The Bulls pulled out all the stops (well, most of them) for Carmelo Anthony, but all signs have him returning to New York. Anthony met with Phil Jackson in Los Angeles last night, and Jackson came to the table with that juicy five-year, $129 million max contract, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard and multiple other media reports.
Anthony didn't commit and will likely take the weekend to decide, but we can see where this is heading. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported that Joakim Noah has told several people that he doesn't think Anthony is coming to Chicago, and I just can't see Melo turning down that max.
And you know what? I don't blame him one bit if he goes through with it. I'm sure the decision will be framed as "money vs. winning," but I still believe it's more complicated than that. Anthony is comfortable in New York. His family is comfortable in New York. The Knicks will have loads of cap space in 2015, and Phil has probably sold Anthony on a vision to improve the team over the next few years. Not that that's guaranteed, but nothing with the Bulls would be guaranteed either. Derrick Rose's knees are obviously a huge question mark, and Joakim Noah hasn't finished a season healthy in years. Not to mention the Bulls supposedly didn't even discuss concrete financial terms and basically said "we'll make it work."
You could argue that Anthony will have opened himself up for criticism when he talked about the importance of winning over money earlier in this whole process, and that's a fair point. But I'm not going to completely kill the guy for making a decision he feels is best for him and his family.
While Anthony hasn't officially made his decision and could still surprise us all by choosing the Bulls, let's operate under the assumption that he's not coming to Chicago. The Bulls appear to have their sights set on Pau Gasol as "Plan B," which I do find somewhat strange. While Gasol is still effective when healthy, he's going to be 34 on July 6 and has shown clear signs of breaking down over the past few years. Getting Gasol for cheap wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, but whiffing on Anthony and then throwing a substantial contract at Pau would be pretty Bulls. Rip Hamilton-esque, if you will.
Then there's Nikola Mirotic, who reportedly is ready to come to Chicago. If we're talking about backup plans, I think I'd rather try and bring Mirotic over and then look for more help on the wing. Lance Stephenson (I know, I know), may be available after contract talks with the Pacers broke down, and I still endorse signing him. It would be a risk, but he's young and talented, and I feel like the Bulls could get through to him. However, I really don't see that one happening.
What should be the plan if Anthony goes back to New York is an obvious one: Launch an all-out assault on the Wolves for Kevin Love.
The Bulls have reportedly made offers for Love over the past month, but they've clearly put the star power forward on the back burner because of the Anthony pursuit. K.C.'s latest bit had nary a mention of Love (but it did mention bringing back Kirk Hinrich!), but there's absolutely zero reason the Bulls shouldn't get back into the thick of things on that front.
The Wolves have been waiting for the dust to clear in free agency before potentially moving Love, and the Bulls may have to wait a bit longer with some of the supposed chaos going down in South Beach. But once Anthony makes his decision, the Bulls need to starting bombarding the Wolves with offers if Anthony does go elsewhere.
A few other Bulls blogger bros (shouts to Caleb Nordgren, Kevin Anderson and Trenton Jocz) and I got together last night on Twitter to come up with what we thought was a good deal for Love. Nordgren wrote up the details over at Bulls By The Horns:
Trade 1: The Bulls receive Kevin Love in return for Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy Jr., the rights to Nikola Mirotic, the Sacramento Kings pick the Bulls received in the Luol Deng trade, and first rounders from the Bulls in 2015 and 2017.
Head over to BBTH for further explanations and why this would work under the CBA. If a deal like that could be made, the Bulls could run out a starting lineup of Derrick Rose, Kevin Martin, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Love and Joakim Noah. That unit mixes star power, shooting, offensive versatility and defense all in one.
In this scenario, the Bulls would then amnesty Boozer but remain over the cap and have exceptions available to strengthen the bench. THIS is where Gasol could be an awesome fit at the mid-level exception, acting as the swing big that can play both frontcourt positions. The Bulls could then go out and grab a shooter with the bi-annual exception, or even try and re-sign D.J. Augustin, although it's looking like Hinrich will be the choice as the backup point guard. Add in Doug McDermott, Cameron Bairstow, Greg Smith, Anthony Randolph and some savvy minimum signings, and you have yourself a stacked title contender if healthy.
Again, this seems pretty obvious to me. Would the Bulls try and make it happen? Would the Wolves play ball? The news that the Bulls are working to sign Mirotic could throw a wrench into things, because Mirotic can't be signed-and-traded:
Not for 30 days, no. Wouldn't be a nice thing to do even then. RT @MinistryofBball can trade Mirotic if they sign him?— Mark Deeks (@MarkDeeksNBA) July 4, 2014
So, yeah. We'll see where this goes.