We start this exercise in the hypothetical with this grounded in reality caveat — very few people around the league think Carmelo Anthony is leaving New York next summer as a free agent. Yes, he certainly will opt out of his current deal as he told the New York Observer, and anything can happen in a year, but the conventional wisdom around league front offices is he stays put. He worked too hard to get to NYC and would leave a guaranteed year and $30 million on the table to bolt.
That said, if he leaves, the Lakers are the most likely landing spot. Kobe and Anthony are buddies, he lives there in the off-season, his wife loves it there, the Lakers have cap space… we can go on if you want.
Yes, Dallas is a potential landing spot as are a bunch of other teams with cap space (Charlotte, Philadelphia, Orlando and so on). Plus other teams with trade chips could try to get in the mix (Greg Monroe in Detroit?). But the Lakers are the team most people point to when they talk about ‘Melo leaving the Big Apple.
To me, the bigger question is: Would that really a smart idea for the Lakers?
No, not really.
Not if they are trying to build a title contender.
First, it’s going to take a salary cap high wire act to get Anthony to the Lakers. While it well documented the Lakers only have $12 million on the books next season ($9.7 million of that belonging to Steve Nash) they have massive cap holds for Kobe Bryant ($32 million) and Pau Gasol ($20.2 million). (This assumes the Lakers do not trade Gasol mid-season.) There are also cap holds for Steve Blake, Jordan Hill and others the Lakers might renounce.
The only way for the Lakers to use all that cap space to bring in Anthony is to either renounce the rights to Kobe or Gasol, or get one of them to take a reduced contract and let the other one walk. That second option is the more likely scenario — the Lakers aren’t going to let Kobe go but they will ask him to take a Kevin Garnett/Tim Duncan pay cut down to the $10 million range (and despite his earlier comments I expect he will). If that happens the Lakers can sign ‘Melo to a max deal, pair him with Kobe and Nash.
Again, there are a host of ways it could go down but that is the most likely scenario….
And it’s a terrible one if the Lakers are chasing a ring.
Look at what LA would have: The Lakers would start the 2014-15 season with 30-year-old Anthony, 36-year-old Kobe Bryant and 40-year-old Nash surrounded by a bunch of role players. The best part is all of them are likely running Mike D’Antoni’s system that Anthony chaffed against in New York.
Even if they change systems it wouldn’t matter. The Lakers would have two unconscious gunners who love (and make a fair amount of) bad shots, plus they would be a defensive mess. Their best players would be old, injury prone and in a deep West this roster likely is a middle of the pack seed that would be one-and-done. Even if they keep Gasol somehow it doesn’t change the dynamic. Then in a few years they could try to rebuild around Anthony and his massive contract as his skills are deteriorating.
How would this seem like a good plan to anyone?
The Lakers can take a meeting with Anthony next summer, but he is a terrible rebuilding plan. They can find a better one.