NBA 50 Greatest Players: Carmelo Anthony (#49)
Since entering the League, the only guy you could argue that has been a better (and more consistent) scorer than Melo has been Lebron James. In 7 out of his 10 seasons, he has averaged over 25 points per game, and hasn’t averaged under 20. In 6 out of his last 7 playoff campaigns, he has averaged at least 26 ppg (with a high of 30.7 ppg in 2010). Arriving New York has not slowed him down in the slightest (24.8 ppg with Denver, 26.3 ppg with the Knicks) despite vastly different playing styles and talent around him. His offensive repertoire has evolved over time and has perhaps the best midrange jumper in the NBA, along with a strong post game and the ability to get to the rim and the foul line, and because of these factors he was able to win the scoring title last season (28.7 ppg). He’s a 2-time Olympic Gold Medallist (and was voted player of the tournament in the 2012 London Olympics) and as a freshman was able to lead Syracuse to a NCAA tournament whilst picking up most outstanding player in the final 4. He’s been a 7 time all-star, and was voted to the ALL-NBA 2nd team twice and 3rd team 4 times.
The case against:
Despite the success in college and in the Olympics, Carmelo has only been deep into the NBA playoffs once (in 2009 when the Nuggets were 2 games away from the NBA finals). Last season, the Knicks jumped out to a 3-0 lead before dropping the next 2 games and squeaking into the second round for only the second time in Carmelo’s career. That’s not good enough, and is why his ranking is fairly low here. The beauty of this is despite him being in the league for 10 seasons, he is in his prime and his game isn’t dependant on explosiveness but rather skill, so he could have 4 or 5 more seasons at this level before we start to see a decline. He does need another long playoff run or two before it’s all said and done however to erase this asterisk from his legacy. If he’s able to get a ring or two, we’re talking about a top 20 player of all time (assuming he’s leading the team and not championship chasing). One can argue that he deserves this, to be in a mess of a team that is the New York Knicks because he essentially demanded it in his contract year, but to Carmelo’s credit he has always shown up to play and play hard, and has never complained about the team situation. He is, in my opinion, a top 5 player in the NBA and the Knicks would be complete idiots (even more so than they are currently, which is saying a lot…) if they were to trade him before the deadline this year. They need to build around him, and if they put the right pieces around him, then they can be a legitimate contender in the East.
Once teammates, always compared:
Carmelo Anthony, in many ways, is just like his former team-mate, Allen Iverson. Both are fearless scorers and leaders that are capable of putting on the greatest offensive show seen in NBA history on any given night. They are also subject to incredible criticism because they are hard to build teams around and are headstrong in playing the way they are comfortable with. In short, there is no real middle ground here; Fans either love or hate them. Now don’t get me wrong, a lot of the criticism that gets thrown at Melo (as well as Iverson) is purely marketing, with the NBA and their partners (TNT and ESPN) desperate to create “villains” (you probably think I’m crazy, but look at nearly every legitimate superstar in NBA history and you’ll realise they’ve all gone through it, from Kobe to Iverson, Lebron to Garnett, Barkley, Malone, Isiah Thomas… I could go on and on here) for their storylines (similar to the WWE) to generate interest amongst the more casual fans, and the problem is while most NBA fans can identify the B.S., there is a sizable percentage that grasp onto and repeat this rhetoric like parrots. The point I am trying to make here is Carmelo Anthony has been a workhorse for both the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets his entire career, and it’s time we started to appreciate just good he has been before we look back at him like we might look at Tracy McGrady and think “Man, that guy was incredible. Why didn’t he receive more recognition while he was playing?”
Carmelo Anthony vs Mitch Richmond
Mitch was number 52 on my list, and was a pure scorer who also tasted early success in his career with Golden State before being dealt to Sacramento where he valiantly tried to lead them. Mitch, however, couldn’t do a whole lot in the capital of California (their best year was a playoff exit in the first round to the Sonics) and was traded to Washington at the end of next season for Chris Webber. It was here where he would not average 20+ ppg in his career.
These guys played the game similarly in the fact they were productive due to their skills and not athleticism, and this is a reason for their success. Anthony’s winning struggles have been amplified due to the fact that he’s playing in New York, but he’s done a better job keeping them somewhat relevant. Richmond’s Sacramento teams were never over .500, but Carmelo last season lead The Knicks to 50 wins. Mitch was good, but Carmelo has been better.
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