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Earlier this week, Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors broke his hand. Curry will miss significant time, leaving the once dynastic Warriors now looking at a lost season. By the next morning, I started seeing the social media posts. “The Warriors should give Carmelo Anthony a call” or “if Carmelo doesn’t get picked up now, he’s definitely being blackballed.”
In the words of The 3 Point Conversion founder Raphael Haynes: Can I get a stop it?
Carmelo Anthony is done. It is over. No amount of social media posts and conspiracy theories will change that. Seriously, it’s time to let it go.
The typical argument of the “bring Carmelo back” club is something along these lines: “so you think Anthony isn’t better than a good portion of the NBA right now?” The answer to that is yes, he certainly is. Take any NBA roster and plug Anthony into it, he’s at least the 7th or 8th best player on the team and higher up depending on the roster.
Unfortunately for Anthony, that isn’t the point and it honestly never was.
The reality is that Carmelo Anthony simply does not make sense for current NBA rosters. He’s a product of a now defunct iso-heavy era. His style has never evolved and he just is not a fit for modern NBA teams.
The finer details of the lack of evolution to Anthony’s game has been heavily documented by writers better suited to that than I am. I won’t rehash them here (much). What I will do is look at the concept of “right fit” and why there is not a place in the NBA where Carmelo Anthony makes sense. So here we go:
The types of teams people like to say Anthony makes sense for are the contenders who could maybe use a little extra help. I won’t break down every potential team that matches those criteria but let’s briefly look at three of them: The Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors (pre-Curry’s injury and post) and the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Lakers are always the team mentioned first when it comes to Anthony and for good reason. Anthony and LeBron James are very close friends and while the Lakers will be great this season, many believe their roster isn’t quite as good as the Los Angeles Clippers and perhaps Anthony could be what narrows that divide.
First things first: Anthony’s been available for the Lakers to pick up for the better part of a year and they haven’t. If James hasn’t told the Lakers to give his old friend a call by now, he isn’t going to. Ultimately, it’s a matter of fit.
Anthony is an isolation ball stopper who operates in the mid range. Yes, he can absolutely still get buckets in the NBA but not the type the Lakers need. This offense runs through James and Anthony Davis, both of whom also operate in the paint area primarily. Rajon Rondo also does his best work as a creator by getting into the paint. They don’t need someone clogging up the paint, they need floor spacers. That’s why they acquired Danny Green and Jared Dudley and Anthony’s phone remained silent.
So, no Lakers. Next?
It was inevitable Anthony’s name would be mentioned in talks about the Golden State Warriors this summer. With Kevin Durant leaving, along with long term contributors Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, many thought it made sense to bring in Anthony as another scorer. Especially with Klay Thompson sidelined for the season with a knee injury. The Warriors needed replacement scoring and Anthony can score, so why not, right?
Except Anthony is the antithesis of every offensive concept Steve Kerr preaches. The Warriors space the floor, they cut constantly and make the extra pass. None of that is Carmelo Anthony. Even with Durant they sometimes looked like a different team, playing too much isolation ball and neutralizing the effectiveness of Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green.
With Durant they made it work because of Durant’s otherworldly talent and distance shooting. Anthony is well past his prime and not on Durant’s level (even in his prime he wasn’t on Durant’s level) and is nowhere near the three point shooter Durant is. This concept never made sense and makes even less sense with Curry now injured and the Warriors likely lottery bound. Let’s move on, shall we?
The Portland Trailbalzers have also come up in the Anthony debate. A perennially good-not-great team, the Blazers always seem to need one more contributor to help Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum get this team over the hump. Que the Carmelo Anthony questions.
However, Lillard tried to recruit Anthony to Portland…twice. Both times Anthony was not interested. Anthony may have fit well in the Pacific Northwest but his pride got in the way. Beggers can’t be choosers and at the time Anthony still saw himself as a superstar. He didn’t realize the begging was coming, and soon. The Blazers clearly haven’t called since, so that ship has sailed.
These three are just examples. Take any other contending level team and Anthony doesn’t fit for a variety of reasons. Some of them are personal issues but for the vast majority, Anthony just does not make sense from a strategic basketball standpoint. It’s not personal, it’s basketball.
If you take younger, developing teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns or even Anthony’s old team, the New York Knicks, he doesn’t make sense either. Why would an organization want to give 15-20 minutes a night to an over the hill star who is not part of their future plans? Wouldn’t it make more sense to give those minutes to a young, developing player?
The rest of the league falls somewhere in the middle and honestly, they just don’t want the headache of the media circus that comes along with Anthony. The longer this NBA exile goes on, the larger the circus will become if he does return. Sure, Anthony can still get you 15 in the league but so can others who don’t come with anywhere near the baggage.
To be fair, a lot of this is not Carmelo Anthony’s fault but some of it certainly is. His unwillingness to come off the bench in Oklahoma City sent a clear message to NBA executives: he still thinks he’s the same player he was at 28 and hasn’t realized that he isn’t a top 15 player anymore.
Anthony has recently backtracked on those statements, professing a willingness to come off the bench and be a role player. The question is, can he?
Most signs point to no. Carmelo Anthony has never been a role player at any point in his life. He’s always been the man, whether it was high school, AAU, college or the NBA. He was always a go-to scorer. That’s not the job of a role player.
Most role players are asked to do some combination of three things: defend, make threes at a high percentage, rebound. Does any of that sound like Carmelo Anthony?
He’s always been a bad defender and now at age 35, he can’t defend anyone. He’s never been a great three point shooter, just an average one. He’s also never been much of a catch-and-shoot guy, something expected of role players. When motivated, he has been a very good rebounder from the small forward position in spurts but has usually been disinterested in that part of the game.
So at best he can give you some solid rebounding as a role player along with low-efficiency scoring. There are other role players in the league who can do that and also play defense or effectively stretch the floor.
Other older superstars have hung around longer as role players (see: Vince Carter) but they tend to bring something else to the table. They’re mentors, leaders, good locker room guys. Anthony is certainly not a bad guy but he’s also not a guy that’s going to win teammate of the year like Carter did in 2016.
Take an honest look at Carmelo Anthony the basketball player at 35 years old. Not “Carmelo Anthony” the superstar name who was unguardable just a few short years ago. Because that’s the Anthony you’re talking about when you cry foul for him not being in the league anymore. The reality is, that version of Carmelo Anthony no longer exists.