Throughout his career, Carmelo Anthony has been the victim of harsh criticism due to his sub-par success in the playoffs. Anthony has escaped the first round only twice in his 11-year career. Some of the criticism may be warranted for such an elite player. That is not to say that he should have a championship by now, but surely, the fact that the other four top selections of the 2003 NBA Draft have a ring does not help. In fact, had he been selected 2nd overall by Detroit, he probably wouldn’t find himself behind the crosshairs of such criticism because the Pistons won a title his rookie year. That’s right, the 2nd overall pick, Darko “the bust” Miličić, won a championship ring his rookie year with Detroit. That could have been Anthony, but fate had other plans.
Since arriving on the scene, Carmelo Anthony has established himself as an elite scorer. However, his talent is often unappreciated due to his lack of success in the playoffs. He has nothing left to prove in the regular season. He has a scoring title; he has set various franchise records for both the Nuggets and Knicks; he even scored an incredible 33-points in a single quarter once. His regular season accolades are vast; however, his playoff accolades are disappointing. It’s been a nice run in New York, but it's time to move on.
Carmelo Anthony has often reiterated his desire to win, especially in New York. However, like most things in life, they don’t always go as planned. If Carmelo Anthony truly wants to win, he’ll make the logical decision of signing with Chicago. If winning is not his top priority, he should by all means stay in New York and sign a lucrative deal that he won’t be worth in four or five years; if he doesn’t want to win, he can make his paper. But realistically speaking, his opportunity of winning in New York has quickly diminished. With limited draft picks in the immediate future, a lineup that needs massive reconstruction, and no guarantee of landing a star that will help make them title contenders, staying in New York would be settling for less, even if it’s for more [money]. While Chicago isn’t capable of offering Anthony a max-contract, they can offer things the Knicks only hope they can attain, such as a winning culture, coach, and environment, a legit star, and automatic contention for the years to come.
If Anthony could pick any of the 30 teams in the league to sign with, no other team would be a more perfect fit than Chicago. One of the most valuable things Chicago offers Anthony is a scenario similar to Durant’s: an offense ran with a scoring point guard. The biggest criticism of Anthony’s offensive game is that he is a volume shooter, or as others love to say: he is not as efficient as Durant. Well, Derrick Rose solves this problem. Anthony needs to play alongside a score-first point guard – a point guard who needs the ball in his hands to thrive. With a scoring point guard, Anthony would get a lot less looks than in an offense that runs directly through him. Less looks would essentially force Anthony to become more efficient and more active off the ball. In essence, a Rose-Anthony duo would be nearly identical to the dynamic duo of Westbrook-Durant – which, as much as you may hate it or love it, has been a force to be reckoned with for years out West.
Not only is this situation beneficial to Anthony elevating his game and forcing himself into becoming more efficient, but it also helps the Bulls fill the massive offensive void they have. As Kyle Wachowski once told me, the two best defensive teams in the league are the Chicago Bulls and whoever the Bulls are facing that night…because Chicago can be just that bad on offense – even with Rose. Anthony swiftly solves this problem with his presence. As much as we criticize Iso-Melo possessions, they are effective; they just aren’t ideal for 48 minutes of a game. That said, when Chicago’s offense starts to struggle, and we know how often that happens, the Bulls would be more than capable of running their offense through Anthony until they establish some rhythm.
However, the most beneficial aspect of playing for the Bulls wouldn’t be a potential increase in efficiency for Anthony, it is the culture he would join. The Bulls are easily the mentally toughest team in the league, despite their talent any given season, and this because of the culture that Thibodeau has instilled in the organization. Regardless of who is on the court, who they are playing against, and what the scoreboard reads, the Bulls play with heart. In fact, that’s an understatement; the Bulls give 100% of their energy, and then some, for all 48 minutes of every game they play. This toughness is just what Anthony needs, especially defensively. He has shown glimpses of moderate to good defense on various occasions. Yet, most of the time, Anthony just doesn’t really try too hard and whomever he is guarding gets the best of him. That totally changes in Chicago; Thibs doesn’t tolerate that. Not only would their tough and gritty mentality help change his ways, but he would also have quite the help defensively.
The Chicago Bulls, while an elite defensive team for years, don’t really have any great individual defenders aside from Noah and Butler. Their outstanding defense is centered around schemes that the team implements as a whole. Thibodeau is a defensive mastermind who orchestrates one of the better team defenses in the league. Anthony would be a perfect addition to the Bulls lineup considering the fact that he will not be as much of a liability individually. Plus, while the other four players around him help their team get it done defensively, Anthony can worry about helping the Bulls get it done on the other side of the ball. This seems like a match made in heaven for Anthony. However, there are a few stipulations for this to happen.
First and foremost, the Bulls don’t have the cap space to sign Anthony. In order to sign Anthony, the Bulls would have to amnesty Carlos Boozer – which, for all intents and purposes, was speculated to happen this offseason regardless. No Bulls fans will shed tears over such a move, so it shouldn’t present much of a problem; Boozer is overrated if evaluated by his contract. However, amnestying Boozer will not be enough for the Bulls to offer Anthony a max-contract. At that point, it’s all about the motive; is the motive winning or making money? If it’s the latter, he can drive into the sunset with New York, probably never make a serious run at a title, and stack his $129M.
However, if he is really trying to win, considering the ridiculous amount of money he has already accumulated, taking a pay-cut – like his peer LeBron James – seems more than reasonable. In fact, he would be foolish not to. However, even if it is about the money, let’s do the math. Assuming the Bulls amnesty Boozer, they will be able to offer him around $13M during the first year of his deal. While a massive cut compared to the $21M he made this past season with the Knicks, he still makes roughly $9M off the court via endorsements; that puts him nearly dead even with his most recent earning of $21M. But forget the money; Anthony says it’s about competing for a championship.
"As far as the money, it don't really matter to me. If I go somewhere else, I get paid. If I stay in New York, I get paid. As far as the money goes, it's not my concern. My concern is to be able to compete on a high level, a championship level, coming in this last stretch of my career. I want to compete at that level."
If he sincerely only cares about winning a championship, it is time to part ways with the beloved New York Knicks. It was a decent run and a lot of fun, here and there, throughout his three and a half seasons in blue and orange. But let us not forget how he missed the playoffs for the first time in his career…amid the greatest season of his 11-year career (!!!!). This is the same Knicks team that missed the playoffs in arguably the weakest Eastern Conference in league history. This is the same franchise that foolishly traded all of their valuable assets for him, instead of waiting a couple of months to sign him in the offseason while retaining some valuable players. This is the same franchise that wasted their amnesty on Chauncey Billups – while well aware of Stoudemire’s knee history in Phoenix – to sign a player who basically vanished this past season in Tyson Chandler.
Carmelo Anthony’s window is closing pretty quickly; the soon-to-be 30-year old doesn’t have too many years of dominance left in him and the Knicks are not in the greatest position to turn failure into success over a season or two, especially considering their limited resources in the upcoming drafts. Despite their efforts so far with the firing of Woodson, these are all errors that even Phil Jackson can’t correct, at least not immediately.
Next season, with the addition of Anthony, the Bulls WOULD be contenders. The Knicks, with the addition of Anthony and any other roster changes, MIGHT be contenders. Hopefully Anthony makes the logical decision rather than pressing his luck. He gave it his all in New York, and at most, it was enough to get out of the first round just once for two wins; sounds like fun. If he truly wants to win, he’ll pack his bags and head for the Windy City. If he wants to continue stuffing his wallet, he can remain in New York and play alongside the type of players who will end their season by the attempt of a dunk.