Houston Forward Times

25 June 2014 Written by  Nicholas A. Norman

Carmelo Anthony opts out of New York Knicks contract to Join the Houston Rockets…Maybe

Carmelo Anthony will terminate the final year of his contract with the New York Knicks and become a free agent on July 1, a person familiar with the All-Star forward’s decision told Distinct Athlete. Let the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes officially begin.

Anthony has a Monday deadline to opt out of the $23.5 million deal for the 2014-’15 season. Anthony is determined to explore free agency and will closely examine opportunities with the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets, league sources said.

New York can offer Anthony, 30, the most money and security — a five-year, $125 million-plus contract — but he’s intrigued with the chance to join an immediate contender in Chicago and Houston, league sources said. New York can’t begin to get out from under its salary cap issues until next summer.

Chicago and Houston have work to do to clear salary cap space to sign Anthony to four-year deals in the $90 million range but are working on contingencies to do so should Anthony decide he wants to sign with them. 

Anthony finds himself in a similar situation to Dwight Howard a year ago. Howard spent one miserable season with the Lakers, feuding with Kobe Bryant and Mike D’Antoni on a core going nowhere. He wound up leaving $30 million on the table to bolt for Houston, joining James Harden, Chandler Parsons and a front office led by Daryl Morey with a clear vision for the future.

It’s unclear whether Anthony is willing to do the same. A source told Sporting News’ Sean Deveney that Anthony wants the “Dwight Howard treatment” from teams, but that essentially means little more than a woo-fest. Anthony can take his visits, eat his free meals and watch his PowerPoint presentations and still return to New York.

The Rockets have the best core of talent available. Harden and Howard are the two best players at their positions, and though this roster has its flaws, a potential Big Three would rival any in the league. Houston also has roadblocks in the form of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin‘s onerous contracts, which are currently siphoning all its cap space.

The Bulls are one Carlos Boozer amnesty and some financial rejiggering away from having max money available. Signing in Chicago would involve Anthony banking on the health of Derrick Rose and the potential of Nikola Mirotic, a 23-year-old Spanish forward expected to come over next season. As well, Anthony and Bulls coach TomThibodeau share a strong mutual respect.

“Thibs is a great coach. His system kind of reminds me of [Spurs coach] Gregg Popovich’s system. You put anybody in that system and it’s going to work. And that’s what they’ve been doing,” Anthony told reporters in April.

How the Rockets can Land Carmelo Anthony

With only $57 million on the 2013-14 payroll, the Rockets landed under the Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, and Portland Traiblazers for the 25th most expensive payroll of the league. Will this carry on to 2014-15?

NO! They’ve got $71 million in for next year! That’s a huge step back and next year they’ll become the fourth most expensive payroll in the league! THEY JUST JUMPED 21 SPOTS!

Rocket’s have team options for (1) Chandler Parsons ($964,750), (2) Patrick Beverly ($915,243) and (3) Troy Daniels ($816,000). Let’s say they use every single one of them, they’d be dumping $2’695,993 in salaries. By dumping said amount they’d go under the luxury tax threshold, helping ownership save a few bucks (a lot of bucks actually) in penalties. Still, they’re not ballparking Melo’s price.

Let’s say they get Melo at a $16 million discount. The Rockets still would NEED TO trade Asik and Lin to try and remain under said threshold.

Why am I making such a big deal over said threshold? You could check in with Mikhail Prokhorov. The Brooklyn Nets’ payroll for last season was set at about $100 million and by being $30+ million over said threshold, the Nets were subject to $80 million in luxury tax penalties. The result? The most expensive payroll in the NBA at $180 million dollars.

While Terrence Jones may alternately be the talent the Rockets have to part with in order to bring in Anthony, it seems Parsons still holds much more market value and would do more for potential trade partners. And, Jones is locked into a reasonable contract for more years.

A projected starting lineup with Anthony is, thus:

  • PG: Patrick Beverley
  • SG: James Harden
  • SF: Carmelo Anthony
  • PF: Terrence Jones
  • C: Dwight Howard

You’d have to be a basketball idiot not to salivate at the dream that is this lineup. While it probably still leaves Howard a bit over-stretched on defense, it also promises to be the most offensively talented lineup in all of the NBA.

Howard is the only member who can’t stretch the floor with shooting, but he can create his own shots in the post. And Beverley is the only one who can’t reliably produce his own offense, but he can shoot well from beyond the arc and is happy to feed off of others. Anthony, Harden and Jones all boast full offensive utility belts, with Harden and Anthony being two of the best in existence at scoring.