Carmelo Anthony turned 33 on Monday, set to enter his 15th season in the NBA as a New York Knick until further notice.
Anthony is one of the superstars that emerged from the 2003 NBA Draft, using his highly-developed mid-range game and athleticism to become one of the league's top players as the Denver Nuggets' No. 3 pick. His individual brilliance with the Nuggets put him on the map.
The Nuggets struggled to contend as Anthony reached a breaking point, failing to get over the hump with the franchise. Eventually he demanded a trade to the Knicks, and that's where the superstar sits after failing to make the playoffs in each of the past four seasons.
What comes next in Anthony's career seems to be up in the air. Knicks president Phil Jackson has been open about it potentially being mutually beneficial for the sides to part ways, but it's unclear if that's something resolved in the summer of 2017.
Anthony's hitting the latter portion of his career, with better days behind him and an elusive trip to the NBA Finals to capture a ring to figure out. We figured there'd be no better time than now to make a few birthday wishes for Anthony's future.
Finding a time machine
Anthony's bread, butter, toaster oven and spreading knife are the many ways he can score. He's a big, versatile point forward who has the kind of skillset that has aged well and still fits in the NBA today.
If he could find a time machine, he could bring his younger self back and be one of the NBA's most fierce young scoring forwards. One of the problems he ran into with Denver was the lack of a second-fiddle to go with him.
The modern NBA is in the perfect place for someone like Anthony to thrive, but at 33 he's just not the athletic specimen he once was. That affects his defense, isolation capabilities and fast break tendencies.
That's perhaps the reason many NBA fans have felt sympathy for Anthony over the course of his career. He's artful in the craft of basketball, clearly one of the most skilled scorers the league has seen in the last decade. That's never translated to team success, and he's never had great teams around him.
Which leads us to the next wish.
A contender comes calling
The best thing possible seems to be a contender putting a call in to the Knicks to inquire about trading for Anthony. The Knicks' price to take Anthony off their hands will have to be low with how Jackson has diminished the franchise's leverage.
This would give Anthony an opportunity to join a "good" team that didn't have to gut its core in order to acquire him. One of the big hurdles the Knicks have faced is restocking their roster after giving away key pieces in the package they sent Denver.
Anthony and the Knicks are a long ways away from making the playoffs, let alone contending while LeBron dominates the Eastern Conference. Now may be the time for everyone to wash their hands and part ways.
The Knicks would be able to focus rebuilding around Kristaps Porzingis and the incoming No. 8 pick, along with any free agency opportunities clearing Anthony's remaining $53 million in salary space over two years creates.
Carmelo still has more than enough in his tank to be a lethal part of a superteam, make no mistake about it.
Things don't get worse
There's also a chance that Anthony and the Knicks don't go their separate ways this summer. The Knicks could play it slow if they don't find a deal they like, or if Anthony doesn't waive his no-trade clause for a destination he doesn't like.
The biggest thing for Anthony is that things don't get worse. The Knicks could make a playoff push if they take a step forward together, and depending on how the offseason plays out. Ultimately the sides may end up needing each other for at least one more season.
Anthony will have to hope for a clean bill of health through his 15th season, which he could opt to make his final if he's not traded. Carmelo has an early termination option that could make him a free agent in 2018, but he'd be walking away from a guaranteed $27.9 million.
That's a huge chunk of change and a number he'd be unlikely to find elsewhere. The prospect of coming close to that number hinges on Anthony proving that he's still a valuable player despite being 33.
Anthony's time as one of the NBA's marquee names isn't over yet, but the clock is definitely ticking on his championship window. An escape from New York may be imminent and helpful to both sides, but nothing's over until it's over.