Carmelo Anthony at 33rd Street and Ninth Avenue.

Carmelo Anthony at 33rd Street and Ninth Avenue.

Carmelo Anthony was recently posed with a hypothetical: What if the Milwaukee Bucks had the ability to offer more money than the Knicks. Would you go to Milwaukee or sign with the Knicks?

"I'd still go to New York," he said.

Many players, including Anthony, and agents spent the weekend blasting the NBA's revised proposal -- which will be presented by the union to the 30 player representatives tomorrow morning -- and believe it remains too restrictive. The suggestion is that small market teams are winning the day with their ambition to level the playing field in competition for free agents.

But in the end, small-market teams may still be unable to compete for top players.

"It would still be difficult if you're in Minneapolis," one NBA executive with knowledge of the revised proposal told Newsday. "If you're in Minneapolis, you need full max."

But if you're in favorable markets such as New York, Los Angeles or Miami, you still have the advantage as long as you have a winning team. That isn't big-city arrogance. In this sport, like baseball, it's reality.

"At the end of the day, you'd still have to find A players with B-plus money and B players on C-plus money," the executive said. "But you can do it in New York."

Chris Paul, one of Anthony's closest friends in the league and the orator of the famous "our own Big Three" toast at Melo's wedding in July 2010, is the 2012 free agent most linked to the Knicks. But it is possible the Knicks could make a play for guard Deron Williams or even center Dwight Howard.

Based on projections based on the current proposal that expect the cap to hold at $58 million over the first two years of the deal (with a $70 million luxury tax threshold), the Knicks may not have enough room to offer a full max salary to any of these All-Stars, but the executive pointed to how the Heat cleaned up in 2010 because the Big Three had personal motivation. "LeBron didn't take all the money," the executive said of James, who took over $2 million per year less than the max for the opportunity to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Under the rules of the previous agreement, the Knicks could have circumvented cap restrictions by acquiring Paul from the Hornets in what was known as an extend-and-trade deal, which is how Anthony became a Knick last February. The Nuggets traded Anthony, who, like Paul, had the threat of an opt-out in his contract, and the Knicks immediately signed him to a contract extension.

The new agreement prohibits the extend-and-trade, but you are permitted to acquire a player with an expiring contract or an opt-out and then sign him to an extension after a six-month waiting period.

So, if a deal is reached, the Knicks could attempt to trade for Paul in December and technically be allowed to sign him to an extension by June, before he hits free agency.

Another loophole in the revised proposal that may benefit the Knicks later in the deal involves the midlevel exception. A team that goes into the free agency period under the luxury tax threshold may go over it to re-sign its own players and still use the full midlevel ($5 million). This is key for a team that may need one more critical piece for a title run.

In this exclusive case, similarly to NFL cap rules, the team would then have until Oct. 15 to get back under the tax threshold to be in compliance.

With Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire in the fold, the Knicks were already committed to almost $40 million a year for two players. A hard cap would limit their ability to build around these stars, let alone add a third. But with a soft cap, even with punitive luxury tax restrictions, and the revises made to the current proposal, the Knicks can continue to think big.

The Dolan family owns

controlling interest in the Knicks, MSG and Cablevision.

Cablevision owns Newsday.