Carmelo Anthony Betting: Will the Star Land With LeBron James in Los Angeles?

by Taylor Smith
on July 9, 2018

Minute Read

To the surprise of few, the Carmelo Anthony era in Oklahoma City appears to be coming to an end. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Royce Young, the Thunder and Anthony are reportedly working together to negotiate a parting of ways. Earlier in the summer, Anthony decided to opt into the final year of his current contract that will pay him nearly $28 million.

Oklahoma City surely expected this. Melo was never going to willfully pass on a guaranteed $28 million, especially at this stage of his career. Anthony’s decision didn’t stop them from spending, however. The Thunder subsequently agreed to a new contract with Paul George while also bringing back Jerami Grant and Raymond Felton and signing free agent big man Nerlens Noel.

The trouble here is that the Thunder are on the hook for a ton of money. By using the stretch provision or somehow trading Anthony, the Thunder would save a whopping $107 million on their payroll and luxury tax bill. OKC’s luxury tax bill would drop from $150 million to $60 million if Anthony is wiped off the books. If they stretch him, Anthony will cost $9.3 million against the cap for the next 3 years.

The Thunder were also planning on scaling back Anthony’s role next season, which was something he reportedly did not want. So, he will be afforded the chance to find a new home for himself assuming he eventually hits the free agent market.

Now 34, Anthony won’t be as attractive to teams as he was during his younger days. Still, you can bet there will be interest in the former All-Star. Where might Anthony wind up next season?

Los Angeles Lakers +200

Since before they were drafted together back in 2003, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have remained good friends. The 2 superstars have hinted at wanting to play with each other in the NBA at some point, though it has not yet come to pass. James has spent his time with the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers, while Anthony toiled away with the Nuggets, Knicks and Thunder.

Now, the notion of them playing together is realistic for the first time. James just joined the Los Angeles Lakers on a 4-year deal, which makes it clear that he plans on sticking around for a while. The Lakers have signed a slew of veterans to one-year deals, including Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson. That’s a volatile group of personalities, so Melo would be right at home.

It’s unclear what the . Adding James obviously means they’re a near-lock to make the playoffs, but the rest of the roster still needs work if they want to give the Warriors some real trouble at the top. Unless they wind up securing a Kawhi Leonard trade before the season begins, it looks as though next season will be more of a transitional year than anything else.

If that winds up being the case, then what’s the downside in taking on Carmelo Anthony? Anthony isn’t as good as he once was, but he’s still a big name that would help sell some tickets. Plus, making a move for one of James’ good friends would seemingly help the Lakers keep LeBron happy.

We know Anthony is a guy that likes the bright lights of the big city. There’s a reason he signed away his prime years to play for a middling Knicks team in New York. After having spent a year in Oklahoma City, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see Melo jump at the chance to ply his craft in Los Angeles.

Considering he’ll still be making his money with the Thunder, one would imagine Anthony won’t be commanding much once he does become a free agent. The Lakers don’t have a ton of remaining money to spend, so it makes sense that they might have interest.

Once he hits the market I would say the Lakers are the prohibitive favorites for Melo. If he chooses otherwise, however, I would say the most likely destination would be…

Houston Rockets +300

The Rockets were reportedly in a trade with the Knicks last summer, but the 2 teams couldn’t reach agreeable terms. Melo wound up in OKC instead. Considering how badly Anthony struggled offensively, perhaps the Rockets wound up pleased they didn’t nab him via trade.

However, it sounds as though the Rockets would still want him. Marc Stein of the New York Times reported on Friday that the Rockets would be one of the teams in the market for Anthony once he comes free.

How Melo would fit with Houston is unclear. The Rockets do have a vacant spot on the wing with Trevor Ariza having signed with Phoenix, but Melo and Ariza aren’t similar players. Ariza is willing to play defense and stand in the corner offensively and jack triples. Anthony, on the other hand, is more of a power forward at this stage of his career that still prefers to dominate the ball and take tough, contested jumpers.

Houston’s offense is isolation-heavy, which is actually an area in which Anthony should thrive. The Rockets will set high screens in an effort to get a lumbering big man switched onto a quick guard like Chris Paul or James Harden. Exploiting mismatches is the basis of the Rockets’ entire offensive philosophy.

If Anthony would be a more willing passer, he could fit right into that offensive scheme. Distributing has never been his game, though, and you obviously have to wonder whether he’s able to change his ways at this advanced stage of his career. It’s fair to suggest that Melo just is who he is at this point, for better or worse.

Anthony has never won a title, so his best chance to do so next season presumably comes by joining the Rockets. Houston nearly beat the Warriors in the playoffs this past year, and maybe the Rockets can convince Anthony that he’s the final piece of the puzzle. At this point, it would be a surprise if Melo didn’t join LeBron in L.A. or CP3 in H-Town. The market for him outside of those 2 teams is murky at best.

Portland Trail Blazers +1000

The Trail Blazers were reportedly trying to get in on acquiring Anthony from New York last summer, but The fit with Portland is questionable, to be sure. The Blazers already have a couple of ball-dominant guards in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, so how would Melo fit here?

The rest of the Blazers’ roster is littered with toolsy wings and lanky big men. Jusuf Nurkic is a capable offensive big man, but the Blazers are hugely dependent on the guards for offense. Adding a wing player capable of getting buckets for himself would help alleviate some of that pressure.

Considering Anthony will essentially be able to go wherever he wants, though, I have a hard time believing he’ll sign with the Blazers. Portland doesn’t appear to be particularly close to winning a title, and they have the look of a team that may be closer to a teardown than a build-up. If Anthony is serious about winning a title, it’s probably the wrong time to be signing with the Trail Blazers.

As mentioned previously, Melo is probably either landing in Los Angeles or Houston. Both teams have championship windows that will be open for the next handful of years, so Anthony may be able to finally capture that elusive championship if he chooses wisely. There’s value in betting on either one.

The Lakers at +200 are likely the safer option, but Houston at +300 isn’t far behind.
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