Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
An’ if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know
Should I stay or should I go? — The Clash
ICYMI, Carmelo Anthony will most definitely be a free agent after this season. We all sort of knew that already, but if there was any doubt remaining that the Knicks’ best player was going to forego an in-season contract extension and opt out of his current deal, well…not so much. So what does it mean for New York and its future?
Taylor Armosino and Charlie Zegers discuss:
Taylor: Never a dull moment in Knicksville, this time with Carmelo Anthony announcing that he plans to opt out of his deal at the end of the season to test the open waters of free agency. What he’s really doing is making himself eligible for the Knicks to pay him a five-year contract worth $129,135,806, though. (The best he can get from another team is a four-year deal worth $95,897,372.) So we’re pretty much in agreement here that he isn’t going anywhere, right?
Charlie: Oh yeah, he’s staying. The fact that we’re even having this discussion is actually pretty funny. In fact, it calls to mind some of the more popular ‘Melo-narratives during the last few years:
- Before being traded to the Knicks, conventional wisdom was that “Anthony’s a selfish bastard who’s trying to get his, and he’ll go to whichever team can get him in a trade because that’s how he’ll get the most money.”
- Pretty much upon his Gotham-arrival, we were told that “Anthony’s a selfish bastard who forced the Knicks to give up too much; he should have waited until the summer and signed as a free agent.”
- Now that his ETO is fast-approaching, we are already hearing that “Anthony’s a selfish bastard who will opt out and demand a max deal from Jim Dolan, which will hurt the Knicks’ chances of signing anyone else in 2014 or 2015.”
And after one off-hand comment to a reporter from the New York Observer, and he’s reportedly packed his bags and brought in the movers. Really? Personally, I just think that Anthony, in a moment of candor, admitted that he’s looking forward to the free agent experience. And who wouldn’t? I’d love to be flown to Miami on Mickey Arison’s private jet. I ‘d certainly dig a tour of the Lakers’ facilities by several members of the Buss family. I’d enjoy every second of some fine wining and dining Mark Cuban’s dime.
But I’d also have a very hard time turning down $34 million-and-change. And that’s exactly what ‘Melo would be doing by signing elsewhere. My guess? Carmelo signs for something very close to $129M and the Knicks use the cash freed up by Stoudemire and Chandler’s expiring deals to rebuild around him. Maybe, just maybe, if this season is an absolute disaster, I might envision a scenario where Anthony bolts for the Lakers, but I seriously doubt that happens.
Taylor: Look, the biggest problem with Carmelo, in the eyes of many, remains that he’s not LeBron James. Folks want Anthony to play like LeBron. They want him to be the best player in the NBA. They want him to take a pay cut for the good of the team, like LeBron did in allowing Miami to import its Big-3. But here’s the thing: ‘Melo is not LeBron. He never will be. And that’s okay.
From an economic perspective, Anthony would be an absolute fool not to opt out of his deal at the end of the season. Doing so will not only make him a lot more money, but his next contract will be guaranteed that much longer. At age 29, with ten years’ worth of mileage on that body, ‘Melo is no spring chicken, after all. And sure, I understand the sentiment that Carmelo should be willing to take less so that the Knicks can surround him with better pieces. But this is reality, not some utopian fantasyland where players pretend this is something other than big business. Like 99.9% of the players in the league, ‘Melo is going to do what’s best for him.
And you’re right. The only way he leaves next summer is if this Knicks team is a complete disaster, but I really don’t foresee that happening. Even if it does go down like that, $34M is a lot to leave on the table just because one season didn’t go so well. Especially when you consider that this cast of characters won’t be here for an extended period of time, anyway.
Charlie: And by the way, “Where’s he gonna go?” Obviously, cap situations can change, but right now the only teams projected to have more than $20M in cap room next summer are the Lakers, Sixers, Mavs and Jazz. Let’s rule out the Jazz right now; throwing a huge free agent contract at someone like ‘Melo clearly isn’t their style. The tanking Sixers will probably be coming off one of the worst seasons in league history, which will make Philly a tough sell for big-time free agents. And while we can’t rule out Mark Cuban making a splash, Dallas will have less money to spend if (when) they re-sign Dirk Nowitzki.
So that leaves us with the Lakers. Right now, the only players they have under contract beyond this season are Steve Nash and Nick Young. Mitch Kupchak will be able to back up the Brinks Truck if he feels like it. L.A. will have lots of holes to fill and we know about the long and storied history of flashy acquisitions. Heck, the Lakers might be able to sign Anthony and another superstar, assuming that they part ways with both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol or bring both back on below-market deals.
Likely? No. Possible? Maybe.
Taylor: Yeah, but Mike D’Antoni might still be there ay the end of the season. We all know how things worked out during ‘Melo and MDA’s last marriage. But I do agree with you on the other teams, it’s hard to see Anthony as a fit for any of them.
From the Knicks’ standpoint, what if Carmelo does leave, though? I actually think there a legitimate question about whether he is worth such a ridiculous contract. (See what I did there? Miss you, Linsanity!) Value aside, if Anthony does choose to take his talents elsewhere, things in New York will be interesting, to say the least. The Knicks would still be capped out for the 2014-15 season, but even without ‘Melo next season, I still happen to think that they’d compete for a playoff spot. Chandler would still be under contract, as would J.R. Smith, Ray Felton, Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Iman Shumpert (should the Knicks pick up his team option). They’d be able to keep their spread pick-and-roll offense in tact. Mr. Phenomenal, Amar’e Stoudemire would be here, too, presumably.
After the 2015 season, the Knicks would have a boatload of cap space and thus an opportunity to roll the dice in free agency once again. But with great cap space comes great responsibility, and Dolan’s franchise hasn’t exactly made the best decisions in these scanerios historically. All indications are that Knicks’ management is reluctant to go through a rebuild. And since the potential 2015 free agent class won’t necessarily be super impressive (Roy Hibbert, Kevin Love and Brook Lopez have early termination options, as ‘Melo does now), who’s to say that the Knicks could even replace ‘Melo’s talent level? Marc Gasol is the best player who will be available, but he’ll be in his 30s by then. Rajon Rondo will be available, but is he a franchise player? I don’t think so, but if New York was to miss out on him, what next? Would they sit on the cap space or panic by overpaying for someone like Rudy Gay?
Charlie: Ah, the ol’ spend-all-your-cap-space-on-the-best-guy-available move! Or, as I like to call it, the “Charlie Villanueva.” Honestly, that’s the most terrifying scenario of all, isn’t it. Ok, I think we’ve pretty much decided that ‘Melo will stay and that the Knicks really need him to stay.
Taylor: Completely agree and I don’t think things will get to that point. The Knicks are all-in on ‘Melo and they’ll hand him that five-year max without blinking. The question isn’t whether the Knicks can win a championship with him; it’s whether they can win a championship with him taking up 40-50% of your salary cap. Here’s hoping they can.