The Bulls are all in on landing Carmelo Anthony should he — as expected — opt out of the final year of his deal with the Knicks to become a free agent. Melo’s deadline is Monday, and the Bulls appear in the lead to sign him. Not only is Joakim Noah wooing Anthony, but taskmaster Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is excited about the possible addition and has reached out on Chicago’s behalf.
While it might seem strange the defensive-oriented Bulls coach is hoping for Anthony’s addition, he believes he can make it work despite Anthony’s lethargy on the defensive side of the ball.
Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports Thibodeau is not only reaching out to Carmelo, but several coaches who have worked with him on a daily basis:
The push to make sure Carmelo Anthony is wearing a Bulls uniform continues heating up heading into the NBA’s draft week, and maybe no one wants the forward’s services more than coach Tom Thibodeau.
According to one former NBA coach who had Anthony on his team, Thibodeau has not only reached out to him with numerous calls, but several other coaches that worked with Anthony on a daily basis.
“I even told Tom that there may be days he will want to blow his own head off when it comes to ‘Melo’s defense, but he keeps saying he knows he can make it work,” the coach said. “It’s not that Carmelo can’t play defense, it’s just how often, and he knows every trick in the book on getting around that.”
Cowley adds that Noah is still courting Anthony and Derrick Rose has gotten involved and Thibodeau has reached out through back channels to let Anthony know his addition to the team could mean big things for him and the Bulls.
Anthony’s offensive game could have helped the Bulls last season, where they still managed to finish fourth in the weaker Eastern Conference despite trading away Luol Deng and losing Derrick Rose to injury for a second consecutive season. They finished among the bottom three in points scored per possession last season, and were the sixth worst in 2012-13. Their offensive woes made the Wizards look like the ’96 Bulls in Washington’s 4-1 first-round win.
Then again, Melo’s tendency to ball watch and drift on defense could be infuriating to a coach like Thibodeau.
Anthony is a decent defender in isolation and on post-ups, the latter of which is impressive considering he’s banging down low against stronger natural power forwards; he ranked No. 31 in the league on isolation plays, per Synergy, holding opponent’s to just 0.64 points per possession (PPP) and 28.6 percent shooting on 90 situations last season that ended with a shot, turnover or foul. He was even better in comparison to the rest of the league on post-ups, ranking 11th in the NBA while allowing just 0.59 PPP on 108 attempts.
The Knicks, as a team, defended better with Anthony on the court then when he was off. They gave up 2.3 points more per 100 possessions when he sat. While that’s not saying much, considering they still gave up 105.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, which would have been in the bottom third of the league, it’s still better than the 108.2, which would have been the third worst in the league with only the Jazz and Bucks giving up more points per 100 possessions.
Still, ‘Melo struggles on spot ups — giving up too much space to help on other men, and losing track of his man by watching the ball. Opponents shot 39 percent on three-point spot-up attempts against Anthony last season and scored 1.02 PPP — ranking Anthony 243rd in the league, per Synergy. Then again, it’s the East.
“There’s no question they would be better with him – with or without his defensive inconsistencies,” the source continued. “As I told Tom, ‘You’re in the East, Tom. Remember, you’re in the East.’”
Anthony could pick up Thibodeau’s strong-side system that packs the paint with Noah anchoring the rim defense, while adding a scoring punch the Bulls have sorely lacked over the last two Rose-less seasons. ‘Melo drops buckets better than just about anyone else in the world.
Thibs seems to know all this, and appears confident he can get ‘Melo to buy in on the defensive side of the ball. Now all that’s left is clearing the cap space to actually sign Anthony if he decides to go in that direction.
Will Anthony be a good fit in Chicago, despite his defensive struggles?
Follow Spencer on Twitter at @SpencerTyrel.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.