Reports have come out that indicate the talks between Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder have progressed to the point where he is meeting with other teams. The Thunder have to decide what is the best option to get rid of Anthony between buying out his contract, stretching him (which means spreading his one-year contract out over multiple years) or trading him, with the latter being the toughest but most favorable for the Thunder.
Anthony’s discussions with other teams have likely been about what his role would be when he becomes available. So far this list has included contending teams like the Rockets, and teams looking to stay relevant like the Heat. The Bulls are of course nowhere on his radar, but they have a few contracts that could make a deal worthwhile for Oklahoma City, while still being beneficial to the Bulls.
It has been extremely difficult for the Thunder to find suitors for Anthony’s contract because of the massive $27.9 million left on his deal. Any contending team that wants him would not be able to afford that, and that is why they are anticipating a buyout. A buyout frees a team of his salary, but they would pay Anthony whatever amount is negotiated in the buyout, and as we’ve seen with Dwyane Wade, that can be costly.
But the Bulls are operating as one of the few teams with salary cap space, even after re-signing Zach LaVine. And if they want they could attempt to undo one of their more curious signings by getting involved in facilitating Anthony’s move to a new team.
Here is a trade that would work:
Bulls trade Cristiano Felicio and Robin Lopez to the Thunder for Carmelo Anthony
Why the Bulls would be interested:
This trade would allow the Bulls to basically undo their four-year $32 million contract to Felicio, which has three years left. He has shown little growth, in fact he took a huge step backwards last season, finishing with some of the worst on/off numbers in the league.
And while Lopez is still a decent center, moving him would free up minutes in the rotation to further develop Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis and Wendell Carter Jr. This move would end the Bulls logjam in the frontcourt by pushing the issue on to the Thunder.
The final piece of this trade for the Bulls is the fact that Anthony would of course not play for the team. This trade would be made with the assumption that the Bulls have already agreed to buyout Anthony. Chicago could pick up a draft pick in this deal, or they could simply take on Anthony and complete the buyout to set up for the 2019 offseason, where the Bulls figure to be major players.
Why the Thunder would be interested:
When Felicio was playing well two seasons ago, the main skill he showed off was an impressive ability to finish at the rim out of the pick-and-roll. Scoring on lobs off the pick-and-roll is a skill that would have much more value in OKC next to an elite point guard in Russell Westbrook.
Of course Felicio would not play a ton with Steven Adams and the newly signed Nerlens Noel in front of him, but Noel is on a two-year, minimum contract with a player option. That means if he plays well, he is likely to seek a more lucrative offer in free agency. Felicio would act as insurance for the team should Noel depart after a season or if one of their other big men get hurt.
Robin Lopez is a veteran who is a great locker room presence, and still has enough game to be a serviceable center. But with a crowded frontcourt, Lopez would likely be on the move again if he was traded to the Thunder. They would use the fact that he has an expiring contract to try to entice a team into giving up a draft pick of some sort, or find some depth at the shooting guard spot as Andre Roberson insurance.
But we won’t pretend that this move is motivated by anything other than financial reasons for the Thunder. They likely wouldn’t care what players they get back in a trade of Melo, because it is apparent that OKC would love to avoid the straight up buyout if they can, with hefty luxury tax payments on the way regardless.
This trade is essentially two teams swapping mistakes. The Thunder won’t have Anthony on their roster next year, and while they want to trade him, the market for the 34-year old forward is incredibly non-existent. Chicago isn’t worried about luxury tax payments anytime soon, so taking on Anthony’s contract (and the subsequent buyout) would be worth it just to get rid of a few big men to give Carter and Markkanen even more time to gel as the frontcourt of the future.