February 6, 2017

MCDEVITT | The Carmelo Conundrum

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The Carmelo Anthony Show premiered at Madison Square Garden nearly six years ago. Indeed, the World’s Most Famous Arena was the perfect venue for Anthony to display his theatrics and his career in Denver was always temporary.

Anthony came to the NBA with one goal: play on basketball’s biggest stage as the star of one of its most storied franchises, the New York Knickerbockers. The day it was done, Knicks fans everywhere could finally rejoice. Anthony would be the first superstar since Patrick Ewing to spend the prime of his career in New York. Of course, his career with the Knicks has had its ups and downs, as all careers do. In the 2012-13 season, the Knicks finished second in the Eastern conference behind Anthony’s scoring title, and the team went on to win its first playoff series in 13 years.

But the Knicks have been declining ever since, and all good things must come to an end. It is time for the Carmelo Anthony Show to go off-Broadway.

Multiple reports of late suggest that the Knicks have engaged in talks with the Cavaliers to exchange Anthony for Kevin Love, a slightly less productive player at best, by most metrics. Anthony and LeBron James are good friends, and LeBron has been begging the Cleveland front office for a solid playmaker. The Knicks are offering them an upgrade at forward on a silver platter. On the surface, this seems like a no-brainer. But the Cavs have rejected multiple offers of this nature.

What is missing here? Statistically speaking, Anthony is an above-average player and scorer. But since coming to New York, he has averaged fewer minutes played, more field goals attempted per game and a lower shooting percentage as compared to his time in Denver.

The new situation led to just one tenth of a point increase in Anthony’s points per game, and this is telling. As the scoring burden fell heavier on his shoulders, his performance suffered. Even in his scoring title season, his field goal percentage was below his career average. This is a player who is overextending his abilities, and it costs him a lot in terms of efficiency.

But the numbers don’t tell the whole story with Carmelo. They never have.

Carmelo’s struggles have always been deep-rooted in his self-esteem. He desperately wants to be included among the game’s elites. But Carmelo has never been good enough to be the best player on a championship team, and he never will be. That’s why he should waive his no trade clause and go to Cleveland if the teams can reach a deal. LeBron makes everyone around him a better player, and Carmelo can finally play the role that he is best suited for: an auxiliary scorer behind an elite player.

LeBron and Carmelo on the same floor would be a treat for basketball fans. Carmelo could finally play his own brand of basketball and stop trying to be something that he isn’t. In this role, he could finally be at peace with his own abilities as a player, and not fall short of his own lofty expectations.