Houston Rockets vs. Chicago Bulls pursuit of Carmelo Anthony - Trade or Sign?

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Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes is about to begin, once Melo formally exercises his early termination option (expected June 23) and shows his intent to become a free agent. As reported last week by Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls appear to be the front runners to acquire his services.

At that point the question becomes, will the New York Knicks be willing to entertain sign and trade options or will they play a game of chicken with Melo and refuse to sign and trade, forcing him to either re-sign with the Knicks or take less money from another team?

It has also been reported that either the Rockets or the Bulls, can under certain circumstances sign Carmelo Anthony without a sign and trade although they would not be able to offer as much salary. The straight free agent signing would reportedly be in the neighborhood of $19 million in year 1 of the contract. We’ll look at how this would work for each team a little later.

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In a sign and trade transaction, the advantage to the player is he can be paid what he would have been paid by his current team. The current team can offer more than any new team, per the NBA CBA (collective bargaining agreement). The advantage to the Knicks in a sign and trade is they get something in return as opposed to well, nothing. There is also advantage to the new team as we will discuss in more depth.

The Rockets and the Bulls may find themselves preferring to take different paths.

In a sign and trade just like regular NBA trades, if a team is over the NBA salary cap as all 3 teams are, the dollars incoming and outgoing must match in some fashion for both teams.

In this case the key number is Melo’s 2014-2015 salary of $23.3 million. For the purpose of this discussion we’ll assume Melo would prefer to stay at or near that amount. Not much of a reach, is it? Per the NBA CBA, the other salaries must be within 125% of each other (which is $17.575 million).

Also with sign and trade there is no need for teams to make cuts in order to get below the salary cap before making a free agent signing.

For the Rockets to complete a sign and trade and get to at least the $17.575 number, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik would have to be included. There is no other mathematical way for them to get to that number without including them outside of Dwight Howard or James Harden. However given the $15 million each in actual salaries due Lin and Asik in 2014-15, it’s believed that the Rockets will have to include other assets to make it agreeable even to a wealthy team like the Knicks.

Here are 2 sample options with the sign and trade scenario for the Rockets:

Rockets Scenario_1

Heading into the 2014-15 season the Rockets will be over the NBA Salary Cap of $63.2 million. This is important and is part of the reason the Rockets will prefer to do this transaction as a sign and trade as we will see.

In option A, the Rockets offer the Knicks Asik and Lin along with Isaiah Canaan & Robert Convington to make the dollars work. The Knicks are said to have interest in Asik, potentially longer term. They may also be willing to roll the dice on Lin, but even without more “Linsanity” he’s by far a better option than Raymond Felton.

Canaan & Covington along with a couple future 1st round picks compensate the Knicks for taking on the additional salary in 2014-15. Troy Daniels could potentially be included instead of either. Or the Knicks could choose to flip Lin or Asik to another team or bring a 3rd team into the mix for a 3-way trade if they aren’t willing to take on both Lin and Asik.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

In option B, instead of the cheaper former D-league players with potential we included a likely more attractive player, Donatas Motiejunas instead. In this scenario, I would expect the Rockets to also include a future 1st round pick.

But as you can see, from the Rockets perspective it allows them to field a team that still has some depth along with the 3 superstars. Chandler Parsons, Patrick Beverley, Terrence Jones remain along with the young players who starred in the D-league this past season. Assumptions are made here that Francisco Garcia exercises his option, although that can go either way.

This move keeps Chandler Parsons in the mix and if he allows them the time to complete the sign and trade they can sign him to a long term deal immediately after. His signing/extension will vault the Rockets into the NBA tax payer area, but as mentioned here previously, owner Les Alexander is not concerned with that if the team is championship caliber.

Cap holds must stay in place for unsigned draft picks once the draft is completed as if they had been signed already and teams must count at least 12 players or roster spots (if vacant) with at least the league rookie minimum salary.

I mentioned the fact that in this scenario the Rockets are over the salary cap both before and after this sign and trade. This allows them to also use the Mid-Level Exception (MLE) on a free agent this off-season ($5.305 million). If they dip below the salary cap prior to the sign and trade they will not be able to use it.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In option A where the Rockets keep Motiejunas, the MLE could be used on either any number of positions, a backup point guard, a wing defender (Thabo Sefolosha, Shawn Marion) or a big man.

In option B the Rockets would most likely use the MLE on a center.  On a team like this you’d have to wonder if players like Pau Gasol, Emeka Okafor or Spencer Hawes, although a cut in pay, would take the MLE in order to play for a championship as others have done in the past. All just possibilities, but it certainly gives them one salary slot to add a player well beyond the veteran minimum.

And as we mentioned earlier, from Melo’s standpoint it allows the Rockets to offer him a financially similar deal to the Knicks, making the Rockets even more attractive to him assuming they have the best sign and trade offer.

So, what about the Bulls sign and trade possibilities?

Bulls Scenario_1

Much like the Rockets with Lin and Asik, the Bulls have to do something about Carlos Boozer’s fat contract. They can amnesty him, essentially removing him from their books and cutting ties with him since they still have their amnesty option left. Otherwise they would likely have to convince the Knicks to take Boozer as part of a sign and trade as you can see below.

The problem with sign and trade for the Bulls is they really only have a couple of choices. In option A, they would have to include Carlos Boozer along with either Tony Snell or one of this year’s 1st round selections. Would the Knicks have any interest in Boozer? They would not be able to amnesty him as their amnesty has already been used.

Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Boozer would be an expiring contract but so would Lin and Asik if they chose to use them in that way and clearly Lin and Asik combined is greater value to the team than Boozer in the interim. The Bulls would also have to include multiple future 1st round picks as well to attempt compete with the Rockets offer if Boozer is the main salary piece.

The Bulls only other option, if the Knicks said “no” to Boozer, is to essentially gut their team and send all players outside of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Boozer to the Knicks instead. I suspect as much as the Bulls may want Melo, giving up all that and having to fill out the remainder of the team with veteran free agents at the veteran minimum, doesn’t necessarily make them better.

The Bulls would still likely amnesty Boozer in order to prevent paying Brooklyn Nets type luxury tax, by the time they round out the roster with veteran minimum players who would add in the neighborhood of $1 million per roster slot. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf, if nothing else has shown historically that he leans to the financial frugal side when given a choice.

The oft-injured Derrick Rose complicates this a bit as well. By putting all their eggs into the stars baskets in Option B, if Rose continues to struggle to stay healthy, are the Bulls any better than the Knicks have been with Melo?

Sign and trade seems to clearly favor the Rockets.

Next we look at a straight free agent signing instead of sign and trade.

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Tags: Carmelo Anthony Houston Rockets

  • JB

    You should try writing an article that is not clearly biased for houston, im sure hell turn down MORE MONEY Noah, Rose, and Thibs for mchale and “young talented shooters” give me a break.

    • Yoni Pollak

      Noah, an injured Rose (and please don’t tell me he’s not a question mark), and Thibs v.s. Howard, Harden.

      It’s a close call. But Rose is a question mark, Rockets have two healthy superstars.

      But…Anthony staying in the East and joining CHI would give him easier road to the Finals.

      Tough call. Don’t think it’s EASY Chicago or easy Houston. Couldn’t fault him for choosing either.

      If he chooses Houston, I think it’s because of Rose’s health. If he chooses Chicago, I think it’s bcz of the easier path to the finals.

    • Shawn Rakar

      AMEN!

  • Marcos Evangelos Kolioulis

    well go cry home to mommy cause its being reported that the bulls are melos first choice

    • Mark Dowling

      First of the site is called “House of Houston” did you expect it to be from a Chicago perspective??? Also, remind me when the last time was that the Bulls won anything without Michael Jordan….I’m still waiting… Don’t act as if Chicago is anything special in the NBA landscape in this century. And the next time ESPN’s Chris Broussard provides accurate information, will be the first time. Anyone remember what he kept saying about Dwight Howard and L.A.?

      • Blaxxx_Stay_Hating

        When was the last time Houston won anything without Olajuwon? Bringing up the Bulls post-Jordan is just as pointless as bringing up the Rockets post-Olajuwon.

        • Mark Dowling

          The point was these dudes above act as is it’s a no-brainer he would prefer the Bulls, with no logic what so ever. Houston has had 17 winning seasons in the past 21 and they have done so in the far superior WEST. And Rockets have zero questions of health with their stars. It’s at LEAST an even playing field.

          • Go Rockets

            houston couldnt get out of the first round – healthy. Even if the teams are considered equal, it’s the system that Melo is looking for. I wish i could underline the word, System here. Only the Heat can win with a simple “star team.” Sorry Houston. you’re the 3rd best team in your own state.

  • ace

    That is some bull shit I would play in Chicago that is a better fit cause if he wants a ring Chicago is the place but if he is in it for the money well shit that is just stupid you are in the nba to win not just for the money but houston is not the place too be too win sorry

  • Blaxxx_Stay_Hating

    I understand this is a Houston fan site, but are money and teammates the only variables in this situation? What about the competition you would have to go through to get to the finals, as well as the coaching situation?

    If ‘Melo stays out East then he’d only have to deal with the Miami Heat, who will probably be a bit depleted in depth once again next year, and the Indiana Pacers who are so inconsistent that there’s no telling if they’re going to finish in 1st place or 5th place in the standings. The only other teams to mention (Washington, Charlotte, Brooklyn) aren’t threats against a Bulls team led by Noah, ‘Melo, and even a 70% Rose. Hell I’d have bet money on the Bulls making the ECF this past postseason with ‘Melo on the roster and Rose still out. With Indiana likely losing Lance Stephenson’s defense and scoring, they don’t look nearly as menacing as they did coming out of the gate last season. The Bulls biggest (maybe ONLY) challenge in the East is the team the Rockets would likely meet in the finals if ‘Melo does decide to go out West, the Miami Heat. That’s assuming the Big 3 stay put, AND Houston actually made it through the tough west.

    Out west Carmelo Anthony, *James “the Defensive Juggernaut” Harden, and Dwight Howard would have to go against the top Western Conference teams with that gutted roster and those late picks.

    *Keynote: The Rocket’s probably would have had their Game 7 had it not been for the “future Defensive Player of the Year” James “1st Team All-Defense” Harden.

    Eastern Conference Competition:

    -LeBron + 70-80 percent of Wade + Bosh and the aging Heat
    -Paul George + David West + Maybe Hibbert and the Pacers.

    Western Conference Competition:

    -KD (MVP) + Westbrook (MVP in his mind) + Ibaka and the Thunder
    -CP3 + Blake + Jordan and the Clippers

    -the Splash Brothers and the Warriors
    -Aldridge + Lillard and the Blazers (your conquistadors)
    -Oh and those ageless San Antonio guys who just won 62 games with none of their stars playing over 30 minutes a game and dominated the Heat in the most lopsided NBA Finals in history on the way to an NBA Championship…whatever

    Oh… Thibs>>>McHale

    Besides, if you’re Houston, shouldn’t you be looking for more defense to make up for your “Superstar” James Harden’s obvious lack of said trait?

    tl;dr: Easier East + his very own unique Stacey King nickname >>> Stacked West (at least he doesn’t have to listen to the Heat’s PA guy twice a season)

    • Mark Dowling

      So you’re saying this awesome Chicago team couldn’t get out of the 1st round in the crappy EAST???

      Sign me up!

      • Blaxxx_Stay_Hating

        This awesome Chicago team was drastically reconstructed heading into the post-season as their top two scorers were gone. D.Rose was injured and Luol Deng was traded, yet the Bulls still won 48 games and sealed the 4 seed (albeit in a weak east) with no elite scorers. Houston’s entire roster that was supposed to push them to the conference finals got knocked out in 6, with their 1.5 (Defensive Juggernaut loses half his value because he plays too much defense) superstars in tow.

        The Rockets even with ‘Melo would have to beat 2-3 contenders just to get to the finals against the Heat. There may be a slight question mark over Rose, but that should be answered come this summer. There is absolutely NO question mark as to how stacked the Western Conference is though, and how many future Hall of Famers the Rockets have to go through just to get to the Finals. The path on the East is easier, even with the “LeRoad block” still there.

        Right now the Bulls/Rockets are equal in terms of potential if D.Rose returns to even 70% of his form, but the conferences most definitely aren’t.

        tl;dr: Western Conference >>> Eastern Conference – Unfortunately for Houston

        • Travis Oquin

          Correct me if I’m wrong but the goal is not to finish 2nd. I’d rather be the best team in the best conference and with Anthony and few key roles filled they could realistically vault to that.

          Suggest you look at NBA 82 Games NET PER (offensive – defensive):

          Howard +7.1 (2013-14)
          Harden +11.4 (2013-14)
          http://www.82games.com/1314/1314HOU.HTM

          Noah +6.3 (2013-14)
          Rose +7.9 (2010-11) * by the way, 3 YEARS AGO

          the last time Rose was actually healthy for the full season and in 2009-10, it was net +4.8

          Rose has actually never outperformed what Harden did last year in the regular season. Granted Harden struggled this year in the 1st 2 games of the postseason, and they ran into a red hot Aldridge, but Harden never struggled with the Thunder in the post season so we have to assume it’s anomaly.

          But the perception that Rose is CLEARLY superior even when healthy, is just wrong.

    • Yoni Pollak

      I’m a Rockets fan. I understand a lot of your points, and I agree with some. Yes, you have a better coach and a much easier path to the Finals. Agree.

      However, I think Anthony’s choice is going to come down to one thing; Rose. If he thinks Rose can come back to normal health, then yes, Noah, Rose, Anthony can get to the EAS Conf Finals. However, just Anthony and Noah with a solid Rose won’t get you a championship.

  • KING HARVEY

    Even worst is how I’m reading crazy biased Houston articles like the one from bleacher report recently and now this

    Though this is written from the house of Houston the writer like all other writers FAILS at mentioning that the bulls don’t have to lose TAJ GIBSON.

    This is the absolutely incredible part about there’s articles from ESPN,bleacher report, and now Fan side .

    You can get about upwards to 18.9 million dollars
    Getting rid of boozer 16.7 mil
    Trading mike Dunleavy 3.7 mil
    Expiring contract of Ronnie’s brewer 1.4 mil
    And trading tony snell tony snell 1.3 mil

    Now what’s makes it more important is trading boozer which they could set up a package of both first round picks
    Bobcats future pick and dumb boozer

    This will give the all of their exceptions bi annual ,mid level, ect ect.

    The can also absorb a small contract by using the Loul deng trade exception of 2 mil and Marquis Teague 1 mil

    With this exception you could fill out a roster very good you’ll be able to get MIROTIC with the mid level and other role players with the bi annual and other exceptions

    The bulls already have Noah’s back up in Greg smith (from hoston) which was one of the smartest plays the bulls have made in years.

    Now let’s compare
    Tom thib. 2nd best coach in the Nba
    2 titles with celtics his defense was heavily credited
    Coy award winner
    Defense always top 2 every year
    62-20 with only rose as superstar
    Carried worst offense to 4th place In the east after major roster changes.
    Melo 3 times last year praised thibs btw

    Rose 6’3 MVP best pg in the league when healthy unstoppable when healthy. Carried team to 62-20 as only scorer.
    Butler 6’8 all nba defense team
    best lebron defender. Held lebron to career low playoff performance in a series.
    High ceiling because of athletic build

    Melo 6’9 best scorer in the league next KD
    Gibson 6’9 top PF defender 2 Votes from 6thman award average 18/9 when starting

    Noah 6’11 DPOY,All team defense, best passing big in the nba, improved in offense every year, carried team past Brooklyn year before with epic performance, top 5 best nba rebounders
    High IQ incredible will and determination

    And that’s just the starting 5

    Bench
    Current bench

    Greg smith 6’11, big time defender, great athlete, mold of taj Gibson at Center
    Great ceiling big around the basket

    Nikola MIROTIC 6’10
    Euro league Rising star trophy winner 2x feat never done before
    Copa del Ray MVP euro league version of finals MVP
    Best player on best team in the euro league
    55% from 3poimt range
    Dirk nowitski like ceiling
    Noah type motor
    Incredibly mobile
    And fast for a oh man
    Great defender

    And u can pick up anybody rise to fill out the rest
    HINIRCH will likely play the 2 guard
    While you can go after Paul pierce to play SF and players like Augustine and Devin Harris to play Pg

    I don’t even need to mention Houston’s benefits cause other then Howard that team don’t have the experience or accolades as the bulls even with out rose a team with no wing defenders a d the worst defender in the league ball hogging at SG there is absolutely no comparison to to the bulls even with a questionable derrick rose cause the bulls can still make us to the east conference finals with just melo
    Houston can’t say that if Howard or Harden gets hurt

    They are just not balanced and good enough

    • Mark Dowling

      Yes, they can keep Gibson, but you are wrong on so many other points here. They will lose the Mid-level exception, you can’t keep it if you dip below salary cap in a given year which they would do to sign Melo.

      Dunleavy, Snell, 2014 1st round picks would all have to go with nothing but future picks in return, so no Hinrich either. Bulls would only have Noah, Rose (you betting your future on him staying healthy?), Melo, Gibson & Bulter. That’s fine but no bench at all. Every other player added would have to be veteran minimum guys, just like the Heat had to do in 2010-11.

      Also, trade exceptions expire at the end of the season, can’t be used.

      • KING HARVEY

        Yes they can keep there exception and no luol deng exception is still in play until start of next season

        Kelly’s great article from bleacher report and basically Wikipedia and reading the rules will give u all this info I just didn’t come guessing away at it

        There are methods that the bulls could easily use to keep their exceptions and still sign melo
        like SIGNING MIROTIC FIRST just so the mid level can be used before signing melo

        teams do this sometimes

        • Mark Dowling

          First of all you need to read the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Most people who write for Bleacher Report are not professional journalists, they are fans like you and me and sometimes they are simply wrong.

          You’re correct the trade exceptions expire at the end of the season. But the season ends June 30 and Melo can’t sign until July 10. Trade exceptions are of no use here.

          The CBA also states that if a team is under the cap at any point and then OVER the cap, in the same season then they lose cannot use the Mid-Level exception. The Bulls would have to go under the cap to SIGN MELO, then over once he’s signed, so Mid Level exception will also be gone. The article above is correct.

          Yes, they could sign Mirotic first but that means even less money to pay Melo. Just to get the 18 million, if they keep Gibson (by the way a 5 million per year cut for Melo) they would have to get get of Snell, Dunleavy and both 2014 1st round picks. The will only have Rose, Noah, Melo, Gibson & Butler, that’s all. Everything else will have to be veteran minimum players just the 2010 Heat team. That didn’t even work out for them and they had LeBron. Hinrich isn’t even under contract anymore.

          And you still haven’t accounted for the huge financial difference in taxes from Texas to the toughest state in the country on athletes, Illinois or the Derrick Rose factor….hasn’t shown he can even stay healthy. If you’re Melo you bet your shot at championships future on Rose’s health???

      • KING HARVEY

        You missed several points I made TRY AGAIN

  • Travis Oquin

    Can’t cover every factor in one article. This was comparing sign & trade vs. straight signing Rockets vs. Bulls. And I believe I clearly stated that the Bulls have an advantage in a straight signing in that they can realistically offer higher dollars than the Rockets can, although taxes offset that more than most people realize. Trust me, athletes and their representatives DO realize that.

    However, it’s true that if reports are true and the Bulls are not going to shed Taj Gibson then most of the financial advantage goes away in straight signing.

    But the Rockets can most likely put together a stronger sign and trade offer and still have 5-6 very good to slightly above average players to go with Melo, including 2 other stars.

    Bulls do have a better X & O coach, that’s true, but stars like Melo historically perform better with player’s coaches more than old school defensive coaches, and both types of coaches have been successful historically.

    Mark is correct about the extensions, great deal of research was done to validate those facts and I’m confident they are correct.

    But Yoni is also right, health of Rose is a HUGE factor, if it’s just about winning. Is Noah/Rose/Gibson greater than Howard/Harden/Parsons? ONLY if Rose is healthy and goes back to being a top 3 in the league player. And he told us he was healthy last year also. Does anyone recall Grant Hill? Great, great player at one point, but injuries derailed him and while he still had a decent career, did not achieve what it appeared that he would early on. And it’s happened to others as well… Bill Walton…Tracy McGrady…I could go on…

    We also can’t account for what Melo prefers, nobody knows that but him. But Howard once turned down Houston and then later realized it was his best spot and other than the disappointing exit in the playoffs, it proved to be true. But the unexpected exit can prove to be fuel to a championship as it has been for many teams (Heat, Pistons, etc).

    But this article is just about hard facts and what each team is facing and the options that they have in terms of what they can offer and what they will look like if they win the bid.