Ten-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony recently revealed how he almost shunned the New York Knicks in 2014 to sign with the Chicago Bulls as a free agent. We all know now, however, that the former third overall pick would eventually remain in The Big Apple by signing a huge $124 million deal with the Knicks that would extend his stay for several more seasons.
According to Anthony, he had already decided on signing with the Bulls, but the negative reactions to his potential move led him to re-sign with New York instead. It is also worth noting that the Knicks were able to offer him at least $50 million more than Chicago at that point in time.
Whatever the case may be, Melo stayed in New York to have three more productive, All-Star-level seasons with the Knicks. None of them resulted in a playoff run, however, and this was something the Bulls could have offered him had he decided to jump ship.
All this is in the past now, and there’s obviously no way to definitively tell what could have happened if Anthony did join the Bulls in 2014. Nonetheless, let’s say he did. What effect would this have had on the Bulls, Anthony, and the rest of the NBA?
A Powerhouse in the East
In the summer of 2014, Derrick Rose was coming off major injuries that put in question his ability to lead the Bulls to another deep playoff run. The former MVP had suffered two season-ending and career-changing injuries, and he would never reach the heights he once attained prior to those injuries.
However, the addition of Anthony would have definitely boosted Chicago’s hopes of winning the title that year. Rose had a respectable 2014-15 season, averaging 17.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 0.7 steals in 30.0 minutes per contest. Nonetheless, he did miss 31 games that campaign due to various injuries, and with Melo in the mix, head coach Tom Thibodeau might have managed Rose’s minutes better — with a maintenance day here and there — keeping him fresh for the playoffs.
Joakim Noah was coming off back-to-back All-Star seasons, and was widely considered one of the best big men in the league at that point. Surely, a Big 3 of Rose, Anthony, and Noah would have been a force to be reckoned with.
Let’s not forget that the Bulls also had an emerging 25-year-old Jimmy Butler on their roster. The 2014-15 season was the former Marquette standout’s breakout year. He not only got his first All-Star nod, but also took home the Most Improved Player trophy. It could be argued that the arrival of Melo would have hindered the development of the 6-foot-8 wing, but it is without question that Butler would have served as a tremendous two-way weapon for the Bulls nonetheless.
Finally, the Bulls also had two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol, who forged a resurgence in his career while in Chicago. He was named an All-Star in each of his seasons with the Bulls. Then again, Chicago probably would not have had enough cap space to sign Gasol with Anthony in the picture, but just imagine a starting five of Rose, Butler, Anthony, Noah, and Gasol. Wouldn’t that have been a treat?
Getting Over the Hump
Since the arrival of Rose as a rookie in 2008, the Bulls made seven straight playoff appearances, with their deepest run coming in an Eastern Conference Finals matchup against LeBron James and the Miami Heat in Rose’s 2010-11 MVP year.
The Bulls were eliminated by a LeBron-led team in four out of the seven aforementioned postseason runs (two by the Cleveland Cavaliers and two by the Miami Heat). Much like any other team in the East, James was the ultimate hurdle the Bulls had to go through, and maybe — just maybe — the addition of Carmelo would have been the final piece the Bulls needed to finally get over the hump.
Ultimately, there’s simply no way to tell what could have happened if Anthony teamed up with Rose and company in 2014. They could have crashed and burned, and this team could have been one of the biggest busts in recent history. On the other hand, this could have earned Anthony and Rose their first championship ring.
This is one of the biggest what-ifs in 21st-century pro basketball. It will be part of NBA folklore for decades to come.