Carmelo Anthony

The Carmelo Anthony-to-Bulls trade waiting to happen

The Carmelo Anthony-to-Bulls trade waiting to happen

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. 

Final verdict: 
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.

Carmelo Anthony set to become a free agent, but don't expect a Bulls courtship 4 years later

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USA TODAY

Carmelo Anthony set to become a free agent, but don't expect a Bulls courtship 4 years later

Four years later it appears Carmelo Anthony will be available again.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are expected to move on from Anthony, according to a report from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Anthony, who opted in to his $27.9 million contract for the upcoming season, would have cost the Thunder more than $100 million because of luxury tax implications, so the move is hardly surprising. Anthony struggled in his first and only season with the Thunder, averaging a career-low 16.2 points on 40 percent shooting as the third option to Russell Westbrook and Paul George.

But four years after the Bulls attempted to woo Anthony into signing alongside Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, don't expect a courtship between the two sides.

For starters, Anthony is reportedly interested in signing with a contender. And despite his limitations at 34 years old, he'll have his fair share of suitors. The Rockets are already reportedly interested.

Anthony could be an option in a potential trade, if the Thunder were willing to attach some sort of draft pick compensation to it. But even that seems unlikely.

The Bulls would likely waive Anthony anyway. Yes, he's a fit as a scoring small forward. He's also 34 and plays minimal defense. He's a spot-up shooter at this point in his career, and he's been under 36 percent from 3-point range each of the last four seasons.

It's fun to dream about what would have been in 2014. It didn't happen then, and it won't happen in 2018.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against Westbrook and the Thunder

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against Westbrook and the Thunder

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Bulls take on the Indiana Pacers tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. Getting a re-do: The Bulls' worst loss of the young season at the time came when the Thunder crushed them, 101-69, at the United Center. Now a largely rested Bulls team - one that hasn't played since Saturday - gets a chance to make amends. The last time the Bulls had three days off they played well in a 97-91 road loss to the Heat. With Nikola Mirotic back in practice the Bulls are getting closer to full-strength. Fred Hoiberg has had practice time to get his young squad ready; will it be enough against a West powerhouse?

2. Searching for offense: In last month's loss to the Thunder the Bulls shot a measley 28 percent and had 19 turnovers to just 16 assists. That game is part of the reason the Bulls have the league's worst offensive efficiency. Of course Zach LaVine eventually returning to the lineup will help things, but so could Bobby Portis' strong play since returning, Kris Dunn finding his groove and Lauri Markkanen continuing showing consistency. Better days are ahead for the Bulls offense, but it might not happen easily against a Thunder defense ranked 2nd in efficiency. 

3. Russell Westbrook: If you're tuning in we know you love basketball, and if you love basketball you know that Russell Westbrook is a joy to watch every night. He's having a down year by his standards (he averaged a triple-double last year afterall), averaging 20.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 9.8 assists per game. But you know he's capable any night of doing something you've never seen done on a basketball court. Make sure you're tuning in.