Carmelo Anthony’s Rocket ship seems to be landing early, as reports are flowing that the Houston Rockets are preparing to part ways with him as soon as this week.
The mouthpieces of the organization have been quick to praise Anthony. When questioned about his future with the team, GM Daryl Morey called the speculation “unfair”. Chris Paul said he’s “been great here” while referring to him as a future hall-of-famer. Still, both left their answers open ended when it came to definitively stating whether he would be a Rocket going forward.
Furthermore, Anthony did not travel to Indiana on Sunday night for the Houston Rockets victory over the Indiana Pacers due to an “illness”. All considered, the lines appear easy to read between.
No Surprises Here
This action will be of no surprise to anyone that has followed the start to Anthony’s season. Moved into a bench role for the first time in his career, Anthony has been unable to find his niche, averaging near-career lows across the board.
He’s even shooting below 70% from the free throw line, a mark that you would think would be unaffected by his declining stature in other facets of the game. While it may be insignificant when compared to his other shortcomings this year, it only serves to show that Anthony could be beyond repair at this point.
The Song Remains the Same for Anthony
Anthony’s struggles this year appear no different than they were last year playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Even though he was finally able to cope with coming off the bench this year (he laughed at the concept as recent as last year), Anthony has truly been a maddening case of player steadfastly refusing to adapt his game to his current situation and skill-set.
Never a hyper-efficient player, Anthony on-court productivity has somehow declined further as his usage has gone down. Though his shots attempted per game declined from 19 to 15 in 2017-2018, and 15 to 12 this season, his field goal percentage has shrunk with that as well, declining from 43% in his last year with the Knicks (also below his career average) to just above 40% the past two years.
His scoring decline could be mitigated of course were he willing to adapting himself to the roles he finds himself in at this current stage of his career. Unfortunately, he appears neither willing nor able to become anything other than an iso-dependant chucker that shoots below average on spot-up three pointers. A good portion of his shots still look like this:
Certainly, as one of the best isolation players in the history of the NBA, Carmelo feels comfortable working in this avenue. He likely feels he’s earned the right to take those shots. And in an NBA where those shots simply don’t produce high-quality offense for him anymore, it’s disappointing to see a player as great as Anthony being reduced to a non-factor because he won’t adapt.
What’s His Next Step?
Certainly Anthony is not done with basketball. He appears to have every intention of playing for at least a few more years. Whether he can find a spot where he’s able to make a difference continues to look more and more bleak.
Two potential contenders have taken shots on him in the past two years, only to see him depart both teams (assuming Houston waives him) early due to the fits not working out. It’s not crazy to think the Lakers could take a flier on him, as they are a young team who theoretically could use another offensive threat and a guy with many years of experience.
Could he find a niche alongside LeBron James, a guy he once was compared to when evaluating the league’s best talent? It seems to have as good a chance as any, but recent experience makes that possibility seem like a long-shot.
Outside of finding himself on the Lakers, Anthony’s next stop will be somewhere he doesn’t want to be at this stage in his career: a non-contender. A place where he will dwindle further into mediocrity but may be able to contribute in the ways he has always known. We will likely find out in the next week or so.
Until then, let’s remember that the shell of a player we see today is more of a recent event. Carmelo Anthony truly is a hall-of-famer, and one of the most well-rounded isolation players to ever play the game.
- / 10 months ago
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