Let's get this straight up front: the chances of Carmelo Anthony signing with the Hornets is somewhere between slim and none, and much closer to none.
It already looks like his options are limited to those he's been visiting with on a grand trip around the country, meeting with the Bulls, Rockets, Mavericks, Lakers and Knicks. And those teams are already feeling queasy that Melo won't even leave New York. So the Hornets probably aren't going to crash the party as a smaller market team. C'est la vie.
Still, as Michael Pina of Grantland writes, Carmelo Anthony in Charlotte just might make the most sense.
Anthony is the offensive star who can create something out of nothing better than just about any player in the NBA. He's a bit more one-dimensional than LeBron James and not nearly as efficient as Kevin Durant, but he's still a dynamic player. Anthony's offense proved versatile enough for New York to play him at power forward, which helped them stretch the floor for their shooters and hiding their problems in the frontcourt outside of Tyson Chandler. Using his talents similarly in Charlotte could be a good fit for them to stretch their offense too. Anthony's made out to be a black hole on offense, as many offensive stars are -- he does use a large percentage of possessions -- but that doesn't mean he's not a good passer. And he has been a rather good one, especially out of double-teams, as Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal noted.
Anthony's defensive issues are there, and might be overblown a bit, but the biggest problem might just be having to maintain focus and effort while also doing the same at an extremely high level on offense too. To be fair, that can be a big issue. And playing Anthony at power forward wouldn't help the Hornets' frontcourt defense, for sure, not that Josh McRoberts was a monster rim protector. But he did rotate well and use his body to defend in the paint. A lack of effort to rotate would leave Jefferson on an island, which could give the defense problems. Still, that could be helped in ways we just don't know yet. It would just be a bridge to be crossed.
The main obstacle would probably be financially. The maximum salary for a free agent with 10 or more years' experience is 35 percent of the salary cap, which is expected to be $63.2 million next year. This puts a possible contract for Anthony at $88.48 million over four years, for an average of $22.12 million a year. However, the first year of a contract is no less than 105 percent of their previous year's salary. That would mean Anthony's first season would be about $23.52 million, a figure well above the Hornets' cap space.
By my calculations, if the Hornets renounce all free agents -- Josh McRoberts, Luke Ridnour, everyone -- and waive both Jeff Taylor and the incoming Alonzo Gee, they'd still only have a total team salary with cap holds for Noah Vonleh and P.J. Hairston of about $42 million, giving them cap space of about $21.2 million. If they can convince Anthony to tax less than the max contract, they could backload the contract to give them some leeway to make it work now.
Even then, this could compound some problems that will happen down the line when the Hornets' young players eventually transition out of their rookie contracts. Kemba Walker will be a restricted free agent next summer, assuming they give him a qualifying offer (duh), which would give them the ability to match any offers in free agency to keep him. So you can assume he won't be paid $3.3 million next year, though the Hornets can go over the cap to keep him. Gary Neal can be let go that summer, and Bismack Biyombo might not get a huge pay increase in free agency, so it might not be a huge bottleneck for the Hornets' free agency, but it definitely would make it more difficult.
Anyway, this is probably an exercise in futility and little more than speculative thought that goes on to mean nothing, but it's fun to think about. Carmelo Anthony's offensive versatility doesn't mean he has to encroach upon Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's extremely valuable team defense as they could play together. And the fit could be stupendous as an offensive game-changer.
But it's just all extremely unlikely.