When all is said and done, Carmelo Anthony will go down as one of the most polarizing players of his generation.
Let’s start with the good. Carmelo Anthony is going to the NBA Hall of Fame. This is not up for debate. 10-time all-star, 6-time All-NBA member, and one of 6 players ever to record at least 24,000 points, 6,000 rebounds, 2,500 assists, 1,000 steals and 1,000 3-point field goals. Anthony is also the greatest USA Olympic basketball player ever, having been a member of the team a record four times with 3 golds and one bronze to his name. Add in the fact that he’s the USA Basketball all-time leading scorer, leading rebounder, and leader of games and that’s quite an impressive resume.
Did I forget to mention that as a freshman at Syracuse, he lead the Orange to Jim Boeheim’s only National Championship win in 2003?
Carmel Anthony not only belongs in the Hall of Fame, but he deserves that honor. That’s a fact that should not go unnoticed.
Ok, now it’s time for the bad. Last year, expectations were high for the Oklahoma City Thunder as they formed their own version of a “Big 3” with Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. The team showed signs of promise throughout the regular season, but the Thunder faltered in the playoffs, losing to the Utah Jazz in the first round. Melo played very poorly in that series, averaging just only 11 PPG as well as playing significantly fewer minutes in the final two games. That’s a long ways away from a career 24 PPG scorer.
The playoff series was only a reflection of a disappointing season. Last year marked career lows in scoring, assists, and win shares per 48 minutes. It’s clear that Melo lacks the explosion that once made him unguardable on the offensive end. Seriously, during his prime, one could argue that Melo was the best scoring threat in the NBA even with LeBron James and Kobe Bryant still in the league. His pull up jumper was automatic, he could bully you down low, and had the strength to finish at the rim. Now, it seems that Melo hangs around the key and will primarily take catch-and-shoot 3s.
Now, the Oklahoma City experiment is over as Melo was traded to the Atlanta Hawks, who then bought him out of his contract. The Houston Rockets were the favorite to sign him, and that’s exactly what happened.
So here we are. Carmelo Anthony is now a Rocket. Houston is coming off of their best regular season in history, finishing with a record of 65-17. The Rockets pushed Golden State to their brink with a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Finals before ultimately losing the series. If Chris Paul does not get injured, who knows what happens. The Rockets might have won the NBA Title over the Cavs. Does Melo get the Rockets over the problem that is known as the Warriors?
Side note: It’s crazy that Melo and Mike D’Antoni are reuniting after their rocky relationship in New York. D’Antoni wanted Melo to move the ball more and play power forward, which Melo refused to do and essentially, ran D’Antoni out of town. It’s crazy how things have changed.
The elephant in the room is Melo. Why would a 65 win team take on a player that has been known to command the rock and struggle off the ball? For starters, Melo fits a need at the 3 / stretch 4. The Rockets lost two of their wings, Trevor Ariza and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who happen to be their best defenders, to free agency. Melo can hit an open 3 pointer, which the Rockets shoot at will. If Melo can learn to play third fiddle behind Chris Paul and James Harden, this relationship might work. However, there is one scenario where I see Melo panning out in Houston.
Carmelo Anthony should come off the bench and become the best 6th man in the NBA. I understand that Melo immediately struck the idea of coming off the bench right down after the Thunder lost to the Jazz, but think about it. What is the job of the 6th man? It’s to score the ball. The 6th man is the leader of the second unit, who must put the ball in the basket when the starters need a break. Tell me this is not the perfect job for Melo at this stage in his career. I understand that Eric Gordon is an excellent 6th man for the Rockets, but with the losses of Ariza and Mbah a Moute, Gordon should start at the 3. Melo takes Gordon’s spot as the 6th man and honestly, he can thrive there. Melo can play iso-ball on the elbow and corner and not have to worry about keeping the middle open with CP3 and Harden on the bench. Plus, coming off the bench would put less pressure on Melo to play defense, which is a major weakness, and more emphasis on his offense.
As Carmelo Anthony enters the final chapter of his career, how will this saga end? Will he be able to make it work in Houston? The time has come to reinvent yourself as a 6th man because your ability to score can keep you in the league for years to come.