(CBS) In a move that comes as no surprise, Knicks star Carmelo Anthony will exercise the early termination option on his contract and test the free agent market, Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported.
Anthony was set to make $23.3 million next season, and the Knicks gave him a Monday deadline to let them know his intentions.
The 30-year-old Anthony could receive a five-year deal worth around $129 million if he re-signs in New York, or he could receive a four-year contract worth around $95 million if he signs elsewhere. Teams can begin talking to free agents on July 1 and verbally agree to deals, but they can’t officially sign them until July 10.
The Bulls and Rockets are reportedly the front-runners to land Anthony in free agency, but both would have to make moves to clear cap space for him.
For the Bulls, that would mean using the amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer and trading a key contributor or two from last season’s team — as well as likely trading one of their draft picks or selecting a player and stashing him overseas.
Ideally for Chicago, it would execute a sign-and-trade for Anthony, but New York reportedly has little interest in taking back Boozer, even though his contract expires in summer 2015, which is when the Knicks can get out from under their salary cap issues and be major players in the free agent market. The contracts of Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani expire in 2015.
Using outright cap space, the Bulls can only offer Anthony about $11 million-$12 million per year if they only amnesty Boozer. To get into the $15 million-$17 million range, they’d have to move one or both of Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy — without taking salary back in return — and only sign one draft pick to a rookie-scale contract. Chicago holds the No. 16 and No. 19 picks in Thursday’s draft but has made it known that it’s willing to trade.
To offer Anthony anything near a maximum deal, the Bulls would likely have to move Taj Gibson, who’s set to make $8 million next season. But they don’t want to part with Gibson, as he’s a key piece to contending for championships — which is also the key selling point to lure Anthony.
So in the end — wherever he chooses — it will come down to how much money, if any, Anthony is willing to leave on the table for a chance to win championships.
Follow Cody on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.