Ever since the Chicago Bulls were eliminated from the 2014 NBA Playoffs by the Washington Wizards, you couldn't utter a sentence with the words "the Chicago Bulls" without also uttering one player's name: Carmelo Anthony. When rumors first surfaced about the Bulls' known interest in Anthony's services paired with Joakim Noah's vocal and private efforts to try and persuade Anthony to join forces with him and Derrick Rose in the Windy City, many experts shrugged off the rumors as "improbable" and "unlikely." As time has progressed, however, the rumors of Anthony to Chicago have not only become more intriguing, but they have also seemingly become more likely. With the season nearing close and the free agency period creeping closer and closer, the rumors will keep on flying about Anthony's future. Anthony has stated that he would be willing to take a pay-cut if it meant he would be closer to winning a championship. Phil Jackson has stated that he wants Anthony to take a pay-cut to help better the team, and it's obvious that Anthony will have to take a substantial pay-cut to join the Bulls (most likely all the way down to $18 million, or around what Derrick Rose makes). If the New York Knicks think that they will eventually lose Anthony, they may do what the Cleveland Cavaliers did with Lebron: sign & trade. The Knicks, however, will get more for Anthony than the Cavaliers got from Miami. Nate Duncan of Basketball Insiders wrote an excellent post on what the Bulls summer could look like here, and I suggest reading that article before you continue on reading this one.
Here's the scenario: Carmelo Anthony wants to experience free agency as he never truly has. He has gone on record saying that he has.
"I want to be a free agent. I think everybody in the NBA dreams to be a free agent at least one time in their career. It's like you have an evaluation period, you know. It's like if I'm in the gym and I have all the coaches, all the owners, all the GMs come into the gym and just evaluate everything I do. So yes, I want that experience."
One thing that people always miss, and I feel obligated to state, is that Anthony has never once verbally stated that he wants to leave New York. The closest thing he's said to that that could be misconstrued into that statement?
"I want to come back. But I also want to win. You know, me wanting to be here, if we can put ourselves in position to at least compete at a high level over the course of the next contract, then I'm willing to stay here and I'm willing to ride or die for New York... You know, I've never once said I wanted to leave. I always said that I wanted to explore my options, I wanted to see what's out there."
If New York can't convince him to re-sign with intentions of staying there, the Knicks will look to trade him. The teams that seem to be ahead in the Anthony race are the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Houston Rockets, and the team that we are going to focus on today: the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls have some interesting trade pieces to offer the rebuilding Knicks, as they would enter rebuilding mode for the summer of 2015 if they traded or lost Anthony. The Bulls recently avoided the luxury tax when Taj Gibson did not get selected to either of the All-Defensive teams. Had Gibson been selected to one of those teams, the Bulls would've given him a $250,000 bonus due to contractual obligations. Right now, they are under the cap. However, in this proposed trade, they would need to take back more than just Carmelo Anthony.
First off, we know that the Bulls would be sending over Carlos Boozer and his huge expiring contract over to New York, but that may not be such a bad thing for New York. If they're going to lose out on Anthony, they need to prepare themselves for the future and only one year of rebuilding (long rebuilds don't happen in the Madison Square Garden). Boozer's contract expires in the summer of 2015, the same summer that the Knicks will be free of the ridiculous contracts of Andrea Bargnani, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler, as it's speculated that Phil Jackson will clean house and not re-sign any of those players. While adding Boozer would mean having a ton of bigs, with Chandler being the only one that plays defense, it would also mean more cap space due to Boozer's contract being an expiring contract. So Boozer would be the first trade piece the Bulls offer to New York.
The second trade piece the Bulls would offer the Knicks is Mike Dunleavy. Mike Dunleavy would be a very nice addition for the Knicks. Not only is he making a reasonable amount of money this year (Dunleavy is scheduled to make $3.3 million over the 2014-15 season) and is also an expiring contract, but he would provide offense that the Knicks would lack without the steady offense of Anthony. Dunleavy is always a threat whenever he is on the court, and his defense is a very underrated part of his game. Being 6'10", he has unbelievable length for his position, so he's also a threat to rebound when he crashes the boards. The third trade piece the Bulls could throw in is Tony Snell. A young, seemingly 3 & D guy with nice potential, he would be great under the development of Phil Jackson (even though Jackson is not the coach, he will be involved in development of the young players).
The biggest trade chip the Bulls could offer the Knicks are a varying supply of draft picks. The most likely draft picks the Bulls would offer, as they have a bevy of them, consist of the #16 pick in this year's draft, the Sacramento Kings' top-10 protected first round pick, and two second round draft picks. The Knicks seriously lack a healthy supply of first round draft picks until 2018, and this would be a nice start. While the #16 pick in other drafts may seem to have less worth, the depth of this draft makes the #16 pick worth more as there will still be a good supply of collegiate and international talent on the board at that point in the draft. The Kings don't want to rebuild any longer and will be looking to improve this offseason. If they're able to improve enough, the Knicks could garner the #11 (or any number after that) pick from them in the upcomingdraft.
Chicago Offers -
PF - Carlos Boozer
SF - Mike Dunleavy
SG - Tony Snell
2 first round draft picks*
2 second round draft picks
* = The Kings' 2015 first round pick is conditional, as it is top-10 protected.
Obviously, the New York Knicks would be offering the central trade piece in this entire deal: Carmelo Anthony. Everyone knows what Anthony would bring to the table. The Bulls would finally get the third star they've been looking to pair next to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Even when Rose was healthy, the Bulls had trouble scoring as Rose is the only Bulls player that could create his own shot. If the Bulls have trouble scoring, they could easily put Anthony down on the block and have him go to work as he is one of the best players in the league at creating his own shot. Everybody always talks about how lackadaisical Anthony's defense is. However, what they don't realize is that with the way the Bulls' defense works, that won't matter. First off, Anthony's defense isn't as bad as everybody makes it out to be. Secondly, the Bulls' team defense is so strong and good, they've been able to consistently cover up under-par 1-on-1 defenders like Carlos Boozer, Nate Robinson, Kyle Korver, and D.J. Augustin. Under Thibodeau's coaching, as long as Anthony at least puts in the effort on defense, the Bulls will be able to cover for him, especially with Gibson, Butler and Noah anchoring the defense. The Bulls also have another consistent scorer to rely upon just in case Derrick Rose goes down again, although let's all pray that that won't ever happen again.
If Anthony chooses to sign at anywhere between $18-20 million for the first year, the Bulls would be still under the salary cap, and the Bulls would keep both their bi-annual exception (BAE), which is an up-to two-year contract that starts at $2.1 million, and their mid-level exception (MLE), which is an up-to four-year contract that starts at $5.3 million, per Nate Duncan of Basketball Insiders. Rumors have surfaced, brought to us by blogabull.com, that Nikola Mirotic could actually be brought over for less than the MLE, with a starting salary of $3.5 million per year with the maximum allowance of a 4.5% annual raises.
The Knicks would also want to send the Bulls the bad contracts of J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton, per Kelly Scaletta of Bleacher Report. While that may sound like a horrible idea for Bulls fans right now, both Smith and Felton could benefit from playing under Tom Thibodeau and could use a change of scenery as both had very down years last year at the one and only Madison Square Garden.
New York Offers -
SF - Carmelo Anthony
SG - J.R. Smith
PG - Raymond Felton
After all of this, the Bulls remain under the salary cap, and they would still have the trade chips of expiring contract players Mike James, Ronnie Brewer, and Lou Amundson. The Bulls depth chart would look a little like this:
PG - Derrick Rose, Raymond Felton
SG - Jimmy Butler, J.R. Smith
SF - Carmelo Anthony, ???
PF - Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic
C - Joakim Noah, Greg Smith.
The Bulls would still have their BAE and MLE to use on a veteran wing to backup Anthony (speculation there) or anybody they may so choose to sign (maybe bring Augustin or Hinrich back with the BAE). Also, the Bulls would still have the #19 pick to use in this deep draft class. The Bulls would be in fantastic shape and would essentially instantly thrust themselves back in title contention. This sign-and-trade would make the Bulls better than they already are (however, they are not contenders right now), and would set the Knicks up for a short rebuild/retool and then for success in the future. Again, this only happens if the Knicks are 100% convinced that Anthony might bolt town. Only time will tell. After July 2nd, we will see Anthony's true intentions. Will he stay or will he go? Summer of Anthony is just beginning, and I hope everybody is as thrilled as I am to see how this story pans out.