The Chicago Bulls are looking to acquire a superstar player to pair with Derrick Rose this offseason, and it’s no secret that the one player they covet is New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who can exercise a player option this summer if he wishes to become a free agent for the first time in his NBA career.
The Bulls understand that you need star players to win championships in the NBA, and after being one of the worst scoring teams in basketball this past season, the need for a premiere scorer to play alongside Rose and Joakim Noah is essential. For some time, it’s been clear that Chicago was going to move on from Carlos Boozer this summer, and while it has been speculated that the Bulls will use the amnesty clause to rid themselves of Boozer’s contract and create cap space to try and sign a player like Anthony, the truth is that move alone will not be enough.
Amnestying Boozer would give the Bulls a little over $10 million in cap space, while still having to pay his salary — it just will not count against the team’s cap. The key point is that Anthony is not going to pass up a chance to earn more than $20 million a year to sign with Chicago for half that.
For the Bulls to have a shot at signing Anthony, they would need to trade one, and possibly two more assets in order to free up cap space. Taj Gibson would almost certainly have to go along with someone like Mike Dunleavy Jr., Jimmy Butler or Tony Snell. This is certainly one avenue the Bulls could explore in order to acquire Anthony, but another tactic would be trying to engage the Knicks in a sign-and-trade.
New York knows is not going to contend next season and is mainly looking to free up cap space for 2015, especially if Anthony opts out and decides he no longer wants to be a Knick. Sure, they could let him walk for nothing as a free agent, but it makes more sense to get something in return. and if possible unload some bad contracts as well.
In exchange for Anthony, who could then sign the max contract he desires, the Bulls could send Boozer to New York along with Dunleavy, Snell or Butler (likely Butler) and multiple first-round picks. If necessary, the Bulls could even add Gibson to the deal in exchange for bad contracts such as J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton.
This proposed deal would give the Knicks over $20 million in expiring contracts next season with Boozer and Dunleavy, in addition to a good young wing prospect in Butler or Snell, plus multiple first round picks. The Bulls also have a lot of draft picks over the next few years, so they could send New York a first-rounder this year (no. 16 or no. 19) as well a future first-rounder in 2015.
In the end, it would be a win for both sides. The Bulls get the star player they have been coveting, while retaining either Butler or Snell and a 2014 first-round pick. Furthermore, the deal would keep Chicago over the cap, meaning it could still use its mid-level exception to bring over Nikola Mirotic, the player scouts say is the most talented prospect in Europe right now.
Chicago could also be able to use its bi-annual exception of around $2 million to help fill out the roster and possibly re-sign Kirk Hinrich.
That would leave the Bulls with a core group of players that includes Rose, Noah, Anthony, Hinrich, Mirotic, Snell or Butler, Felton, J.R. Smith and a 2014 first-rounder. Add a few veterans to the group, and you have a team that could contend for a title.
The Knicks, on the other hand, would gain tons of financial flexibility, Gibson, a young wing and two draft picks — not a bad haul considering the alternative is losing Anthony for nothing. Thus, if Anthony is set on leaving New York and wants to join the Bulls, a sign-and-trade is the most sensible option.