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The Knucklehead Report: The Carmelo Conundrum and the Perils of Free Agency

It seemed that even before the buzzer sounded on June 15th, signifying the successful acquisition of Tim Duncan’s fifth ring, and LeBron’s third failure to capitalize on an opportunity to further build his legacy, reporters, GM’s, and coaches had started speculating on how the free agency cookie would crumble. This summer, there are some big names that could be relocating. LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony are all eligible to opt out of their contracts and Anthony has already shown clear interest in his hope to leave New York. Once again, the top players from the 2003 draft class are poised to realign the Eastern Conference powers, and I believe they will.

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All of these players have the ability to change the game every time they step foot on the floor, but there is one player unlike the others: Carmelo Anthony. Usually when a player is introduced like that, the next sentence goes into reasons why they are better than other players compared to them but I intend to go in the opposite direction. Carmelo Anthony is the most overrated player in the last ten years. Yes, he has the ability to score prolifically, but does he do it consistently? No. Besides his 2012-2013 campaign in which he not only led the Knicks in scoring, but the league, he has largely been inconsistent and unreliable. His ability to score is also inflated by how many shots he takes a game. If Kevin Durant were enabled to take as many shots as Carmelo Anthony, he would keep his high level of accuracy and drop 40 a game instead of 25-30. On top of his inefficiency as a scorer, Anthony is a lazy defender, poor teammate, and diva. If I’m Phil Jackson, I’m actually excited about the departure of Anthony so my team can start rebuilding. They still have Amar’e Stoudemire, who with a clean bill of health and good coaching can re-emerge as an all star and be a strong anchor for a rebuilding team. If I’m Carmelo Anthony though, I know people think I’m over rated, I know being in New York was a mistake, and want to make a similar move Dwight Howard made and go to a smaller market team with a strong supporting cast. Phoenix, a small market team on the rise could be a good fit for Anthony because there he can escape the media microscope experienced in New York and just get back to playing good basketball. Phoenix is also a team that with an additional push from a player with electric scoring potential could crack into the impossible top 8 of the western conference.

The other three players aforementioned are in situations that could end in a plethora of ways. James, Wade, and Bosh could all stay together for another year and see what happens. They could all leave and go to different teams. What I think is for sure though is that Pat Riley will work hard to keep them together. Riley knows that with a younger supporting cast the finals could’ve had a far different outcome and will overhaul the bench in the offseason. Regardless of how hard Riley works to keep the “Big Three” together though, anything is possible.

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Wade’s situation is likely the most predictable. After winning three championships with Miami and truly being the face of the team, Riley is likely to offer Wade a short term, max contract similar to the one Kobe received this past offseason. Wade’s efficiency may be dipping, but his intangible leadership abilities would be key to a potential James-and-Bosh-less team.

Bosh could go anywhere. He’s still an incredibly unique talent that could change the basic fabric of nearly any team. With his refined three point shot, his ability to spread the floor has evolved to a point where few power forwards have gone. I think that if Bosh opted in to the final year of his contract, and Carmelo Anthony did the same, the potential for a single player swap could be possible. The speculation of Carmelo ending up in Miami is also intriguing and I believe Bosh is better equipped to ignore media criticism and handle the pressure of playing in New York. If Bosh stays and The Heat acquire Carmelo in free agency they would be making a huge mistake. It would ruin their cap situation and make it nearly impossible to truly start rebuilding in the future.

If LeBron wants to win more championships now, I think he should opt out and go to Chicago. During the initial free agency frenzy in the 2010 offseason, I thought LeBron would best fit in Chicago. At the time, Derrick Rose had yet to be injured, and I thought that pairing would have been unstoppable. Fast-forward four years and Rose has scarcely been on the court and will likely never be the player he once was. Even in his absence though, the Bulls kept trudging through the muck of the East. Joakim Noah is coming off his best season yet, Rose is set to return sometime this season, and if LeBron decides to land in Chicago, I don’t see a team that can beat the Bulls in a seven game series. Chicago’s defensively oriented coach would be a nightmare for Carmelo Anthony, but a haven for LeBron. James ability as a defender is likely the most overlooked aspect of his game. In the finals, it was clear that the only player who could defend anyone on the Spurs was LeBron, but to the Heats dismay, he couldn’t cover five guys at once. The Bull’s defense would be terrifying with the reigning defensive player of the year hovering around the basket, and LeBron locking down the other teams most explosive scorer. Also with James on the floor, Derrick Rose has to carry less of the offensive burden because LeBron can play the point for the most part. Even if Rose comes back only 70%, he’s still strides ahead of Mario Chalmers, and LeBron’ s play on both ends of the floor can cover up his shortcomings.

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This summer has the potential to be one of the most exciting free agency periods since 2010. Kevin Love also wants out of Minnesota which adds yet another story line. When all of these big ticket players dot their I’s and cross their T’s on their new contracts it’ll be a big day likely to change the landscape of basketball for years to come. Until then though, we will continue to speculate much like reporters have been doing for months. The perils of free agency are clear for the players, but making us fans wait is similar torture.

Written by Jacob Levinson, George Washington University

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