Money does strange things to people and regardless of your stance on professional athletes fighting for every penny they can get, LeBron James’ determination for a max salary will change things in the NBA, and especially for the Miami Heat. If King James decides to sign elsewhere for a greater contract and a deal that is “flexible” enough for him, Carmelo Anthony would be the first replacement option for the Heat, but not necessarily the best one.
If you haven’t heard, LeBron is demanding a max salary of $22.2 million, which will reportedly be the new high number for the 2014-15 NBA season. That means there are only seven teams in the league that have a mathematical chance to sign him this offseason and really only two or three of those have a good shot. If he chooses one of those teams that doesn’t include the Heat, Miami would presumably turn to Melo in hopes of keeping their Big Three with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Now that’s assuming Wade and Bosh would stay in Miami if LeBron signed elsewhere, so we’ll stick with that assumption for the purpose of this argument.
Melo would undoubtedly demand a higher dollar on the free agency market than either Wade or Bosh, especially after the way the latter two played in the NBA Finals. However, Melo may put up the same amount of points as LeBron (or possibly even more), but he couldn’t replace the King in Miami’s Big Three.
First of all, LeBron has carried the Heat defensively at times and in case you’re not already aware, Melo can’t even spell defense, much less play it effectively in the NBA. Secondly, LeBron is a terrific rebounder and while Melo isn’t completely useless in that department, he’s not exactly a lock to pull down an important board in the closing minutes of a big game.
Anthony is also a player who needs the ball in his hands to be effective, and that’s a growing trend in the NBA (and basketball in general) that is making players like James that much more rare and valuable. LeBron can move and be effective without the ball and that’s what made the Heat nearly unbeatable during their two championship runs with him at the helm.
The two Finals series they lost were when James was handling the ball a lot while trying to carry the team. That’s what Melo has done every season in the NBA, both with the Denver Nuggets and the New York Knicks. Put simply, that’s why neither of those teams sniffed the Finals during Melo’s tenures with each.
So while Melo stepping in to replace LeBron in the Heat’s Big Three (again assuming LeBron signs elsewhere and Wade and Bosh stay in South Beach) might seem like a good idea to some who don’t understand team basketball, it’s not a good idea at all. And you can bet Pat Riley has already thought of that.
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