Unless LeBron James opts out of his deal, Carmelo Anthony seems poised to become the top prize on the free agent market this summer, having said on multiple occasions that he intends to exercise his early termination option at season’s end. Sources nonetheless tell Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders that the Knicks will likely be the only team willing to offer Anthony a maximum-salary deal.
The highest starting salary Anthony could get in a new deal is $22,458,401, whether he signs with the Knicks or another team. Still, the Bulls and Lakers, two rumored suitors, appear reluctant to go that high, Kyler writes. It’s not the first report indicating a lack of interest from the Lakers, and Kyler has written before about the low odds of a max deal for Anthony in Chicago. Still, with no other max-salary pitches emerging, it sounds like the Knicks will wind up with a distinct financial advantage come July. New York could offer a longer deal with higher raises even if another team offered the same maximum starting salary, meaning the Knicks can lay out a package that’s about $33MM more than anyone else can put on the table, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors explained back in October.
It might not come down to money for the Leon Rose client, who said over the All-Star break that he’d be willing to take less if it would help the Knicks retain the flexibility to sign other useful free agents. Anthony said his priority is to stay with the Knicks, and that he’d sit down with the team executives in the summer before making his final decision to hear their plan for returning the team to contention.
Of course, much can change between now and the summer, and I’d be surprised if at least one other team that’s not planning a maximum-salary pitch to Anthony decides it’s willing to make one. Anthony turns 30 in May and has won just three playoff series in his career, but he’s only one season removed from leading the NBA in scoring, and his 25.1 PER this year is a career high.