Apologies to LeBron James, but the Bulls' offseason focus has been - and will remain - about Carmelo Anthony. LeBron’s opt-out doesn’t change that, and I’d argue that it would look better to Melo if the Bulls told him they weren’t even going to talk to James.
Signing Anthony as a free agent for $17-$18 million is going to be hard, but pulling off a sign-and-trade with the Knicks for Melo is going to be even more difficult. The only reason the Knicks would agree to a sign-and-trade is out of fear if they said no, they would lose Melo for nothing.
To stir up this fear, the Bulls need to create leverage and enough cap space (north of $17 million) to sign Melo outright if the Knicks don’t agree to a S+T. Ideally, the Bulls will convince Anthony to take a slight discount and sign for a first year salary of $20 million in any sign-and-trade. In an earlier column, I outlined what the Bulls need to do to create cap space for Anthony, and they have to be prepared to do that if the Knicks don’t agree to a S+T.
There are two very big obstacles in the way of a S+T with New York. One is convincing Phil Jackson to trade Melo to an Eastern Conference team. The other is simply, “Why would the Knicks take on Boozer and his $16.8 million as a backup power forward when they are already deep in the tax?” They wouldn’t and here’s where the Bulls have to get really creative and bring in Orlando. Partial credit for this idea goes to Kyle McMahon (@kyle34b on twitter) and it’s so crazy, it might actually work.
Possible 3 team trade between Bulls, Knicks, and Magic:
Bulls receive: Carmelo Anthony in sign-and-trade and Arron Afflalo
Magic receive: Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler, Bulls' 2015 1st round pick, and the Kings' protected pick
Knicks receive: Jameer Nelson, Tony Snell, Mike Dunleavy, Nikola Mirotic, non-guaranteed deals of Ronnie Brewer and Mike James.
This is an aggressive trade that comes with a lot of risk. You’re mortgaging the future by trading Mirotic and two future picks. However, you also get the best starting five in the league with Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Carmelo Anthony, Arron Afflalo, and Derrick Rose. It’s a lot to give up for 2 players, and the Bulls' window to win a title is narrower than if they trade for Kevin Love.
But it also potentially gives you a powerhouse team in a weak conference.
Kevin Anderson is a coordinating producer for Comcast SportsNet. Follow Kevin on Twitter @CSNKevin.