Following his brief and forgettable ten-game stint as a member of the Houston Rockets, Carmelo Anthony’s NBA stock is at an all-time low. Combine this recent news with his infamous failure as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s “OK3” with Paul George and Russell Westbrook, and it is easy to see why the player whose fans affectionately call “Melo” has fallen on hard times as his future in the league remains uncertain.
Melo’s NBA career has been met with consistent and harsh criticism from the NBA community, at large due to his lack of championships, as well as his lackluster defense and iso-centric style of play. While Melo’s style of play has not aged gracefully, that does not take anything away from a great career that will undoubtedly see him be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
To understand why Melo has struggled so much in the past year or so, a number of factors must be considered; the first of which is age. Melo is entering his 16th year in the Association, which is a perfectly reasonable time for a player to begin to experience severe decline. This decline appears to be even more reasonable when you compare Melo to his contemporaries in the renowned 2003 NBA Draft. With the exception of LeBron James, every other impact player in that class has either already retired or has also experienced a significant decline in performance as well. Those names include future Hall of Famers such as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. LeBron James is quite possibly the best 16-year veteran in the history of the league and is not the norm when it comes to career longevity. It’s clear that Melo is simply another one of Father Time’s victims.
The other factor in Melo’s decline is simply his style of play and how it relates to the style of play in the rest of the league. The current climate of the NBA dismisses mid-range shooting in favor of 3-point shooting in order to improve spacing. Due to the increased spacing, the importance of a strong perimeter defense has increased as well. This change in play has proven to be very problematic for Melo, as his game directly contradicts these things. Melo has never been a strong defender, and that has only become more of a problem as he grows older and it becomes more of a necessary skill in order to be a productive wing player.
Also, Melo’s strongest offensive attribute is his ability to make the very contested mid-range shots that the league has all but dismissed in favor of 3-point shooting. Although some players such as DeMar DeRozan have managed to persist on the strength of their mid-range game, Melo is no longer in the prime of his career and cannot justify being the primary option in an offense
Despite all of this, the main reason that Carmelo Anthony is soon to find himself unemployed is his 3-point shooting. In the past two seasons, the Thunder and Rockets have attempted to use Melo as a catch and shoot specialist hoping that he could convert on the easier looks he would gain due to no longer being the focus on offense. This was highly unsuccessful, however, as Melo has been horribly inefficient in his past 88 games with the two aforementioned franchises, shooting 34.7 percent of his threes in that time frame, which is slightly below league average of approximately 36 percent. Combine that with even worse productivity on the defensive end and it is easy to understand how Melo is now on the verge of being out of the league.
With that being said, Melo’s legacy should not be defined with the past two years of his career. He was one of the greatest scorers of his era, a 3x Gold Medalist and USA Basketball’s all-time points leader, an NCAA Champion and one of the most popular high school basketball players of all time. Carmelo Anthony was a revitalizing force for a dormant Denver Nuggets franchise which had gone nine years without a playoff appearance prior to his arrival.
Following his arrival, Melo guided the Nuggets to seven consecutive playoff appearances before being traded to the New York Knicks. Melo had a similar impact in New York, ending a seven-year playoff drought and replacing it with three consecutive postseason appearances. So, when you hear the name Carmelo Anthony, remember the 10x All-Star, 6x All-NBA selection and 2013 scoring champion.