As the New York Knicks have struggled throughout the season, Carmelo Anthony’s impending free agency this summer has been a major topic for conversation across the NBA. Well, a recent report by Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski says that Melo would prefer playing for the Chicago Bulls, if he were to leave the Big Apple.
Several big name teams have been rumored to be in the running for the 29-year-old’s services this offseason, but the Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers have been the most talked about team, besides the Knicks of course. According to Wojnarowski, a source told him that “Chicago is much more in play than LA.”
That makes a lot of sense being that there is a ton of uncertainty with the direction that the Lakers are headed. Much of what the future holds for the Lakers depends on the health of Kobe Bryant. With the constantly ailing Steve Nash still on the books until 2015 and a very thin cast of characters surrounding Kobe, LA would not be a very ideal situation for Anthony, if he wants to win a championship. Also, I doubt Anthony wants to go anywhere near a Mike D’Antoni coached team based on their prior experience together with the Knicks in Melo’s first full year in New York.
Now, the real question here is whether Chicago or New York would be the best fit for the All-Star forward. While this season has been a major disappointment for the Knicks, Melo’s decision will not be based on what happened this season, but where he thinks these franchises are headed over the next 4-5 years.
If Melo stays in New York, there is certainly a chance that the Knicks could be contenders. Next year injury prone forward, Amar’e Stoudemire will finally be in the last year of his massive contract so GM Steve Mills will have some cap room to work with. As the Knicks have done for years, much of their sales pitch is that they play in the biggest city in the world in front of an avid fan base in a famous arena, so attracting big name talent may be easy.
The problem is, there is no certainty in that proposition. The idea of bringing in superstars such as Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo has been tossed around time and time again, but that is not something Anthony should be banking on. While it is certainly possible that the Knicks can acquire some big names down the road, there are still numerous holes in the current roster that will still need to be dealt with.
Since Carmelo Anthony joined the Knicks, the team has made many moves to turn itself into a contender. Many of those decisions have backfired (most notably trading for Andrea Bargnani), and now the team finds itself under .500 and out of the playoff picture almost halfway through the season. The team has no legitimate option at point guard, is incapable of stopping anyone defensively, and its highest paid player has chronic knee injuries that have limited him the past few seasons. So why on earth would Melo want to continue in this situation for the rest of the prime of his career?
This all makes Chicago a very logical option for Carmelo Anthony. The Bulls may have a point guard whose injury troubles are very concerning, but the addition of Anthony could help in that aspect immensely. With Melo as the number one scoring option, Derrick Rose would not need to carry the scoring load himself, as he has been forced to do throughout the early stages of his career. Rose and company would most certainly welcome the addition of arguably the best pure scorer in the NBA.
Since head coach Tom Thibodeau took over in 2010, the Bulls have been known as one of the best defensive teams in the association. What they have lacked (especially with Rose out), is that go-to scorer. Rose is a very talented player and all, but Melo could come right in and provide that asset.
The Bulls are also a perfect fit for Melo from a personnel standpoint. Besides Rose, the Bulls are mostly made up of players that do not necessarily need the ball in their hands to be effective. That is ideal for a guy like Anthony, who needs to ball in his hands as much as possible. Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Jimmy Butler would be great playing alongside Rose and Melo. They could focus more on doing the dirty work and playing lockdown defense, which is this team’s forte. You won’t see any of those guys complaining about their scoring numbers going down.
In the last two seasons, Carmelo Anthony has transformed into more of a power forward, and is most effective when he is out on the floor with a “small ball,” lineup. With the Bulls that will be very easy for Thibodeau to construct. Assuming the Bulls use their amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer this offseason (as they reportedly plan to do), Melo could play the 4 with Rose at point, Butler at the 2, Mike Dunleavy at the 3, and Noah at Center, leaving Taj Gibson as the first man off the bench. That lineups seems much more likely to contend than any the Knicks can possibly put together this offseason with all of the financial constraints they currently have.
The only question for Carmelo Anthony in terms of him playing for the Bulls would be whether or not he is willing to play defense. Melo has long been knocked for his defensive inability, so that aspect of his game would need to improve if he were to play for a defensive minded coach like Thibs. That being said, with all the very talented defensive players the Bulls already have, Anthony wouldn’t need to become a dominant defender. He would just need to be willing to make an effort on that end of the floor. With Thibodeau typically playing his starters big minutes (Luol Deng has led the league in minutes per game in the previous 2 seasons), Anthony would be willing to work at his defensive game if that meant big minutes and big scoring numbers.
It is no secret that Carmelo Anthony wants to play on a team that is both in a major media market, and can contend for a championship. While the Chicago market is not as big as the New York one, Chicago is still the third largest city in the United States. Anthony would definitely have enough endorsements and would get enough media attention to suit his liking.
So with the prospect of playing for a team that is a perfect fit for him both on and off the court in front of him, what reason would Carmelo Anthony have to return to New York? Is it because he would get to play at Madison Square Garden? Or how about because there is a chance that the Knicks could acquire more talent? Sorry James Dolan, try again.