Could the Miami Heat make a run at Carmelo Anthony this summer? How would he fit in? As sources say Miami is eyeing the possibility of a Big Four, our scribes discuss the potential impact on the Heat and NBA.
1. What's your reaction to the news that the Heat are targeting Melo?
Amin Elhassan, ESPN Insider: Shock. Disbelief. Curiosity. Can Pat Riley pull this off again? Would this unequivocally make him the greatest general manager since Red Auerbach? And could it work?
Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: I'll believe it when I see it. Not that I don't think they're targeting him. It's Carmelo Anthony, after all. But color me a skeptic. The massive pay cuts sound all well and good now, but walking the walk is a different story when eight-figure amounts are on the line.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, ESPN.com: I'm intrigued, but with some reservations. The Heat are already doing well on offense -- their main problems are on the other side of the ball. They would probably be more potent offensively with Anthony, but his presence wouldn't address what ails them right now: lack of good point guard play and lack of a rim protector.
David Thorpe, ESPN Insider: Mixed. I think there are better "fits," but if he can indeed be as tight a friend and teammate as the others are to each other in Miami, it makes sense. Trust can be a hard thing for players to develop, so perhaps they are already a long way toward that kind of trusting relationship with Melo.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: I suspended disbelief with the Heat in 2010. I saw the potential for the Big 3 that year and disregarded it as a possibility. That was a mistake; I'll never underestimate the Heat again.
2. How likely do you think it is that Melo joins the Heat's Big Three?
Elhassan: As much as I love a great story and a healthy dose of optimism, I'm going to say this has a 5 percent chance of happening. There are just too many moving parts, from the Big Four all opting out to take massive discounts, to Udonis Haslem opting out of his last big check of his career, to having to maneuver enough leftover cash to fill out the roster. It would take heavy sacrifices from roughly seven to nine players to make this happen.
Haberstroh: Slim. They might be good friends, but they'd have to be basically family in order to be willing to leave that much dough on the table. There are only a few players that make sense, from a talent and fit standpoint, to make the discount worth it. And Melo ain't one of them.
Strauss: I think it's 54.3 percent likely. Okay, that's a totally arbitrary, oddly specific number. I do think it'll happen, though, just because there seems to be a will and a way. I know pay cuts would have to be involved, but many people would take a pay cut to work with their friends.
Thorpe: It is just a possibility now. Remember, there are other teams with All-Stars who need a little more help to elevate their status, and the Knicks are not expected to want to start over.
Windhorst: I cannot fathom the pay cuts it would require. But I cannot fathom being in a position where someone has earned $100 million in salary by his early 30s to make the salary less relevant.
3. Would a Miami Big Four be the best NBA roster ever assembled?
Elhassan: No, for several reasons. First and foremost, the supposed incongruity of parts. I'm not saying that Melo, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James can't be a good fit -- we've seen evidence that they can be a marvelous fit in the Olympics -- but they aren't natural fits in the way other superteams of the past (Celtics, Sixers, Lakers of the 1980s; Lakers of the '70s; Celtics of the '60s) were assembled to check every box needed.
Haberstroh: No. Maybe offensive talent-wise in the 21st century, but I have very big concerns about the defensive side of the ball. The Heat aren't even a top-10 defense now. What makes me think they'd defend well enough to be top-five with Anthony around?
Strauss: No, not with all these guys on either the downside or end of their primes. And again, Carmelo Anthony is good, but his presence doesn't address Miami's flaws.
Thorpe: Not unless they add more firepower to their bench. And it's not like all three of their top scorers will top 25 points a game or anything like that. Melo still needs a lot of growth before he can significantly help the playoff version of the Heat.
Windhorst: Can't say that before seeing it. If it happens you at least have to call Darko Milicic and check, right? Top five picks of 2003 draft on the same team?
4. Which member of the potential Big Four would be sacrificing the most?
Elhassan: Anthony, but he's the one who needs to the most. He stands to lose the most money; his reputation will likely take a large hit ("running away to ride LeBron's coattails"); he'll be asked to limit his touches in a way he's never done before (other than playing for Team USA); he'll be asked to play out of position as a small-ball 4 and to defend like he's never defended before. That's a lot to ask of one guy, but it's worth it.
Haberstroh: Chris Bosh. You know how everyone freaked out because Bosh had only 12 offensive touches in Game 3 and the defensive coordination was a mess? That's would be the norm. And Bosh, as the lone true big, would get most of the blame, right or wrong.
Strauss: I'm guessing Carmelo Anthony, given how much his wife seems to like the attention New York City brings. He'd also become a pariah on a whole new level after spurning a massive media market. He wouldn't just be giving up money; he'd be giving up a lot of his reputation in the short term.
Thorpe: Bosh, without question. He's so ready to become the team's second-leading scorer and he has earned the right to play a more pivotal role in their offense. Maybe Wade agrees to become a sixth man, which makes a lot of sense, but he still will end up with more of a scoring role than Bosh.
Windhorst: The sale here would have to be on Wade and Bosh. For Anthony to leave the Knicks, he'd have to be willing to take a pay cut,; it's a bridge he'd have to cross no matter where he went. James is the highest-earning athlete in the league -- adding endorsements -- giving him plenty of flexibility. Wade and Bosh have earned raises and maximum salaries, so this would be a big haircut -- as much as a 10 times bigger pay cut than 2010.
5. Would a Big Four in Miami be good or bad for the league?
Elhassan: It would be great for the league! Beside the extra attention and vitriol this grouping would attract (which always bring higher ratings as a whole), it would shine a light on the ridiculousness of the maximum contract, which allows teams to purchase superstars at below-market pricing. If there were no max contract limits, all four of those stars would be making considerably more money in their own individual markets.
Haberstroh: Good. Check out the comment section below. Superteams are captivating. It's a win-win. Dynasty or disaster, people will watch.
Strauss: Good for the league, just because we'd have a new, controversial spectacle in Miami. Carmelo can only do so much to make that Knicks' disaster relevant. In an ideal NBA world, the Knicks would be great. But they won't be, so the league gains little with Melo sticking around.
Thorpe: The idea that players sacrificing their own money to create more talent for their team is good for everybody, as long as fans understand that it is not fair to expect every player to make the same kinds of sacrifices. The Heat guys have made a lot of cash and have revenue streams that can equal or even surpass (even far surpass) their NBA salaries, plus they are chasing history. Few NBA guys are in the same boat.
Windhorst: It would be good for the league because powerhouse teams are big draws; the numbers prove it. It's not so good for competitive balance or the union because this essentially is a hard cap for top talent. Guess the owners should've pushed harder for franchise tag. I'm sure there was a reason but I don't understand why the small markets didn't push harder for it during the latest lockout.