Remember back in 2010 when no one thought LeBron would really go to Miami until it happened? Then we all thought, wow we should have seen that one coming? Well maybe this season is exactly the same.
Not a whole lot has happened in free agency. The minor signings have piled up for way too much money, but none of the major dominoes have fallen. Carmelo Anthony was expected to make a decision this past weekend. When it didn't happen, everyone assumed it would happen yesterday.
The fact that it hasn't happened yet implies that his decision isn't going to be to land with the Knicks. If it was, there'd be no reason to wait. This could mean several things, but with rumors out there that Chris Bosh is seriously considering a Rockets deal if he doesn't like the way things fall with Miami, it might simply mean he's waiting to see if Miami becomes an option.
You see, if Melo has to give up a ton of money (or force a S&T) then why not do it to play alongside LeBron and Wade? The thing is, if the Heat were to jettison a star, they'd really need to jettison Wade not Bosh given the state of his knees. I don't see how Melo really helps them more than Bosh next year, but there is a rumor spreading that if Bosh leaves for Houston Melo steps in to form the new big three in Miami.
The theory makes little sense to me, but there's so much smoke around this theory that it makes me wonder if there's some truth to it. It also jives with Melo's decision taking longer than expected. The thing is for this to workout, you'd expect James would have to tell Bosh he wants him to go somewhere else to make room for Melo unless he just toys with his own decision until Chris gets frustrated enough to go make his own decision without him.
How could he do that? By using Cleveland and implying he's out the door of course. Maybe a bit too tin foil hat, but it makes you wonder.
The other reasons Melo is waiting around are much more fun to entertain
If it stands to reason that a delay in Melo's decision means it's less likely that he's choosing New York, then the Bulls are still obviously in play. Mark Deeks has noted that the Bulls can S&T for Melo and get his starting salary up to 20 million dollars by moving Dunleavy, Snell, Smith, Hinrich (S&T), Nazr (S&T) + non guaranteed dudes for Carmelo without them having to give up Butler, Gibson, or take back Boozer.
Of course picks would need to be thrown in, but this scenario also leaves open the MLE for Mirotic. Personally, I think this scenario is a bit unlikely. Instead, I think the Knicks would look to include Boozer along with enough other salary so that the Bulls could take back J.R. Smith as the Knicks would love to get his salary off the books.
If Melo chooses Chicago, then there's some question over whether the Knicks would consent to a S&T. My view is they would. I don't think Anthony is such a megastar that you fight to keep him at all costs. His max deal for NY was a big question mark in terms of value anyway, and I think the Knicks fans would turn on him too much if he announces he wants to go to the Bulls (or anywhere else). At that point, you get the most value you can, even if it's just unloading J.R. Smith and getting a couple 1st rounders.
In this scenario, the Bulls would need to remain under the apron to make a sign and trade work, but effectively if you move Boozer + Non guaranteeds + Dunleavy + (Snell or Randolph) the Bulls can make this roster fit under the Apron:
|Doug McDermott (unsigned 1st)||$1,898,300|
|Vet Min #2||$915,243|
|Richard Hamilton (stretched)||$333,333|
You could swap out Randolph and swap in Tony Snell and save a little more money if NY is indifferent or if Tony Snell isn't providing you enough value in the trade that it makes sense. You don't necessarily need to move Dunleavy to the Knicks in this situation either. He could be moved elsewhere, and there are likely a great number of teams that would love to take on his deal for cap room and possibly give up a 2nd rounder for him.
Mirotic may also cost less than the full MLE which is what I put his number at, and of course it's possible the Bulls could swing a S&T without taking back JR Smith as well, but taking back Smith makes the deal far more palatable to NY in terms of taking back salary this year as it provides them even more flexibility next season and balances out the total money for them considerably more (ie, less assets going NYs way).
I've included Kirk at the minimum salary, but other players could come in his place at the minimum. It's clear we'd need a point guard at the minimum though and would likely look to fill in a point guard for both minimum salaried contracts.
With the Apron set at 81 million most likely (possibly could move slightly when official numbers are released). The Bulls would probably have room to offer D.J. Augustin the Bi-Annual exception of around two million dollars in place of the final vet minimum salary, but given the current FA market, it's hard to see D.J. not finding a better offer elsewhere.
Now here's a roster that could contend for a championship, and if Melo chooses Chicago and NY goes along with a sign and trade as I expect they would, this roster could be pretty close to the reality. If I'm NY, I'm not in love with what I get back in a S&T, but say the Bulls offer up the Kings pick, their 2015 pick, Tony Snell, and take back J.R. Smith? I'm probably good with that.
For Melo's best chance to win, he needs to start by picking Chicago, and he needs to finish by convincing NY to do a S&T to get him there. Lengthening his decision making process sure would help that happen too. Melo's hold out on his decision could mean almost anything. I predict only about a 20% chance that the Bulls land Carmelo, but there are certainly some creative ways it can happen that give the Bulls a tremendous team if it does.
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