While there are many valid reasons why Carmelo Anthony doesn’t currently have an NBA team to call his own, the argument that he is no longer one of the best 450 basketball players on the planet is not one of them.
Despite the fit clearly not working for anyone in Houston for the first 10 games of the 2018-19 season, ‘Melo still chipped in 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game before he was unfairly scapegoated by Daryl Morey for the Rockets’ underwhelming start to the season.
His trainer Chris Brickley is adamant that he’s still ‘100 percent’ NBA-ready and ‘wants to have a farewell season’.
‘Melo may not be the prolific, inevitable, unstoppable scorer he once was, but is still more than capable of chipping in 10 points per game on 7-10 shots in the context of today’s fast-paced NBA. The bizarre thing about the situation is that the entire basketball community seems to be able to recognise that fact.
Unfortunately for the New York Knicks’ best player since Patrick Ewing, the NBA front office cartel has clearly taken the view that the distraction that comes with signing the ‘Melo Show in free agency isn’t worth the trouble. That’s even despite the narrative that he would refuse to come off the bench being comprehensively debunked during his time in Houston (8 /10 appearances came as a non-starter).
However, in an alternate universe where a 35-year-old volume scorer still has the requisite currency to be offered the 12th spot on a roster, there are a number of teams that make perfect practical sense for Carmelo Anthony to undertake his well-deserved farewell tour.
Let’s check out the 5 best fits for the 2019-20 edition of Carmelo Anthony.
Not only would this be a perfectly-cyclical final resting place for ‘Melo’s career, it also seems to have some active support from other NBA players.
Arguably Denver is where ‘Melo played the best basketball of his career. His scoring average of 28.9 points per game as a 22-year-old back in 2006-07 was good enough for him to make his first All-Star team and finish the season as the league’s second leading scorer behind Kobe Bryant, whilst also adding 6.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.2 steals. He led the Nuggets to the playoffs every year from 2004 to 2010, including their first Conference Finals appearance since 1985.
Of course, any decision at this point by the Nuggets front office would not be based on anything resembling sentimentality. They owe Anthony nothing and, with the team on the verge of serious contender status in the West, the focus has to be on rounding on the roster for a tilt at the title.
But that’s exactly where ‘Melo could slip in. Outside shooting at the SF/PF positions is exactly what the Nuggets are lacking. Will Barton and Torrey Craig are solid role-players, and Michael Porter Jnr has the potential to be anything, but it would be hard for any basketball mind to claim that any of those guys are more reliable or even more capable than ‘Melo. There are minutes spare in the Nuggets’ forward depth chart.
The play for Denver has to be to surround Nikola Jokic with outside shooters and, despite his 32.8 percent shooting from three last season, that’s exactly what ‘Melo brings. Plus, he’d get to finish where it all started and we’d all get to see him finally back in a Nuggets jersey.
Los Angeles Lakers
Let’s get this one out the way early, because the Lakers’ failure to attract the cream of the free-agent crop in recent months has made this a possibility which needs to be discussed.
Melo’s long-time association with LeBron James (they are Banana Boat buddies after-all) means that the rumours of the former Knick donning the purple and gold will never quiet down entirely. The two have been associated since LeBron’s days as a high-school phenom, and retain a close association to this day.
Again, while the sentimentality of two old friends teaming up for a shot at the title is appealing, in the end GM Rob Pelinka’s sole concern will be the improvement of his squad. He needs to find a way to build a competitive championship-contender (and do so immediately) around the twin pillars of LeBron and Anthony Davis.
With that in mind, a cursory glance at the Lakers’ roster tells you all you need to know about the dire state of their SF/PF stocks. At the moment their four bench forwards (with Kyle Kuzma and Davis starting) are:
Is it even possible to mount an argument that ‘Melo wouldn’t be able to steal a few minutes from that illustrious bunch?
It’s also worth noting that Kuzma (despite ‘Melo’s apparent failure to sneak his way in to Team USA calculations) has been working out with Anthony over the offseason.
The signs are all there. This might actually happen.
Based on the offseason they’ve had to date, the Heat under GM Pat Riley are officially in “win-now” mode. You don’t pay Jimmy Butler $140M unless you think you can contend for a championship. What’s more “win-now” than signing ‘Melo?
Miami have reportedly been interest in attracting Anthony’s services since his infamous break-down with OKC, and their offensive struggles last season means this is still a legitimate option. The Heat were – despite nearly making the playoffs – the 5th worst team in the league according to offensive rating. Admittedly, that stat is a flawed one. However, when the only teams you’re better than at something are the Knicks, Bulls, Suns and Grizzlies, it’s probably time to admit you have a problem.
The solution? Hello, ‘Melo. Currently Miami’s PF depth chart has Kelly Olynyk starting and James Johnson as reserve. If you’re entirely uninspired by that then you wouldn’t be alone. ‘Melo coming off the bench (assuming he’s O.K. with that) is an instant upgrade over Johnson (who was so bad he fell out of the rotation by the end of the season), and if durability is a concern then he could hardly miss more games than Johnson did last year (27).
Dwyane Wade is no longer playing, which is a shame given his closeness to another fellow Banana Boat Bro. Even without the sentimentality angle, though, this pairing still makes sense. ‘Melo provides the Heat and Riley with a redemption arc and potentially a shot at making a playoff run, while he’s given the chance to finish his career in the Miami sun. Win-Win.
Outside shooting and scoring off the dribble have always been the major issues for this Philadelphia team built around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Know anyone who excels at both of those skills?
We know a guy. Not only would ‘Melo help (in the absence of JJ Redick) to spread the floor around Simmons and Embiid, but he would also potentially be a source of clutch, late-game scoring for a team notorious for its deficiency in that area, particularly without Jimmy Butler.
The rumblings of ‘Melo to Philly have been around since the end of his Houston tenure, and with Philly’s current dearth in SF/PF stocks they’re only going to get larger.
Seriously, Mike Scott and James Ennis III cannot be primary bench options on a team which considers itself a championship threat. They just can’t.
‘Melo would bring a veteran mindset and free-flowing scoring to a team desperately in need of both.
The Trailblazers desperately wanted ‘Melo back in 2017; do they still want him in 2019?
Damian Lillard’s tweet above would certainly seem to suggest that they do. The West is currently as wide open as it’s ever been (and maybe as it ever will be). Portland are one of those teams neeeearrrlllyy good enough to make a splash, but they need a third star.
Zach Collins is basically an unknown commodity; Anfernee Simons similar; Hassan Whiteside sucks and Jusuf Nurkic’s return timetable from his horrific broken leg is still unclear.
‘Melo is a known commodity. At his age and at this point in his career he’s the perfect third option on a decent team, as long as it’s made clear that his role will diminish as Collins, Simons and Nurkic’s contributions naturally increase as they gain confidence at NBA level.
Damian Lillard is clearly a fan, Portland’s depth at the forward position (Mario Hezonja, Nassir Little, Anthony Tolliver and Skal Labissiere currently set to receive minutes coming off the bench) is abysmal and overall the context of a contender needing one more scorer to get over the line suits ‘Melo to a tee.
Make it happen Dame Dolla.
What do you reckon? Any teams we’ve missed? Let us know!
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