Free agent All-Star Carmelo Anthony is still deciding his future, contemplating a return to the New York Knicks or a possible departure to the Lakers.
Though the Knicks can technically reward Anthony with a bigger contract than the Lakers can, the economics aren't quite that simple.
New York can give Anthony a five-year, $129.1-million contract while the Lakers are limited to four years at $95.9 million.
At first glance, a Knicks offer could pay an additional $33.2 million, but that doesn't tell the entire story.
According to New Jersey-based certified public accountant Robert Raiola, after taxes Anthony might net closer to $66.7 million with the Knicks, compared to $49.3 million with the Lakers.
New York's offer would still be larger, but by a more modest $17.4 million.
Independent salary cap expert Larry Coon argues the comparison itself is moot, unless the player is primarily focused on guaranteed salary.
"Comparing a four-year contract to a five-year contract is like comparing apples to oranges," Coon told The Times. "A player who signs a four-year contract can presume he will sign for a fifth year down the line. It's not a matter of leaving that money on the table, it's a matter of locking in that money, and his future value, right now."
Anthony would be 34 after a four-year contract, eligible for another three-year deal.
"For Anthony, other factors may come into play," said Coon. "There could be a new collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players' union in 2017. It could very well be more favorable to the players.
"In addition, the NBA is expected to negotiate a new national television deal in 2016, which could significantly increase revenues and salaries. Anthony could take advantage by timing his next free agency for 2017."
It's relatively common for star players to get opt-outs a year before their final season. A four-year deal might have a player option after three seasons; that would make Anthony a free agent again in 2017.
On the other hand, Anthony and his advisors may opt for an even shorter deal if they anticipate the next collective bargaining agreement will be less favorable to the players.
"It might make sense for Anthony to time his next free agency for 2016, so he can lock in as many years as possible under the league's current agreement," said Coon. "So he may want just a three-year contract right now, with an opt-out in two years. It all depends on how he reads the market -- but neither potential scenario includes signing a five-year deal."
The Knicks can offer the longest contract and the largest guaranteed paycheck, but Anthony will have other considerations to sort through while deciding where to play.
In addition to the Knicks and Lakers, the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks have pitched to the high-scoring forward.