By J.M. Poulard
Once upon a time, going to the movies was considered a big deal. After all, movies are a great form of entertainment and in the past, the only way to view recent cinematic masterpieces was to hit the movie theaters.
That has since changed.
With the internet, cell phones and piracy, the craving for the movie-going experience simply isn’t the same, unless it’s a hugely popular movie.
New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony’s career has taken the same trajectory. His reliance on the most inefficient shot in the sport. the mid-range jumper, coupled with his inability to consistently lead his teams deep into the playoffs or simply make them has made him an NBA afterthought.
It’s worth noting when Melo joined the league, he and LeBron James were expected to re-create the heated rivalry of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
James kept his end of the bargain by spending half of his career in the NBA Finals, while Anthony has spent just about the same amount of time at home come late April.
As a result, the high-scoring Anthony is mostly viewed as a gunner and his career average of 24.8 points per game on 45.2 percent shooting reinforces his reputation. Keep in mind, the Knicks have missed the playoffs in three straight seasons despite residing in a fairly weak Eastern Conference, which is an added blemish on Anthony’s resume.
From afar, one can easily surmise Carmelo Anthony brings very little to the table for a winning program. After all, his reluctance to play defense, be a force on the boards and low assists numbers are somewhat damning for a player with his gifts.
A talented 6-foot-8, 240-pound scorer should do more.
That’s always been the problem with Melo, though. The expectations placed on him, as opposed to what he actually does and is.
The man can score. It’s not always efficient, but he gets buckets.
Anthony relies on the worse shot in basketball to manufacture points, which in turn hurts his productivity. Almost half (47.9 percent) of his field goal attempts last season came from the mid-range area.
The best teams and players in the league now understand the best shots are either in the restricted area or from the three-point line. Anything in between is damning.
With that said, Melo makes 45.4 percent of those shots, which is an excellent mark when one considers New York played with a huge lack of spacing last season. Anthony routinely had to operate with defenders within proximity, which left him with very little offensive option.
To his credit, Melo tried to get teammates involved by swinging the ball to avoid sucking the air out of the offense. He was decisive and tried not to force things too much.
Have a look:
That’s a good set for Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks. He has no driving room with Andre Drummond near the rim, and also, Anthony is a willing but not necessarily accurate passer; which means the preference is to get him in scoring position on the block to shoot.
It’s a similar situation below:
All eyes are on Melo. The entire defense is ready to pounce on his move, which is why it’s important for him to get into his move with a bit of quickness.
Now, try to imagine a world where there isn’t as much defensive attention on Anthony. For instance, should he join the Houston Rockets or Cleveland Cavaliers—the two teams he is reportedly willing to join by waiving his no-trade clause—that’s the kind of scenario Anthony could enjoy.
Alongside a tandem of Chris Paul and James Harden, or LeBron James and (perhaps) Kevin Love, Anthony would be flanked by playmakers and shooters to stretch the floor and give him opportunities to attack single coverage.
Here’s an idea at what that might look like:
It’s worth noting Anthony typically draws the best perimeter defender of the opposing team, whereas in Houston or Cleveland, he would be drawing a lesser defender; which should allow Anthony to attack an inferior defender either on the block or via pick-and-roll, where early-shot-clock switches can be deadly.
These are great sets for Anthony to utilize when operating as the hub of the second-unit offense or possibly as a secondary option with the starters. Melo is at his best when he can get an open jumper against a sagging defender or an easy path to the basket with very minimal resistance.
He’s a poor finisher in traffic and struggles to hit teammates with pinpoint passing when swarmed, thus highlighting the importance of getting him on the move with help defenders occupied with shooters.
The other area where he will be a stud on a somewhat stacked team is floor spacing. According to Synergy Sports, Anthony made 41.8 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-pointers last season. As a reference point, Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson made 43.3 percent of his treys during the 2016-17 campaign.
Depending on the cost, Melo can certainly help boost the offense for either Houston or Cleveland with his overall package of shooting and low-post scoring.
Sports Illustrated’s Rohan Nadkarni shared as much a few weeks ago:
“I’m not saying Anthony is going to morph into the younger version of himself who led the league in scoring in 2013. But Melo as a third option? Playing off the ball and feasting on catch-and-shoot threes? Playing off stars in the prime of their careers? That’s the ideal situation for any player in the league, let alone someone with as much talent as Anthony.”
The only issue left to sort out is whether Anthony would be willing to subjugate some his game for the good of the team. After all, he’s been the No. 1 option on every NBA team he’s played on.
One might think that waiving his no-trade clause is a clear cut indication Anthony is ready to be a third option, but superstars with egos tend to think they can recalibrate the pecking order of whatever team they join.
In Anthony’s case, though, he’s already accepted a diminished role when playing with the national team. Granted, a team comprised of the very best players in the world isn’t quite the same as playing on a professional club with one or two players ahead of you in terms of talent and shot attempts.
Luckily, Melo answered this question back in 2015.
“Oh yeah, I don’t have a problem with that. If I had a chance to be the second option, I will definitely be the second option,” Anthony said, per ESPN NY’s Ian Begley. “That just takes the load off of me. For me, I don’t have to go out there and do it every night. So I think everybody, All-Star players, we want that light, we want to be the focal point of our team, of our organization. But if we get somebody to come in and help us out, that’s a load off of us. That’s helpful to me, that’s helpful to the other star that’s coming in, that’s helpful to the whole team.”
That’s the kind of attitude teams with established superstars will most certainly appreciate and welcome. Anthony could very well be the missing piece for a contender, and one has to take a chance at acquiring him for the right price.
Movie theaters might be going out of style, but the right movie will make you take a chance on it…and Melo in Houston or Cleveland is the right movie.