Without question, Carmelo Anthony the prize of this summer’s NBA free agent class. He’s a top-three scoring talent who has had zero success in the postseason, which in the NBA, means he’s had a lackluster career. So what should this polarizing star do? Stay a New York Knickerbocker, or seek a new address?
As someone who has watched Carmelo play, and watched him closely since September of 2002, I have a pretty good handle on his game. He’s an elite shot maker, subpar defender, and mediocre playmaker. He’s a volume shooter who needs the ball in his hands to succeed. He’s never going to be a spot up shooter and if he isn’t the team’s secondary ball handler at worst, he’ll lose interest and his disinterested and often lazy D will actually get shoddier.
In my opinion, it’s his flaws that have bred his failures. One could make the argument that he hasn’t had the best talent around him, but LeBron James had a whole lot less and willed a team to the NBA Finals. You could put 4 JV high school players with LeBron, or Kevin Durant, or any other true NBA Superstar for that matter, and you’d be guaranteed a playoff berth at least.
So the first step in deciding what he should do is to realize that Carmelo is not a transcendent superstar. He’s not Michael Jordan, Larry Bird or LeBron James. He’s more of a Dominique Wilkins, George Gervin, Bernard King, Allen Iverson type of guy. And that’s certainly not an insult!
Yes, those types of players have historically failed in the postseason, but Carmelo has an advantage they didn’t. In today’s player-friendly world, he can surround himself with what he needs to win. And in the end that’s what he wants.
In an ideal world he’d lead the Knicks to a championship and become a hero in NYC. But this is the real world, and thanks to Amare Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Raymond Felton (on the trading block), and a host of other salary clogging contracts, the Knicks, as constructed today cannot win. But they gave Carmelo a model of what can work.
While this past season was a nightmare, the season before was a dream, until the Miami Heat delivered a rude awakening. That team had spot-up shooters that could several possessions without touching the ball, but were ready when needed (Steve Novak, Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith). That team had interior defensive toughness (Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin). That team was almost perfect for Carmelo. The one thing it lacked was a second star; a secondary offensive weapon to carry the load when Melo was misfiring. J.R. Smith did a decent imitation of that kind of player, but as this past season showed, he’s not that guy.
Thanks to the contracts mentioned above, there’s no way the Knicks, even with the Zenmaster Phil Jackson at the helm, can bring in a second star. I’ve heard the Kevin Love rumors, but to be honest, is that really the answer? Another guy who has never even made the playoffs and doesn’t play great D? Yes Love is a great rebounder and offensive talent, but that’s putting a lot of pressure on an aging Tyson Chandler to anchor the middle. Carmelo has no choice if he wants to win; he needs to leave New York.
So where does he go? There are two viable option; Chicago and Houston.
Houston, in theory, would be perfect. Dwight Howard anchoring the defense, James Harden as the second star, and Patrick Beverly running the point with Chandler Parsons spotting up on the outside. The only problem is making enough room to give Carmelo an adequate amount of money. I don’t think Carmelo is going at that big of a discount, and as such, I’m ruling out Houston.
There is only one team that can offer Carmelo max money, while still having everything he needs to win: the Chicago Bulls. Once they amnesty Carlos Boozer, and make some minor moves elsewhere, they could sign Carmelo while keeping Derrick Rose, a former MVP and Joakim Noah, the Defensive Player of the Year. Mike Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler provide excellent shooting, and Coach Tom Thibodeau makes better defenders out of everyone. It’s a match made in heaven.
Rose and Melo are a great match because of Rose’s prowess as a playmaker. They won’t have to alternate possessions and I think will play well off of each other. Especially coming back from the surgeries, Rose will welcome someone else taking on a large part of the offensive burden. Harden and Melo, on the other hand, would be jockeying for possessions.
Rose and Melo are also both hungry. Rose hungry to prove he can come back from two devastating injuries and be an MVP caliber player, and Melo hungry to prove he can win.
Come July, if Anthony wants his career to be remembered for something other than fantastic scoring outputs, and a lone championship back in college, he should join the red and black in the Windy City and give the Miami Heat a formidable opponent in the Eastern Conference. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for New Yorkers, but it’s the right thing for Carmelo.