Yesterday the great Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Bulls and Rockets are the favorites to land Carmelo Anthony this summer after the Knicks' star opts out of the final year of his contract.
While this isn't good news for the "Bring Melo to Boston" campaign -- that has always been a tremendous long shot. But I think that the Celtics could still benefit from Houston bringing in Anthony.
For Anthony to head to the Rockets, one of two things needs to happen:
1. The Rockets and Knicks work out a sign and trade
2. Houston sheds enough salary to sign Melo outright
Option 1 is possible, but Houston would much rather find a way to sign Melo while still holding onto their assets (Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, draft picks). If they're able to shed salary and sign Anthony, they could look to deal Parsons for assets (multiple first round picks, NBA ready talent), strengthening their Harden-Anthony-Howard core. Look at it this way, if you're paying Melo max (or near max) money anyways -- why would you also want to give up assets? Makes no sense.
So that brings us to option 2, and how Houston would need to move both Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik without getting any salary back to clear enough room to sign Melo. Both guys carry $8.3 million cap hits, but both will be paid $15 million in actual salary next season do to their "poison pill" contracts signed in 2012 (that carried low salaries in the first two years and a crazy high salary the final season).
It's not going to be all that easy to move these guys because of their superstar salaries mixed with their merely above average skill-sets, plus the fact that Houston needs to find a team willing to absorb them without giving up any players in return.
But the Celtics have an ace up their sleeve.
Remember that $10.3 million trade exception they acquired in the Pierce/KG deal? Well that expires on July 12th, and the Cs have just enough time to offer it up for either of these guys, but more realistically, Asik.
The Celtics were linked to Asik in December, but balked when the Rockets wanted more than they were willing to give up. But now the tables have turned a bit, and Houston is going to be desperate to deal both of these players if Anthony is willing to sign with them. Trying to get the Celtics to give up a pick could cost them a superstar..a mistake that Daryl Morey is unlikely to make.
Many wondered if Asik was worth both his huge salary and a first rounder when the talks first occurred during the season -- but if you're dealing him straight up for the trade exception, you're basically getting him for free. With all the talk about the Celtics needing rim protection, it's hard to imagine they would turn down a legit starting center when the cost is so low.
And the best part? This would not hinder the Kevin Love trade possibilities at all. The exception was unlikely to play a role in the Love deal because of the restrictions on it (can't be combined with players to absorb a salary bigger than $10.3 million), so losing it doesn't change a thing.
And if the Celtics want to keep their draft picks and go in the youth movement direction? Well they still found a starting center for nothing, and they could either keep Asik around past next season as part of the core, or even deal him mid-season for assets (unlike Houston who would be restricted in their trade options since they can't take salary back, Boston would have no such restrictions).
If Houston does end up winning Melo's heart, this is well within the realm of possibility. Not many teams have a monster trade exception around and the need for a center. Boston does. Hopefully Danny takes a long look at this.
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Michael Dyer 6/15/2014 11:00:00 AM Tweet