According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Bulls and Rockets are the two teams Carmelo would like to land with next season as a free agent.
Anthony has free-agent options, and two have risen above everything else: Chicago and Houston, sources with direct knowledge of his plans told Yahoo Sports. The Bulls have an easier path to clear the necessary salary-cap space to sign Anthony, but the Rockets believe they can shed the contracts necessary to offer a third near-max deals alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden, league sources said.
Of course, the problem for the Bulls is that in order to have a championship team left around Anthony when he gets here, the Bulls can't pursue him in free agency and will need to do a S&T with the Knicks using Carlos Boozer as the main catalyst. This type of trade would be most effective it it became an extend and trade after Melo opts in.
This could be worked out on draft night. However, for this to happen, the Knicks need to give the Bulls permission to talk to Melo prior to becoming a free agent and Melo needs to forgo the pomp of free agency once again. He wants to be courted, he wants to be a free agent, he has said as much on multiple occasions.
If he wants to win immediately, he should give up that desire and understand that his best shot at a good basketball future is to get the S&T done with Chicago prior to FA. Houston believes it can swing cap space for Melo which would involving dumping Jermey Lin for no return. Doing a quick scan of the numbers, that alone should get them reasonably close to what the Bulls can do.
Chicago would need to dump Taj Gibson (and possibly Mike Dunleavy) in order to clear up enough room for Melo.
Either way, Melo would be giving up a ton of money in order to go to Houston or Chicago. If he's smart, he can give up less money and come to a stronger team by forcing his hand to Chicago right away. Phil Jackson made it clear the way Carmelo Anthony has played in NY is over. It's up for debate whether Jackson feels Melo is the type of guy you can win with.
Personally, I think Jackson will fight to keep and change Melo. While rebuilding might give the Knicks more long term hope, Jackson probably wants to turn this thing around with three years, and going through the draft to rebuild will be a tough process for the Knicks.
My golden offer for Melo has been Bulls 2014 1st, Charlote 2014 1st, Bulls 2015 1st (with lotto protected pick swap option with cleveland), Conditional Kings 1st, and Bulls 2017 1st along with Carlos Boozer to match salary.
If Jackson doesn't believe in Melo this trade is far more than he could hope to ever get (and the Bulls might not need to throw in that 2017 1st). The Knicks and Bulls would agree on principle to this trade on draft day, make it the day after (which allows the Bulls to send the consecutive 1st round draft picks which is normally illegal) and Melo would opt in to his contract rather than becoming a FA.
Chicago would then stay over the cap, be free to use exceptions, and keep the rest of the existing roster. They'd field a team like this:
Gibson, Mirotic (or different MLE player)
Hopefully bringing back Augustin with the BAE and Hinrich with the minimum, though it's unlikely the Bulls get both, they probably could get at least one of them. They'd need to find a backup center with the veteran minimum as well as fill out the rest of the roster. However, if Rose is healthy and Melo fits into the system, this team ranks up with the best
The Bulls wouldn't be long shot contenders, they'd be legit contenders, matching talent with the best of the best.
In a free agency scenario the Bulls team will look more like this:
Rose, Augustin (room exception)
2014 Bulls 1st, 2014 Charlotte 1st
Maybe they are able to keep Dunleavy as well or maybe not. Boozer's amnestied, Gibson is traded for cap room. Mirotic can't come over because the Bulls don't have the MLE anymore. The Bulls had better nail both of those draft picks if they do this and want to win, because they don't have a whole lot of anything afterwards.
That said, while this team is no where near as good in year one, in year two it can bring over Mirotic at the MLE to help add depth as well as capitalize on one to two more draft picks (I doubt the Kins are good enough the Bulls get that pick though).
After two seasons, the primary difference in the roster would be the draft picks vs Taj Gibson, and so there's a chance that this roster is better in the long run. However you give up one full year of legitimate championship contention and gamble on the draft. It's not a safer bet, especially given that the key players are all in their prime right now.
All in all, it will be interesting to see how this whole thing unfolds. I've never been a huge Carmelo Anthony fan, and I don't think the Bulls front office is either. That said, I recognize his talent. I recognize that the thing he's singularly good at is the thing the Bulls lack most. Even though I'd rather he be someone else, if the bulls have a shot, they have to go for it.
The realistic options simply won't get better, and I think Bulls management knows that too.
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