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Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Melo's visits: The pros and cons

By Ian Begley

Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony has his free-agent visits set up. Where will he ultimately land?
The Melo Drama has started.

Carmelo Anthony spent the day Tuesday in Chicago to meet with the Bulls. From there, he’s headed to Texas for meetings with the Mavericks and Rockets on Wednesday. Then it’s on to Los Angeles for a meeting with the Lakers.

With that in mind, we’d like to take a quick look at the pros and cons of each team Anthony will visit and the team with which he may re-sign:

KNICKS

Pros: The Knicks can offer Carmelo the largest and longest contract, though it’s unclear at this point if Phil Jackson will offer Melo a max deal. If Anthony re-signs in New York, he wouldn’t have to move his family, including his 7-year-old son Kiyan, to another city. Also, winning one title in New York would arguably mean more than winning two in another city. This is something to factor in.

Lastly, Anthony knows that better days are on the horizon: The Knicks are expected to have significant cap space in 2015 and also have a first-round pick in the 2015 draft.

Cons: If Anthony is looking for a “win-now” roster, the Knicks lag behind their competitors in this area. New York won just 37 games last season and suffered through some forgettable episodes on and off the court in 2013-14. Knicks president Phil Jackson has shown that he can improve the team in the short term. Last week, he traded Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler to Dallas for a package that included point guard Jose Calderon. But is that enough of a step in the right direction to convince Carmelo there are better days ahead for the Knicks?

BULLS

Pros: Tom Thibodeau is one of the top coaches in the league. His greatest talent is coaching defense, an area of the game in which Carmelo is most often criticized. So Thibodeau should either be able to get the best out of Carmelo on that end of the floor or scheme well enough to compensate for any shortcomings.

Carmelo is looking for a team that can compete year in and year out for an NBA title. You can make an argument that the the Bulls’ roster gives him an opportunity to reach that goal. If he ends up in Chicago, Carmelo could be among a starting five of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler. Not bad. Chicago also offers the type of big-market feel Carmelo covets.

Cons: Just how healthy is Rose? The 25-year-old has played in just 49 games over the past three years because of injury, but he remains confident he can step back on the floor and play at a high level this season. And then there’s the money issue: The Knicks can offer Anthony a starting salary of $22.5 million. Chicago is currently over the salary cap and would need to clear a ton of cap space to offer Anthony a contract worth even $15 million in Year 1. The most likely scenario for Anthony and the Bulls is Chicago swinging a sign-and-trade with New York. In this instance, Chicago may be able to offer Anthony max money.

The downside here for Carmelo is potentially losing valuable assets on the Bulls’ roster in the sign-and-trade. If the Bulls have to give up strong rotation pieces to obtain Carmelo, does that weaken their chances at competing for a title? This is a question Carmelo has to ask himself.

MAVERICKS

Pros: Dallas has a ton of cap space -- enough to offer Anthony a competitive contract and retain free agent Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavs also have a deep roster, one that forced eventual NBA champ San Antonio into a seven-game series in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. Mavs owner Mark Cuban is hungry to build a winner and will likely go to great lengths to surround Anthony with strong pieces to compete for a title.

Cons: Cuban is on record saying he won’t offer Anthony a max contract. So the Knicks have an inherent advantage when it comes to money. Also, you have to wonder how much longer Nowitzki can play at a high level. If Anthony commits to Dallas for four years, can he count on Dirk being Dirk there for his whole tenure in Dallas? Lastly, as with the teams mentioned below, Anthony would have to compete in the Western Conference. The road to the NBA Finals -- or conference finals, at least -- figures to be a lot smoother in the Eastern Conference.

ROCKETS

Pros: The Rockets have a championship-caliber roster in place if Carmelo joins. Dwight Howard, James Harden and Chandler Parsons are in Houston (though Parsons is a restricted free agent). That’s a formidable trio on its own (assuming Parsons stays). Throwing Anthony in the mix makes Houston immediate titles contenders -- on paper, anyway. So the Rockets can appeal to Anthony’s desire to win multiple titles. Though, again, that’s easier said than done in the loaded West.

Cons: How would a team with Harden and Anthony fare on the defensive end? And how would Howard adjust on the offensive end to playing alongside the two volume scorers? Howard would probably have to turn his attention to defending the rim and rebounding to make things work. Would he be willing to sacrifice so much on offense? Could Harden and Anthony find a balance on the offensive end? All of these become pressing issues if Anthony ends up in Houston.

LAKERS

Pros: Anthony gets to play alongside his good buddy Kobe Bryant. He also gets to enjoy the great weather in Los Angeles and doesn’t have to worry much about relocating his family because he already has a residence in L.A. Los Angeles also provides the big-market feel that Anthony’s grown accustomed to in New York.

Cons: For one, it will be difficult for the Lakers to build a team around Anthony and Bryant, who is entering the first year of a two-year, $48.5 million extension. If Anthony inks a max contract, starting at $22.5 million, then he and Bryant will combine to make $46 million in 2014-15. The salary cap is projected at $62.5 million.

Anthony also has to wonder how effective Bryant can be after two major leg injuries limited him to just six games last year. Bryant missed the first 19 games of the season while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon in his left leg and then played just six games before fracturing his knee. How much can be expected of Bryant next season and beyond? That’s another factor at play here for Carmelo.

Question: Which destination would you choose if you were in Carmelo’s shoes?

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