After a disheartening season, forward Carmelo Anthony and the Oklahoma City Thunder are expected to reach a buyout of his $27.9 million contract in the coming weeks. As reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Thunder will save more than $100 million in luxury tax by relieving Anthony of his duties.
The 34-year-old has already gathered a slew of suitors including the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers.
With one of the game’s most unique skill sets and a polarizing demeanor, Melo is one of the league’s greatest anomalies. Critics would pinpoint his ball-dominant style of play and poor track record as reasons to avoid him, yet front offices continue to welcome him with open arms. Whether you like it or not, Melo is a historically great scorer. His ability to create shots from anywhere on the floor is a talent that teams will always value. With the right role and a coach who better understands him, Carmelo could have a bounce-back season.
Now the question remains, which teams would most benefit from Anthony’s services?
The Portland Trail Blazers
Getting swept in the first round of the 2018 Playoffs has left the Blazers in a unique position. After surging to the third seed in the Western Conference, Portland collapsed at the hands of Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo. With high hopes headed into the postseason, Portland was devastated after real hopes of a run to the conference finals. Now, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are left to pick up the pieces.
Portland hasn’t made any major headway in Free Agency, focusing on retaining center Jusuf Nurkic and acquiring young talent. These aren’t the moves of a team looking to rebound from a nasty loss, but rather that of a team content with their position.
It’s safe to say, Lillard and McCollum aren’t content with losing.
As two of the game’s fiercest competitors, the Blazers’ guard duo will do everything in their power to improve heading into the next season. McCollum led a campaign to add the talents of Carmelo Anthony in the 2017 offseason, there’s no reason not to try again this summer. At the forward position, Evan Turner and Mo Harkless fall short of expectations time and time again. They’ll need a reliable small forward to count on for big shots and added help against the Western Conference elite.
Adding Melo creates a new dynamic for the Trail Blazers by forcing opponents to focus their defensive attention inside the paint and around the midrange as opposed to the three-point line. Lillard and McCollum can score from everywhere but often initiate offense from around the perimeter. Carmelo can open up the floor and add another playmaker to their system. One of Portland’s strengths was their ability to change pace with ease. By playing on a team that’s capable of dictating tempo, Anthony could return to the style of play that’s secured him a spot in the Hall of Fame.
The Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn sells itself as a destination for Melo. For the first eight years of his life, Anthony called Red Hook home. He’s held the borough near and dear to his heart ever since, but hasn’t had the opportunity to represent his hometown on the court. The Nets are in a difficult spot, as their rebuild has left them in what could be considered basketball purgatory.
They’re not in terrible shape, as they’ve drafted, signed an developed young talent without most of their own assets. Flipping contracts, offering high on restricted free agents and discovering talent in unanticipated places has kept the young franchise afloat. Since the end of the Deron Williams/ Joe Johnson era, the Nets have built toward something more. With minimal cap space remaining and a young roster full of blooming studs, the Nets could make a run at Anthony to fill a gap in their lineup.
Kenny Atkinson’s guard rotation is not to be taken lightly with D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Jeremy Lin set to return next season. With a flurry of perimeter shooting, ball handling and playmaking, this tandem has a sky-high ceiling. Their selection in last year’s draft, center Jarrett Allen, was a major surprise of the 2017 rookie class. His shot blocking, athleticism and high IQ make him an appealing prospect at just 20 years old. With key pieces like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Joe Harris and Demarre Carroll providing help within their roles, Brooklyn Nets are ready for more than mediocrity. This team is primed for a return to the playoffs if they can land a go-to guy to tie the pieces together.
This could be Carmelo’s chance to regain value and prove to the league that he’s still an elite talent. Leading the ragtag Nets back to the postseason would be an incredible coming-of-age story that’d have a lasting impact on Melo’s career. No, it’s not the right place to go if he wants a ring, but they’d certainly allow him to be himself, which is what Melo needs most to succeed.
The Detroit Pistons
Fifteen years ago, the Pistons passed on Melo to draft Darko Milicic with the second overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. This is a decision that’s haunted Detroit for more than a decade, but they may have a chance to redeem themselves. Wing scoring is one facet of the team that coach Dwane Casey will need to address in his first season as head coach of the Pistons.
While Reggie Bullock has come into his own as a spark plug, he has yet to prove himself as a reliable scoring option. Similarly, forward Stanley Johnson is still in a developmental phase of his career. The addition of Carmelo Anthony creates a powerful dynamic between himself, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond that’ll surely cause matchup problems in the weakened East.
Detroit ranked 22nd in scoring and fell four games short of the playoffs with the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference last season. Adding Casey to the Pistons’ locker room is a step in the right direction coming off of his Coach of the Year campaign in Toronto. He’s a proven veteran coach with a great track record for player development and integration. His experience coaching DeMar DeRozan, another talented isolation scorer, in a motion-offense would apply flawlessly with Anthony in the Motor City.
It’d take a lot of convincing and some luck, but the Pistons could return to the postseason for the second time in the past 10 seasons with a boost from Anthony.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, we should expect that Carmelo Anthony will become a free agent this summer.