We're in the middle of a competitive NBA Finals, yet the basketball world was rocked by a Wednesday report that the Miami Heat will try to add Carmelo Anthony as a free agent. Here are 11 thoughts on the rumor.
1. The Heat are realistic about the limits of the Three Amigos. Miami was a rebound away from losing the 2013 Finals and looks to be against the wall in 2014. Dwyane Wade is aging faster than anyone thought he would and is just not the same player that he was in 2010. LeBron is still the greatest player in the world, and Chris Bosh has been excellent throughout his Heat tenure. But this is is not a shoo-in champ in any given year. Every postseason has been a war. This team can and perhaps needs to be better to achieve the goals set out in 2010.
2. Carmelo is realistic about the future of the Knicks. Basically, there's no feasible way outside of Fisherian miracle for New York to contend in 2014-15. Not with the contracts of Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani on the cap sheet. The Knicks, if Melo opted in or re-signed, would need to grab a suitable point guard on the cheap, have all key players healthy and get flukey shooting from all the gunners. It's a longshot. Melo has to know that.
3. Carmelo is realistic about his own limitations. He's been around long enough to know how hard it is to win big. Heck, 2014 was the first postseason he missed, yet his teams have rarely gotten past the first round. Last season was the barest example of why an otherwise talent-light team led by Melo isn't a legit competitor. He knows he needs lots of help to get where he wants to go. That help's not in New York, at least not yet.
4. Adding Melo solves neither of the Heat's biggest concerns directly. Miami is weak in two areas: point guard dependability and interior defense. Mario Chalmers will be a free agent, and chances are Miami would need to renounce its Bird rights on him to free up space for Anthony. Norris Cole has $2 million due next season. Cole is a nice piece and Chalmers is overly maligned, but that position, not the combo forward slot, is the shallow one on the Heat. At center, Bosh holds it down almost full-time now, but he struggles against certain opponents with girth or excellent post skills (he's really struggled with Tim Duncan in the pivot). Chris Andersen is the team's only shot blocker, and he's the team's second-oldest player and a potential free agent. Greg Oden lurks in the background, and Miami could always take a spin with Andrew Bynum. But again, Melo doesn't really help in this category.
5. Adding Melo would probably create the league's best offense. Especially if Erik Spoelstra slotted Melo at power forward, where he's excelled in recent years. Can you imagine Anthony drawing a double in the post and kicking it to Wade, LeBron, Bosh or another designated shooter like Ray Allen? On top of the crazy action the Heat can already run? It's not fair, and you almost don't need an offensive point guard on the floor. With that lineup, you could start Toney Douglas and play 4-on-5 on offense without concern against 27 or so teams.
6. Melo's reputation among certain segments of sports fandom would suffer even more than the Three Amigos' did. Bosh caught hell for joining one other star in free agency. LeBron caught more hell for joining two, one of them considered a major rival. If Melo abandons the Knicks -- a team he "forced" a trade to three years ago -- for a reigning four-time Eastern Conference champ ... yeah. The nicknames, the Photoshops, the tweets ... it will all be nasty.
7. Some owners will complain. Loudly. We could guess which ones, but let them do their own damage. Expect these owners to find pliable #HotTake artists to get their views about how super-duper-teams hurt the league out there, and expect some push from the smaller markets ahead of the next inevitable NBA lockout in 2017. I'm not sure there's any realm in sports where jealousy reigns as much as it does among NBA ownership. Ask the Lakers circa December 2011.
8. The Pacers, Wizards, Bulls and any other East team that considers itself viable will need to make huge moves to keep up. Because neither the Pacers, Wizards, Bulls, nor any other East team as presently constructed, would be competitive with Heat + Melo. Not close. They aren't even that competitive now before Miami adds another perennial All-Star in his prime.
The Bulls stand the best chance of rising up, given a healthy Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and potentially Kevin Love. That's a team that, at the very least, makes you think. Additionally, if the Pacers can leverage their assets to improve, it'd be worth watching. But if they lose Lance Stephenson and don't replace him, and Miami adds Melo, you might be able to write off Indiana for the foreseeable future.
9. The Kevin Durant Saga will reach fever pitch. Durant will be a free agent in 2016. The allure of building a superteam around him is already strong. With a bolstered Heat team in place, the draw will be even greater. It doesn't seem like Clay Bennett can afford to build such a squad in Oklahoma City. Unless he commits to leaving the luxury tax threshold in the dust, expect an emboldened market for Durant's services approach '16.
10. Kobe will quite possibly go nuts. I mean ...
11. LeBron rules all. We don't even really know if Pat Riley or Erik Spoelstra wants Melo. Based on ESPN's report, it appears that LeBron wants to play with Melo, his good friend. And if LeBron wants something within reason, he gets it. If you don't give it to him, some other team will.
That's the lesson of The Decision. Players have agency. Stars have pull. The very best players get what they want. If it turns out this was all driven by LeBron, then it actually happening won't be surprising at all. The easiest path to a title right now is to have LeBron on your team. If adding Melo is the way to keep him, consider it done. Pat Riley's no fool.