Should the Knicks trade Carmelo Anthony?

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Carmelo Anthony could leave after this season. Should the Knicks trade him before he does?The New York Knicks visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday (ABC, 1 ET). But with the NBA trade deadline approaching on Feb. 20, Carmelo Anthony trade rumors are sure to dominate the conversation.

Anthony is set to make $23.3M in the final season of his contract in 2014-15, but he has the ability to become a free agent this offseason if he enacts his early-termination clause. The Knicks could offer him more years and money (5 years/$129.1M) than any other potential suitor (4 years/$95.9M).

If Melo walks, Knicks don’t have the room to replace him

If the Knicks don’t move Anthony before the deadline, they risk losing him this offseason for nothing. And even if Carmelo leaves, they would still likely be over the projected salary cap of $62.9M in 2014-15.

The result? Their best asset would likely be the non-taxpayer mid-level exception. In 2014-15, that exception allows teams to sign any free agent to a contract with a starting salary up to $5.305M.

The Knicks have $29.9M in guaranteed contracts next season but that does not include Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire ($23.4M) or Andrea Bargnani ($11.5M). All three have early-termination options where it’s the player’s option to opt out.

It's a virtual certainty that Stoudemire will remain with the Knicks as no team in the open market would pay anywhere near that number. Bargnani staying in New York seems highly likely as well.

If both Stoudemire and Bargnani remain on the roster, the Knicks payroll would be over the projected salary cap line of $62.9M even without Carmelo (who could be re-signed to a max deal despite being over the cap since they hold his Bird rights).

If Anthony stays, Knicks roster will be very similar

If Anthony stays - and barring a trade - the Knicks roster next season is going to be very similar to what they are putting on the court this season.

New York won’t have cap relief until the 2015-16 season, when they only have $290,000 in guaranteed contracts.

Expiring contracts won’t do Knicks any good

If the Knicks do entertain a Carmelo trade at the deadline, an expiring contract would not help due to salary cap constraints.

Instead, New York would be looking to acquire draft picks and players they could keep moving forward. The Knicks don't have a first-round draft pick in 2014.

That situation virtually eliminates the Los Angeles Lakers as a trade partner. The Lakers most valuable trade chip is Pau Gasol, who is in the final year of his contract.

Keep an eye on the Bulls

The Chicago Bulls might not be able to pull off a trade at the deadline but they could free up enough money to make a run at him this summer.

They could attempt to move Taj Gibson and Mike Dunleavy, and also use the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer this offseason to remove his $16.8M salary from the books.

If Gibson and Dunleavy are moved (and the Bulls get expiring contracts in the deal) and the amnesty clause is used on Boozer, the Bulls would only have around $35M in guaranteed contracts on the books for next season.