Anthony to Celtics more likely than to Heat

Credit: USATSI

Credit: USATSI

The Miami Heat is reportedly targeting the almost surely up and coming free agent Carmelo Anthony to form a big-four of sorts, but how realistic is this actually? The salary cap in the NBA is currently $58.679 million, but is expected to jump to $63.2 million. The important number is the luxury tax threshold, which is increasing from $71.2 million to $77 million as reported by Boston’s TitleTownTalk writer Joe Chancler.

The Heat would need Bosh, Wade and James to terminate their contracts early in order to exercise the ‘Bird Rights’ which allows a team to resign their free agents of three-plus seasons and go over the salary cap without penalty. The Heat also have nine free agents this summer including Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers. So, the issue with them signing Anthony is they still have to replace eight more players while staying under the threshold of $77 million.

Anthony will be walking away from $23.3 million if he opts out of his contract with the Knicks and that means he’ll want that kind of money on the market. The Celtics can pay that money as I’ll break it down for you:

The Celtics gained Keith Bogans’ money back to the amount of $5 million of his $5.29 contract. With Humphries, Bradley and Jarryd Bayless all becoming free agents, the Celtics will drop their salaries of $17.647 million. Also, Pressey, Babb and Johnson’s contracts are minimal, but not guaranteed, which if they cut them would not go against the Celtics cap.

The Celtics current guaranteed contracts equate to about $48.9 million, which includes a player option that Joel Anthony did exercise to stay with the team at $3.8 million. That leaves the Celtics $28.1 million until they reach that luxury tax limit, some of which they’ll want to retain to resign Rondo next offseason under the Bird Rights.

They will likely retain Pressey, Babb and Johnson contracts, which together equal about $2.55 million leaving roughly $13 million to spend with an almost full roster that could include trading away players like Bass to create room for a Love-Rondo-Anthony big-three. The Heat don’t have that with all their free agents.

The Celtics only real trade-able assets are if a team that wants to develop Olynyk and Sullinger for cheap money, or based on the contracts, Brandon Bass and Rajon Rondo, who have expiring contracts and Jeff Green, who has a player option after this season.

Boston has a ton of draft picks, which would allow them to package up undesirable players to match up the money to the Timberwolves for Love. That will have to be what happens to make a big-three of that caliber work. Bass or a Jeff Green would open up the kind of money to even out the dollars for Love. The Timberwolves would be happy for the high draft picks and expiring contracts of those two players so they could be big players in the 2015-16 offseason. A few first round picks, Brandon Bass and Jeff Green isn’t a bad deal for the Timberwolves, or the Celtics if you think about it.

As for Anthony, the money is pretty much there to pay him a max deal because the roster is already filled out and they have about $25 million to hit that luxury tax ceiling when the owners would have to pay the penalty. Leaving some money to spare next offseason is important because you’ll want to resign Love (if it’s not a sign-and-trade situation) and also you’ll want to resign Rondo to maintain the big-three.

This could be one of the faster rebuilds in the NBA, but if the Celtics can’t get that done, they’ll have to draft with the number six pick and start to build more assets for a run at a different star next offseason.

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