In what at this point seems to have been more of a formality than a recent decision, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Carmelo Anthony will be parting ways. Anthony has been given permission to speak with other teams regarding a trade.
Reports suggest he has spoken to the Houston Rockets and the Miami Heat, the former of which figures to be the favorite to win whatever prize Anthony might be at this stage of his career.
Anthony’s career has been an enigma of sorts. Having been the go-to option on every team he’s played on throughout his life until this past season, Melo possesses an offensive skill set that has been matched by few in any era.
At his peak, he was a feathery bully. Known both for his off the dribble attacks and his frequent face-up game from the post, he combined a blend of size and strength that few defenders in his era were able to contain. He was, and occasionally still is, a scoring talent that has been matched by just a handful of players.
The fact that his contributions have always seemed to stop here–as a great scorer with no further adjectives to describe his game-by-game display–has been the unsolvable riddle thus far for Anthony.
The Understandable Optimism Carmelo Anthony Brings
No matter your ultimate opinion about Carmelo’s overall game and place in history, these are undeniable components that must be factored in to your analysis:
—Here is Carmelo Anthony’s career per-game stat line, with Kobe Bryant’s directly below it:
Though there are obviously small differences, the net result on paper is very similar. One guy is considered arguably the best of his era, and one is frequently referred to as a bum or some similar descriptor.
–Anthony is 34 years old. Conservatively, if he were to play 3 more seasons and score 3,500 more points (his lowest 3-year point total is 4,198, mainly due to a knee injury in 2015 that caused him to miss 42 games), he would pass Shaq for 10th on the all time scoring list. This would remain the case until Kevin Durant eventually passes him half a decade from now.
–These are the players inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame since 2010 with fewer career points than Anthony (those highlighted in red also have less total career rebounds):
- Tracy McGrady
- George McGinnis
- Allen Iverson
- Yao Ming
- Dikembe Mutombo
- Alonzo Mourning
- Mitch Richmond
- Gary Payton
- Mel Daniels
- Reggie Miller
- Ralph Sampson
- Chris Mullin
- Dennis Johnson
- Scottie Pippen
Carmelo Anthony was and is, by simple optics of both numbers and game footage, a phenomenal basketball player. Adding him theoretically raises the ceiling on any team you place him on, even at 34 years old.
Why He Has Been and Will Be Disappointing
Playing with two other bonafide stars for the first time in his career last year, he did nothing to change the common discourse of who he is as a player, averaging career lows in points, assists, and field goal percentage. Forced off the ball for the first time in his career, he struggled mightily to find his flow and make consistent, meaningful contributions.
For most that have rooted for him, and likely for those teams that he will play for, he will be best summed up as “disappointing.”
At the root of this disappointment is the most obvious aspect: lack of consistent defensive effort. It’s no secret that this has been the main criticism of his game for as long as he has been around, and it is not unfounded. Though convincing in spurts and athletic enough to guard multiple positions when his heart was in it, he often becomes a ball-watching clog for long stretches. This habit has defined him on this end of the court and has seemingly never improved by any substantial measure.
His powerhouse isolation game on the offensive end has often lacked rounding as well. When he is not the focal point of the offense or just a particular game, he has routinely either forced the action or receded into the background. Though an effective rebounder for most of his career, his insistence against or inability to mold his game over the years to a more team-friendly style will make him a “what-if” case for a long time. Anthony thrives only when the offense fits him, and becomes an average spot-up shooter when it does not, with little else in the arsenal.
A Path to a Ring?
Not on Houston or Miami.
On the Rockets, his worst tendency would be encouraged and his lack of ability off the ball would be magnified. Slotting into an iso-heavy offense, he would likely be as ineffective as ever, operating in take-turn fashion with Houston’s other superstars as the third banana. James Harden and Chris Paul simply own too heavy a majority of their iso-heavy offense for Anthony to thrive. Both are better players than Anthony by a good margin at this stage in their careers.
A Miami team slotting Anthony at a wing alongside Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade is a little more intriguing fit. Wade is more than happy to be more of a role player at this point. Dragic, though only an average distributor, frequently beats his defender and creates gaps in the defense, something that should tailor well to Anthony.
Again, theoretically. Anthony’s repeated tendency to remain ineffective as an ancillary ball handler has been persistent, and there’s no reason to figure he changes this at 35 years old in Miami.
But the one place he has a real shot to win the elusive championship he has yet to sniff? Next to the guy who’s simple existence guarantees the team a trip to the Conference Finals.
Carmelo Anthony Should Absolutely Sign with the Lakers and Play with LeBron James
LeBron is the one player who I can fathom Carmelo’s skill set still being useful to. Anthony has never played with someone who distributes the ball as James does. This is because no player since 2003 has played with such a player if they have not played with James, New Jersey Nets/Phoenix Suns Jason Kidd, New Orleans Hornets Chris Paul, or Phoenix Suns Steve Nash.
This potential obviously hinges, as usual, on LeBron James mastery of basketball and ability to mold his game to fit those around him in the best way possible. Thhis talent may be the last thing saving Anthony from a career defined by consistently underperforming teams.
With all this evidence of Carmelo Anthony grinding offenses to a halt and turning into a ghost on defense..
Would I want him on my team? If the Pacers were able to fit Carmelo on the team in a financially smart way, would I encourage it? As my good pal** Sarah would squawk:
I know it would fail. 100%. But in the mean-time, I would bathe in the essence that both Carmelo Anthony and sports continue to bring:
In reality though?
I sleep well knowing Carmelo Anthony’s lasting legacy could very well be swallowing a basketball whole at the hands of Roy f**king Hibbert.
Stay Me7o folks.
**Sarah is not my pal and frankly, I think she stinks. Respectfully of course. We just wouldn’t, ya know, “get along.”