On Friday afternoon after much speculation, LeBron James officially announced his return to Cleveland. This decision should have a ripple effect on the rest of NBA free agency, as many of the players without contracts were waiting for the biggest domino to fall.
Chris Bosh, formerly of the Miami Heat, is now expected to sign on with the Houston Rockets in the coming days, and Dwyane Wade will have to decide if he is willing to stay by himself in Miami for a max contract or take a pay cut to join the Chicago Bulls, the rumored favorites to land the former superstar.
The second biggest free agent of the class, Carmelo Anthony, is now going to have most of the basketball world’s speculation thrust upon him as he decides between New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Knicks fans and the team’s front office will be closely awaiting Anthony’s decision and figuring out what to do with or without Anthony’s allegiance.
“Plan A” for the Knicks now shifts to signing Anthony and luring Pau Gasol in to play alongside the small forward. Veteran point guard, Jose Calderon, as well as Anthony have been recruiting Gasol, and the Spanish big man would likely prefer to play wherever Anthony lands, be it New York or LA.
In order for the Knicks to take on both Anthony and Gasol, they would likely have to acquire Gasol through a sign-and-trade with the Lakers or convince the veteran big man to take the Knicks’ mini mid level exception. The expiring contract of either Amar’e Stoudemire or Andrea Bargnani would need to be included, but the Knicks may have to add a draft pick or a young role player. The names Iman Shumpert and Shane Larkin have been shopped around, and Los Angeles may be the landing place for one of the two. If the Knicks can acquire Gasol to complement Anthony, they would have a good core of veteran players ready to compete this season.
If Anthony decides to go to Chicago or Los Angeles, all eyes shift towards next offseason, where the Knicks can become major players. With Stoudemire and Bargnani coming off the books for New York, Jose Calderon would be the only major contract, at around $7 million, while Iman Shumpert would be due for a pay increase as a restricted free agent.
The major names available next free agency means that the Knicks likely would not re-sign any free agents, or match contract offers for Shumpert, unless he has a breakout season. Basically, the roster would consist of only a few players, mainly Calderon, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Shane Larkin.
Possible additions to these players include power forward Kevin Love, point guard Rajon Rondo, budding superstar center Marc Gasol, imposing big man Lamarcus Aldridge, rim protector DeAndre Jordan, and veteran floor general Tony Parker.
With full cap flexibility and a smart leader in Phil Jackson, the Knicks would still have plenty to work with if Anthony chose to leave. Of course, the first choice is to re-sign Carmelo resume winning immediately. Pau Gasol comes next, and minor free agent additions, as well as possible trade scenarios follow as the front office would look to bolster the roster.
The Pacers, Cavaliers, Wizards, and Bulls now pose the biggest threat to any team attempting to win the East, but a roster with Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, Jose Calderon, Tim Hardaway Jr, Samuel Dalembert and a few veteran additions would certainly have a fighting chance.