One of the biggest debates going on in the NBA community right now, and one that has been going on basically since his short-lived time with the Houston Rockets, is whether Carmelo Anthony should be on an NBA roster right now.
The 35 year old, 10-time All Star will be entering his 17th season in the league if he’s able to find a team by the start of the season. Since I started watching basketball, he has been one of my favorite players, specifically in his Nuggets/early Knicks days, when he still had enough athleticism to score at an elite level from basically anywhere on the court and did so often- on his way to 10 All Star games and 6 All-NBA teams.
His prime years have clearly left him behind, but many in and around the league seem to think he still has game left. However, he has had trouble latching on with a team in the past year. After playing just the first 10 games of the season for the Rockets last year, Anthony was released from the team, and was not picked up by another team for the rest of the season. Despite this, there is a long list of NBA people who think he can still play, including:
Former player Royce White
Former player Etan Thomas
Kuzma was quoted as saying,
“Melo is easily better than half the league right now, there’s no question about it. He should be on a team right now. He’s still one of the best players. The slander people throw at him is something I don’t really understand. Maybe that’s just the way today’s society is right now.”
“It would be great to see him in L.A., but I don’t make those decisions.” (LA Times)
The list goes on, but it is clear that there are plenty of people in and around the league who seem to think Melo should still have a roster spot. This is something that I go back and forth on personally, part of the reason I decided to look closer and write this article. On one hand, the idea of Melo playing the small-ball 4 in today’s NBA and pivoting his game to either a catch and shoot option or a scoring punch off the bench seems to make sense. On the other hand, his declining athleticism, defensive shortcomings, and tendency to disregard his role and get shots up points to the potential problems that could come up if he found a roster spot this year.
So, as I am not an NBA vet, and can’t just use the eye test to be able to definitively say whether or not someone can still play, the best way to tell is to look at some stats and what Melo has done in his past 2 NBA seasons.
In 2017/18, his last full season, Melo played in (and started) 78 regular season games, playing 32 minutes a game and averaging 16.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game on 40% shooting from the field, 35.7% from three, and 76.7% from the line. These certainly aren’t elite numbers but they definitely point to a player who has a spot in today’s NBA. However, his main drawbacks have always been on the defensive end, and that’s a spot where he really struggled.
Advanced stats aren’t really my favorite way to measure a player’s impact, I personally think watching the game is the best way to be able to tell. However, it is relevant to note that as I said Melo struggled on defense that year, the stats agreed as his defensive rating of 106.4 in 2017-18 was the highest, therefore worst, out of the 5 Thunder starters. After the 17-18 playoffs, where the Thunder lost to the Utah Jazz in 6 games (a series in which Anthony averaged 11.8 points and 5.7 rebounds on 38% from the field and 21% from 3), the Thunder decided to get rid of Melo, trading him to the Hawks in return for Dennis Schroeder. Melo was immediately bought out and signed with the Houston Rockets, where he finally did agree to come off the bench in the role he probably was more suited for.
Melo had a very interesting time in Houston- He only played 10 games before the team decided to part ways with him, but he scored 22 points or more in 3 out of those 10, the highlight being a 28 point output against the Nets, as he went 6/9 from three.
This was a game that, it seemed, revealed what Melo’s role on the Rockets could be- not necessarily putting up 30 a game, but being a spot-up shooter, and taking advantage of favorable matchups. As you can see in those highlights, Melo found the smaller Joe Harris defending him multiple times and took him down low to score where he had the advantage. This seemed like a good role for Anthony off the bench and one he could sustain, but only 8 days and 4 games later, he was a healthy scratch against the Spurs, and he had played his last game for Houston as he was released just days later. Melo had, allegedly, become unhappy with his role coming off the bench, or so it had been reported. In addition to this, the Rockets had a terrible start to the season as a team, at a record of 4-6 when Melo and the team parted ways.
Whatever the real reason was that Melo’s time in Houston didn’t work out, it was enough to deter any teams from picking him up the rest of that season, and to this point (September 1) going into the next season. However, it is the time of year again where rumors are swirling about Melo working out for teams, and even some teams getting pressure from their own players to sign him.
So here’s my verdict… Of course, Melo has the talent and ability to be able to play in the league right now. Do I think he’s “better than half the league,” like Kyle Kuzma apparently does? No, but there are certainly teams in the league that could use him as a 7th or 8th man in the rotation. But the key to whether I think he should be on a roster lies in his mentality going in. If he accepts, fully, the fact that he is a bench player, and is okay with getting the according amount of touches and shots, and is okay with the fact that his playing time and touches will probably fluctuate from game to game, then yes, I think he still has a place in this league. For me, it is all up to how he handles things upstairs, and of course, if another NBA team is willing to take the chance on him.