Carmelo Anthony 64
I love the title of this article so much. I am not sure how many of you are familiar with the Nintendo 64, but it is one of the greatest video game consoles ever. It was a console that allowed four people to play at once and it still holds up today despite its flaws like poor graphics and no online play. I could sit down with a Nintendo 64, Super Smash Bros., and three good friends and have fun for hours. Even though this is true, it does not mean that the Nintendo 64 is better than the Playstation 4 or XBox One, it just means that it is a good system under the right circumstances. The same can be said for Carmelo Anthony and players with his skill set. ESPN made headlines this past week with their NBA rankings where Carmelo Anthony was ranked at number 64. A great deal of people jumped to Carmelo Anthony’s defense, including some of my colleagues at Off the Glass Basketball. Another group of people jumped to the side of stating that Carmelo belongs this low. I myself fall into the latter category and have had some great discussions on Twitter about this. I love to talk with people about rankings and which players are more valuable/better than others. It gives you a chance to see what people value in basketball and what they feel is important.
Let’s start with the argument for Carmelo. He is one of the most gifted scorers in the history of the league. He has a good stroke from outside and has the body to bully smaller defenders down low. Although he has never been to the Finals, he has had some great moments as a basketball player, winning an NCAA Championship, winning multiple gold medals with the U.S. Men’s National Team at the Olympics, four time All-NBA 3rd team, two time All-NBA 2nd team, and finished 3rd in the MVP voting in 2013. He won a scoring title that season and led the Knicks to their best record since the 1996-97 season. He continues to be one of the best scorers in the league and he can get you 20 a game if he gets shots.
The argument against Carmelo is much more appealing in my view. Things have fallen apart since that 2012-13 season and although Carmelo has continued to consistently score for the Knicks, he has not done much else for the team and they have been terrible. These last two seasons have been two of his worst in terms of scoring output and field goal percentage. The last two seasons, according to Basketball Reference, Carmelo Anthony has shot 43% on roughly 18 shots per game. While I am not saying that this means Carmelo is not good at basketball I feel that he has no other skills besides scoring. He brings nothing to the team in terms of defense, rebounding, or passing.
While scoring the basketball is a valuable talent, it does not mean much if you cannot do it efficiently. Last season, Carmelo Anthony shot 43% on roughly 19 attempts per game scoring 22.4 points per game, and dishing out 3 assists per game. Using the beautiful tool from Basketball Reference, this season has happened 5 times since 2010. Carmelo has had this season twice. The other players in this group are Devin Booker from last season, DeMar DeRozan from 2013-14, and Kevin Martin from 2010-2011. To say that Carmelo is a top 50 player in the league, he needs to be more efficient. Devin Booker played on a terrible Suns team that tanked last season and he is 20, but Carmelo played on a terrible team and he is 32. There is a reason that he is not in the top 50. His top 50 days are over because his play style does not lead to wins and it is not valuable. Monta Ellis could score 22 a game if you give him 18 shots, does that mean he should be top 50 as well?
In closing, the problem that I have with the argument is that people pretend like saying he is not top 50 means that his career is over. Absolutely not, I think Carmelo has many good years left and he can help a team win, but if he is your best player you will not win. If he is your best player, you will not be a playoff team. However, put him on a team like Houston or Portland with players that he might respect and he becomes a valuable player again in my estimation. His most successful seasons were in 2009 and 2013 featuring leaders in Chauncey Billups in 2009 and Jason Kidd in 2013. Carmelo is not a leader and he needs those kind of guys on a team with him. That is why Olympic Melo was so good because he was playing with amazing players that he respected. Carmelo Anthony could become huge for a good team like Houston. If he was willing to come off the bench he could prove extremely valuable in the postseason. While I think Carmelo could become one of the greatest 6th men ever if he embraced the role, I do not think he ever would and despite the belief I have in his ability to score, he is not a top 50 player. Just like the Nintendo 64 being able to give you hours of enjoyment with a group of friends, Carmelo can give you nights where he takes over games and you realize he’s great. The next day though, that Nintendo 64 is going right back into the closet, just like Carmelo goes back to scoring 20 shooting 40% and the Knicks lose. I’m sorry, he is not top 50.