The Chicago Bulls will have the first crack at enticing forward Carmelo Anthony on Tuesday at the onset of free agency when the star forward flies in to meet with team officials. Anthony's visit to Chicago will be followed by meetings with the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets on Wednesday and then a trip to see the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. The New York Knicks will get the last meeting with Anthony to try to retain the league's second leading scorer when he's finished meeting with his other suitors.
Each team on Anthony's list offers its own set of pros and cons, ranging from competitive to financial advantages. Here's a breakdown of Anthony's options sorted by the chronological order of the visits he'll be making.
NBA Free Agency
NBA Free Agency
The Bulls would offer Anthony a chance to stay in the Eastern Conference with a supporting cast more talented than the Knicks could conceivably put around him. The financial aspect is where this could get tricky. Chicago would ideally like to acquire Anthony in a sign-and-trade with the Knicks based around Carlos Boozer. If the Bulls have to use cap space to sign Anthony, they'll start by amnestying Boozer and then selling off pieces until they reach an offer Anthony is comfortable with.
The goal for the Bulls is to sign Anthony while retaining power forward Taj Gibson. From a basketball sense, Anthony joining Chicago would be an obvious fit for both parties. The Bulls were the third-worst offense in the league last season, so adding a scorer of Anthony's ability is a no-brainer. Anthony isn't considered a great defender, but coach Tom Thibodeau tends to find a way to figure out that side of the ball regardless. Chicago finished second in the league in defensive rating last season.
Houston took the first step toward opening cap space by dealing Omer Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans. The Rockets reportedly have a deal already in place that would send out Jeremy Lin and his $8.4 million cap hit for next season. For a Houston team that won 54 games last season, adding another star next to Dwight Howard and James Harden would instantly make the club one of the best in the NBA.
It isn't a perfect fit, though. The Rockets already had a great offense, placing fourth in the league last season per NBA.com. Perimeter defense is where Houston struggles, and Anthony wouldn't figure to be able to help them much on that end. The Rockets might not think it matters much so long as Harden and Anthony are leading a multifaceted offensive attack and Howard is protecting the rim.
Houston's biggest problem might be the conference it plays in. Does Anthony really want to go through the wars in the West when the East offers a much easier path through the playoffs?
The Mavs have more than $26 million in cap space available before re-signing Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki made more than $22 million in salary last season but is likely to take a pay cut in order to attract free agents to build the best team around him. Anthony would obviously be a huge step in that direction.
Dallas has already acquired Anthony's former center in New York when it traded for Tyson Chandler last week. The 31-year-old center should help tighten a defense that finished No. 22 in the NBA last year. Offensively, Anthony would team with Nowitzki and Monta Ellis to form a lineup that would have shooters and slashers all over.
Like Houston, playing in the West will only hurt Dallas' chances.
Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles only has Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre under contract for next season. They would have plenty of money to throw at Anthony, but they aren't particularly close to making the playoffs. Los Angeles won 27 games last season. They will be getting Bryant back from injury and have already added former Kentucky forward Julius Randle to the mix, but it still seems like a longshot Anthony would agree to go to the Lakers. They simply can't put him in a position to compete deep in the playoffs at the moment.