Carmelo Anthony is one of the top small forwards in fantasy basketball. He is an elite source of points and three-point field goals because of his scoring prowess. This past season was no different. Anthony torched the nets on his way to being the second-leading scorer in the NBA behind Kevin Durant.
Here are Anthony’s vital statistics in the 2013-14 season:
27.4 points per game – 2nd in the NBA
3.1 assists per game – 10th among small forwards
8.1 rebounds per game – 1st among small forwards
1.2 steals per game – 15th among small forwards
.848 free throw percentage per game – 5th among small forwards
.402 three point shooting per game – 4th among small forwards, 20th in the NBA
2.2 three-point shots made per game – 4th among small forwards, 18th in the NBA
Although Anthony had a statistically successful season, the New York Knicks could only muster a 37-45 record and missed the playoffs after being the second seed in the East the year before.
Anthony is in the final year of his contract, and has a player option, which he could exercise come July 1. While he has said that he will test the free-agent market for a shot at the title, he’s also declared that he’s willing to stay if the Knicks can build a contender.
As this see-saw battle continues, let us examine Carmelo Anthony’s options as fantasy basketball owners start to gear up for the 2014-15 season:
YahooSports.com Adrian Wojnarowski reported about Carmelo Anthony’s free agency options on 3/19/14:
Anthony has free-agent options, and two have risen above everything else: Chicago and Houston, sources with direct knowledge of his plans told Yahoo Sports. The Bulls have an easier path to clear the necessary salary-cap space to sign Anthony, but the Rockets believe they can shed the contracts necessary to offer a third near-max deals alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden, league sources said.
So let’s take a look at the two most possible options if Anthony opts out of his contract this July:
A Launchpad in Houston?
The Houston Rockets have some $63 million in payroll for 2014-15. If we follow Wojnarowski’s report, then they have to trade Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, who will make $8.3 million each next season, to make room for Carmelo. They might also have to renounce the non-guaranteed contracts of Josh Powell, Robert Covington, Omri Casspi, and Patrick Beverly. That will give them the $20 million that Anthony demands from the market.
A lineup of James Harden, Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones, and Carmelo Anthony would be formidable and would give Houston immediate contender status.
That being said, it would be different from the fantasy basketball point of view. During the 2013-14 regular season, James Harden accounted for 26.8 percent of Houston’s total field goal attempts. He attempted 25.8 field goals per game. Harden also has a usage rating of 27.8 percent while playing 38 minutes per game. So Harden, as of now, is the heart and soul of the Rockets offense. If Carmelo is added to the mix, the scoring of Harden, or Anthony (or both), would go down. And with Harden already locked in Kevin McHale’s offense, it is most probable that Carmelo Anthony’s scoring numbers would decrease.
Remember the Dallas Mavericks superstar Mark Aguirre when he was traded to the Detroit Pistons during the 1988-89 season? Aguirre won two NBA titles with the Bad Boys, but his scoring average went down by six points when he moved to Motown. This was mainly because Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson were already in place there. Predict a similar scenario if the Rockets end up landing Melo.
Heir Apparent in Chicago?
The Chicago Bulls actually have an easier route than the Houston Rockets if they want to go after Carmelo Anthony. They have a total of $66 million in payroll for next season. All they have to do is amnesty Carlos Boozer’s $16.8 million salary and then trade Mike Dunleavy’s $3.3 million salary to come up with Melo’s projected $20 million value.
If Carmelo Anthony moves to Chicago, he would be the primary offensive option, even if Derrick Rose comes back. Remember that before Rose was injured this season, Luol Deng was the primary scorer, even though Derrick took one more shot per game.
Look at the Bulls’ primary players’ field-goal attempts per game this season:
|Field Goal attempts per game|
Since Deng is already out of the equation, and Boozer would be amnestied, then there would be more than enough shot attempts to go around for Carmelo Anthony in the Bulls offense. So with Carmelo as the primary offensive weapon, he will at the very least retain his scoring average.
Since Melo will be playing with a point guard like Rose, who can set up his teammates and create plays, Anthony’s field-goal percentage could increase given that he will have fewer isolations and one-on-one options in Chicago, compared to New York. So if we look at it from the fantasy basketball point of view, Chicago is more viable for Carmelo Anthony than Houston.
The Madison Square Guardian
As fantasy basketball is concerned, staying in New York would be the best option for Carmelo Anthony. He is already the heart and soul of the Knicks franchise. His numbers will remain, and might even improve with the arrival of Phil Jackson and a new coach.
Most expect that Phil Jackson is going to apply the triangle offense in New York, especially with Steve Kerr’s name floating around as their next coach. Remember that on Jackson’s Chicago and Los Angeles title teams, he had one great scorer to build the team around. It was Michael Jordan in Chicago and Kobe Bryant in LA. Hopefully for Knicks fans, it will be Carmelo Anthony in New York.
Like Melo, MJ and Kobe were playing a lot of isolations and one-on-one plays before the arrival of the Zen Master, but Jordan and Bryant were the same scorers after the triangle offense was run on their respective teams. If Carmelo remains with the Knicks, those 2013-14 numbers are likely to remain, or even get better. So if Melo stays, everyone better pick him up for their fantasy teams, because he will most likely have another monstrous year statistically.
The biggest question is whether Carmelo wants to stay with the Knicks.
In previous months, Anthony said he was willing to take a pay cut to build a championship team, via ESPN.com:
Any opportunity I have to build that up in New York, I’d do it. I told people all the time, always say, if it takes me taking a pay cut, I’ll be the first one on [Knicks owner] Mr. [James] Dolan’s steps saying take my money, and let’s build something strong over here.
Anthony has said that his priority is winning and that he will put himself in the free-agent market for a chance at winning the title.
The Knicks have started their transition process by firing Mike Woodson. Jackson says they are still looking for a coach who will maximize the talents of the team and make them function as a unit. That being said, that’s about all the Knicks can do as they are cash strapped for next season, and they have no draft picks. Said Jackson, via NYDailyNews.com:
We hope that Carmelo is true to his word. We understand what it’s going to take, and we will present that to him at that time.
So with no cap space, Jackson hopes that Carmelo meant his words when he said he’ll sacrifice cash for the ring. That is the hard part, as Phil needs all his philosophies to preach to and woo Anthony, via NYDailyNews.com:
Wooing seems to fit with (fiancé) Jeanie Buss, not with Carmelo Anthony. I like convincing, I’d like to appeal to his better nature, by winning, and that’s what we want to do.
If Phil Jackson was able to woo Jeanie Buss, there is no reason he cannot convince Carmelo Anthony to stay.
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