Carmelo Anthony has said several times in the past few months that he plans to become a free agent this summer. On Friday, Phil Jackson said he'd like Anthony to consider opting in for the final season of his current contract, thereby delaying free agency to 2015.
Below, we take a look at the implications of Anthony opting in, for both the Knicks and Anthony:
Why it would help the Knicks: If Anthony opts in, it would allow the Knicks to get a clear idea of the salary-cap space available to them in summer 2015.
Anthony has said he'd be open to taking a pay cut. If he does so and opts in, the Knicks could get a clear idea of how that pay cut could help them in free agency in 2015.
The contracts of Amar'e Stoudemire ($23.4 million), Tyson Chandler ($14.6 million) and Andrea Bargnani ($11.5 million) come off the Knicks' cap after next season. The Knicks could have enough money to sign two free agents along with Anthony in summer 2015. Stars such as LeBron James, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rajon Rondo may be available that summer.
If Anthony opts in and then re-signs with the Knicks, New York would have approximately $20 million in cap space (that number accounts for the 2015 first-round pick and salaries for J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr.).
“We have an opportunity in the next couple of years to get back in the hunt for free agents that are headline players,” Jackson said. “This year, not so. But we’re going to make improvements on this team regardless. But next year and the year after, we think that we're going to have that opportunity. Can we get two instead of just one? Yeah, that’s a possibility.
“[The] reality of how to do that involves Carmelo’s compliance. It may not be a $20 million player, $16 million player, $12 million player -- it may be a $10 million ballplayer. But that’s the way things work out now. There’s a possibility we can do that. That’s kind of the way we looked at it with Carmelo, and he’s willing to do that because he wants to win a championship. That’s not the end of our appeal, and that’s not the end of our negotiations with him. But that’s a point of emphasis that he opened the door and I stuck my foot in it and said this is what we can do.”
Why it helps Anthony: First of all, he could make more money if he opts in and re-signs with the Knicks.
If Anthony opts out this summer and re-signs, his total contract would be worth $129,135,806, and $22,458,401 in the first season, per ESPN salary cap guru Larry Coon.
If he opts in and re-signs in 2015, Anthony's total contract would be worth $140,875,420, and he'd be making $164,208,823 if you include his 2014-15 salary.
As things stand, it looks as though the Bulls, Rockets and Lakers are the only teams with a legitimate shot to land Anthony this summer. The Bulls and Rockets would have to significantly alter their rosters to create enough cap space to sign him or land him in a sign-and-trade. The Lakers would have a significant portion of their salary cap dedicated to Anthony and Kobe Bryant if they chose to sign Anthony.
None of the three options appears to give Anthony a great shot at an NBA title.
As my colleague Brian Windhorst points out here, Anthony could have more options available to him as a free agent in 2015.
Also, by waiting, Anthony could have a better idea of which players are available in free agency. It's fair to assume Love, Rondo and Aldridge will be available, but the landscape can change drastically between now and 2015. Of course, if LeBron James becomes available, maybe Anthony would be more willing to take a pay cut.
It should be noted, though, that if Anthony opts in, he puts himself at risk because if he suffers an injury, it could impact his value on the open market.
Question: Should Anthony opt in, or should he become a free agent this summer?
You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.