Breaking Down Carmelo Anthony's Final 3 Options in Free Agency

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistJuly 6, 2014

Breaking Down Carmelo Anthony's Final 3 Options in Free Agency

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    It's decision time for Carmelo Anthony.

    Having concluded his tour from the heartland to Los Angeles, the 30-year-old star forward has apparently narrowed his options. Grantland's Bill Simmons tweeted Saturday, "Hearing the Lakers made a MAJOR impact on Melo this week—it's now a legit 3-way battle between LA/Chi/NYK to land him. Crazy NBA weekend."

    Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski similarly reports, "The Lakers moved into strong consideration with the front-running New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls over this weekend."

    Sorry, Texas.

    While the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks contemplate their respective Plan B's, Anthony will be contemplating where he has the best opportunity to win a championship.

    Here's a look at how his thought process might shake out.

New York Knicks

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    The Pitch

    Representatives from the Knicks met with Anthony Thursday evening in Los Angeles, selling him on a turnaround that will require all the magic Phil Jackson can work.

    Anthony's return to New York depends primarily on the organization's ability to assemble a winner in the short term. According to the New York Post's Marc Berman, "The Knicks believe they have satisfied almost all of Carmelo Anthony’s concerns."

    Berman also reports, "Knicks president Phil Jackson told Anthony during Thursday night's meeting in Los Angeles he can have the team's maximum 5-year, $129 million contract if he wishes. But The Post has learned there's a distinct possibility Anthony will still decide to take a little less than the max."

    Max or no max, New York has an edge when it comes to dollars thanks to its ability to offer that five-year pact. Other teams can only sign Anthony to a four-year deal as per the collective bargaining agreement.

     

    Why Carmelo Should Stay in New York

    Legacy. 

    This is Anthony's team, and he should finish what he started. Going anywhere else would make him look like a mercenary, if not something of a complementary star. In New York, he's the heart and soul of the team, and he'd be remembered as such.

    Oh, and the extra money certainly doesn't hurt.

     

    Why Carmelo Should Leave

    New York may be improved next season, but it won't contend. Even if Jackson is well positioned to draw additional star power come the summer of 2015, there's no guarantee he'll actually do so. At Anthony's age, a lack of certainty is problematic.

    On Saturday, Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski quoted one source as saying Anthony "just wants to feel like he's not all alone on the court." If true, that stance doesn't bode well for New York.

    Other teams can offer him a chance to win now. At best, the Knicks can offer him the chance to be a playoff team in the short term—and maybe something more after that.

Chicago Bulls

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    The Pitch

    Anthony spent last Tuesday with representatives from the Bulls, who—according to Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy—"made a pitch centered around the fact that a core of Anthony, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson—with Tom Thibodeau coaching—would be able to contend right away in the depleted Eastern Conference."

    Per Kennedy, "Anthony, Noah, Gibson, Thibodeau, Jerry Reinsdorf, Gar Forman and Scottie Pippen were all in attendance at the dinner, according to sources."

    But before that, Anthony also got a look at Derrick Rose in action. Kennedy reports, "While at the United Center, sources say that Rose went through a private workout to show Anthony that he's healthy and ready to compete at a high level next season."

    That's a pretty compelling demonstration.

     

    Why Carmelo Should Go to Chicago

    Chicago gives Anthony the most certainty. With former MVP Derrick Rose at the point and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah patrolling the interior, this team would have all the pieces it needs to become a force in the East.

    The one thing the Bulls need—scoring—is precisely what Anthony has to offer. It's hard to imagine a better fit for both sides.

    Moreover, head coach Tom Thibodeau is a defensive mastermind. Whether that would translate into remodeling Anthony's game or simply making up for it, there's little doubt the prolific and defensively challenged scorer would benefit from the mentoring.

     

    Why Carmelo Should Avoid the Windy City

    This will always be Rose's team. Even after two seasons largely spent recovering from injury, Rose will remain the centerpiece.

    It's also unclear if Anthony is a fit with Chicago's culture. This is a team that grinds out wins with defense. It eschews the very notion of star power and prefers a workmanlike ethic in which energy players and glue guys always seem to make the difference.

    Unless Anthony is really willing to buy into that kind of mindset, this could be an awkward arrangement.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    The Pitch

    The Los Angeles Lakers were the last of Anthony's non-New York suitors to make their case. They attempted to sell him on the emergence of an altogether new level of star power and marketability, showing him a short film made by The Matrix producer Joel Silver.

    The meeting—which included Lakers great James Worthy—wound up lasting two-and-a-half hours.

    Whatever was conveyed in the meeting with Anthony seemed to make an impact.

    Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that according to league sources, "The Los Angeles Lakers have ascended into serious contention to sign New York free agent Carmelo Anthony."

    He reports, "One source close to Anthony said of the Lakers, 'They're in the game now.'"

     

    Why Carmelo Should Sign with the Lakers

    If you're going to sell out, you might as well do it in style. Anthony could pick up where Kobe Bryant leaves off and be a star for an iconic franchise. There's a lot to like about where his career could go from there.

    Moreover, the Lakers have always been able to attract new talent. With another cornerstone like Anthony in place, that would become even easier. Anthony and Bryant could almost certainly lure another key piece or two and position themselves to be a very good team this season.

    Like New York, the Lakers are coming off a down season. The difference is that Los Angeles already has Bryant, Steve Nash and enough money to surround them with someone like Anthony—along with some additional talent.

     

    Why Carmelo Should Avoid Los Angeles

    Would Anthony and Bryant really mesh on the court? According to ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne, "Bryant has a long history and friendship with Anthony and has been courting him for some time," so we can assume they get along off the court just fine.

    But that's not the issue.

    Both of these guys like to dominate the ball, working in the post and isolating. Their mutual need for touches would seem to clash pretty directly. The Lakers undoubtedly put on a good show and gave Anthony something to think about, but the problem here is a basketball issue.

    LA just doesn't offer the same kind of chemistry or fit Chicago might bring to the table.

    Finally, there are a lot of unknowns about what the Lakers can actually put together this summer and next. The club doesn't even have a coach yet. Maybe things work out, but what if they don't? The organization has too many question marks. In comparison, and under Phil Jackson's leadership, the Knicks and Bulls are more known commodities.