CHICAGO -- Can the Bulls still land Carmelo Anthony?
The short answer is yes, it's possible. It's certainly a longshot, but it's possible.
Let's take a look at some of the issues surrounding any possible deal and what it might take to make it happen ...
1. 'Mo money, no problem
This particular part of the equation can be cleared up right away. The Bulls are willing to spend the money that it would take to acquire Anthony and give him the three-year, $65-million extension he is looking for. Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf has come out publicly in recent years and said that he would be willing to dip into the luxury tax if it was in the best interest of the club. The people I've spoken to in the organization are convinced he's not going to back off of that claim now, especially if it meant landing a player of Anthony's caliber. Plus, no one knows for sure if there will even be a luxury tax if and when a new collective bargaining agreement is reached in the coming year. There could be a hard cap, there could (and probably will) be a completely different cap, but no one is certain of what that will be. In the short term, the Bulls are willing to make whatever financial sacrifices they can to land Anthony. They'll worry about the long-term ramifications of the deal if and when the time comes.
2. Would Denver really accept a deal from the Bulls which didn't include Joakim Noah?
Out of all the issues, this is still the one that makes the idea of seeing Anthony in a Bulls uniform seem like a pipe dream. Yes, it's possible that the Bulls could still include Noah in a deal for Anthony, but they aren't going to do it. They love Noah and they don't want to lose him, as evidenced by the five-year, $60-million deal he recently signed. We know Derrick Rose isn't going to be traded, and there's almost zero chance Carlos Boozer would be dealt (the Bulls like him and they'd be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to take on that deal right now). So that means that the Nuggets would have to take back Luol Deng and the almost $52 million dollars that's left on his deal, as well as Taj Gibson and/or Omer Asik and James Johnson, a combination of draft picks and cash. If the Nuggets wait until Dec. 15th (the first day free agents are allowed to be dealt) the Nuggets could also have their pick of players like C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Keith Bogans or Kurt Thomas. While it's clear the Bulls like all of the aforementioned players, none of them would be a deal breaker if it meant landing Anthony. Unlike the Knicks, the Bulls can also offer a probable early-to-mid future first round pick which they acquired from the Charlotte Bobcats last season in the Tyrus Thomas trade.
Does any of this appeal to the Nuggets, though? And is it more appealing than the Knicks' offer, which ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan outlined. New York's offer reportedly consists of Anthony Randolph, the expiring contract of Eddy Curry, possibly Danilo Gallinari and another first-round pick, which has yet to be obtained from another team? Or even a Nets offer centered around rookie Derrick Favors and others? Only time will tell, but it's hard to imagine the Bulls being able to land Anthony for a deal built around Deng and an assortment of the other aforementioned players.
3. How much power does Anthony actually have?
By almost all accounts, it sure seems like Anthony simply wants out of Denver. He's told the Nuggets as much over the last few months and, despite the team's best efforts, it doesn't sound as if his stance has changed. So how do the Bulls benefit from this part of the equation? If Anthony is serious about only going to either New York or Chicago, he can flatly tell the Nuggets that if they don't trade him to one of those two teams, he will refuse to sign an extension and walk at the end of the year. The Nuggets, like the Cavaliers this past summer with LeBron James, will get nothing in return for their franchise star, except maybe a few draft picks if they work out a sign and trade deal in the summer with Anthony's new team. Do the Nuggets want to take that risk, or would they rather make the decision to deals involving Deng and his bad contract, or Curry and the end of his atrocious one? Again, we will find out in due time, but if Anthony is serious about only going to those two cities, he will be able to force a lot more, and give the Bulls a much better chance to acquire him.
4. Does Chicago have enough star power for LaLa?
One of the most underrated aspects of this potential deal, in my mind, is the influence that Carmelo's wife, LaLa Vazquez, has in all of this. For months, all we've heard about is her desire to move to a big market, like New York or Los Angeles, so that she can continue to build upon her entertainment career. Chicago is a great city, but it doesn't have the type of constant spotlight (at least from an entertainment point view) that the other other two offer. Would she be OK living here without the constant exposure to the bright lights of Hollywood and Manhattan? Has her desire to live in one of those markets been overstated? Only she knows the answer, but if Anthony ends up in New York City, there's no doubt in my mind that her influence will have been a major reason why.
5. Would Carmelo play on a team that wasn't "his?"
Assuming, and obviously, it's a big assumption, that the Bulls work out a deal with Denver, Anthony still must consider this question before he signs any forthcoming extension: Would he have any problem coming to the Bulls and playing in Derrick Rose's shadow? Since high school, Anthony has always been "the guy." He led Syracuse to a national title, he led the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals, and even when he played alongside Allen Iverson in Denver, he was considered to be the No. 1 option. In New York, New Jersey or almost anywhere else, things would play out the same way. Not in Chicago, though. The Bulls are Derrick Rose's team -- and will be for years to come. If Carmelo can handle playing the role of second fiddle to Rose then there won't be a problem. If not, then there's yet another reason why this deal probably will never come to fruition.