing: Look, but don't touch.

    On the flip side, there are dangers to wasting time. All the effort Los Angeles could be putting into developing its draft pick, looking toward the future and—most importantly—courting other free agents will be spent chasing waterfalls pipe dreams.

    Is that what the Lakers need to happen now? When they should put realistic, productive plans into motion?

    When Bryant is closing in on the end?

    Maybe. If they're successful, most definitely. 

    If they try and fail, they may have whiffed on two opportunities—the chance to land Anthony and the chance to peruse a pool of sensibly attainable future cornerstones.

     

    *Salary information via ShamSports. Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.