Plan B targets for teams who can’t sign LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony

 

Miami Heat President Pat Riley recently urged LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to “stay the course” with a team that has been in the NBA Finals each of the past four seasons. As the league’s free agent signing window opens Tuesday after midnight, the Heat remains likely to retain its all-star trio, especially since James, Bosh and Wade have discussed scenarios privately and none as given the signal that he intends to leave. James sits atop nearly every team’s wish list – with teams like the Rockets and Mavericks clearing cap room to lure him away from Miami – but he has taken a different approach from 2010. He won’t let teams come to him to fawn and make presentations. Instead he’s passed the preliminary discussions over to his agent, Rich Paul. Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthony presents another tempting free agent target for teams after opting out of his contract with the Knicks. But since it appears teams looking to chase James might come up empty-handed – and only one can ink Anthony – here are some suggested Plan Bs for teams looking to make big moves this summer. Chicago Bulls Primary target: Carmelo Anthony Plan B: Lance Stephenson/Nikola Mirotic Derrick Rose has already stated he won’t recruit Anthony because it’s not his job, but the Bulls can still recover if they fail to nab the seven-time all-star and former scoring champion. Indiana will do whatever it takes to keep the feisty Stephenson but the Bulls would be wise to chase him. Stephenson would give the Bulls another player besides Rose, who can get his own shot, something Chicago severely lacked in the postseason. He would also fit into Tom Thibodeau’s defensive system, giving the Bulls a physical perimeter tandem with Jimmy Butler. The Bulls have the draft rights on Mirotic, a Spanish star who has been tearing up Europe the past three years, but he finally seems open to a move to America after becoming disenchanted with Real Madrid. New York Knicks Primary target: Carmelo Anthony Plan B: Pau Gasol New York Knicks President Phil Jackson has been a cool customer as it relates to Anthony, stating that the team will be fine if he goes or stays — preferably for less than the maximum if he returns. If Anthony leaves, Jackson would be wise to at least speak with the big man who helped him win his last two NBA titles. Derek Fisher is around to implement Jackson’s triangle offense, so it wouldn’t be a problem to have a former teammate in Gasol to help the Knicks make the transition, along with Lamar Odom. The only problem is New York can only pay Gasol about $4 million and the big man can certainly command more money by staying with the Lakers or moving elsewhere. Los Angeles Lakers Primary target: James or Anthony Plan B: Greg Monroe The Lakers have just four players under contract in 35-year-old Kobe Bryant, 40-year-old Steve Nash, Robert Sacre and first round draft pick Julius Randle. So, basically, the Lakers need help almost everywhere. Since no one free agent aside from James or Anthony will make much of a difference, the Lakers should try to get size and youth, with a focus on the future. Gasol’s best years are behind him, so the Lakers should make a run at a younger replacement in Monroe, a skilled low-post scorer who could benefit from playing with a fiery competitor like Bryant. Houston Rockets Primary targets: James and Anthony Plan B: Chris Bosh Bosh has been adamant about his desire to remain in Miami, so the Rockets have as much of a chance to get the Texas native as they would their desired options. But in terms of fit, Bosh would give the Rockets an ideal complement to James Harden’s slashing and Dwight Howard’s post ups. The past season in Miami, Bosh became a lethal three-point threat – a shot he used to give the Heat its only win the Finals. By snaring Bosh, the Rockets could focus on retaining restricted Chandler Parsons and assembling an offense that would be extremely difficult to guard. Dallas Mavericks Primary target: James or Anthony Plan B: Luol Deng The Mavericks pushed San Antonio harder than any team in the playoffs and made an aggressive move to get better by trading for former defensive player of the year Tyson Chandler. Deng would give Dallas a versatile swingman who is capable of taking some of the offensive burden away from Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis while providing the same defensive efforts Shawn Marion has for the past five seasons. Miami Heat Primary target (aside from keeping the Big Three): Kyle Lowry Plan B: Trevor Ariza Lowry would be a tremendous upgrade over the Mario Chalmers-Norris Cole point guard tandem in Miami, but the reality is, the Heat doesn’t need a traditional floor general if James and Wade stay around. The Heat won back-to-back titles because it had Mike Miller and Shane Battier around to spread the floor and hit three-pointers. San Antonio exploited Miami in the Finals after Miller was waived and Battier had nothing left to continue being a quality three-and-D guy. Ariza would give the Heat a younger version of Battier, given his ability to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer and hit open looks.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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