Carmelo Anthony: Washed Up Superstar, Or Missing Piece For A Championship Team?
Whether he likes it or not, Carmelo Anthony is no longer the player we once debated about as the second-best player to come out of the historic 2004 NBA Draft, the player who was secretly one of the most valuable players on the USA Basketball teams that won a Gold Medal Three times: at the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Summer Olympics, or one of the most lethal scorers in iso-situations in the NBA.
As the old saying goes: “father time is undefeated,” and by the time an NBA player starts approaching his early-to-mid-30’s, he’s not quite the same guy we once remembered (unless, of course, that player’s name is LeBron James).
That’s why there was a hint of apprehension when the Oklahoma City Thunder acquired Anthony via trade from the New York Knicks in the summer of 2017. Sure, the Knicks continued to be a horrifically mismanaged franchise, but in a city starving for star players, they couldn’t get rid of Anthony fast enough. That has to count for something.
As the 2017-2018 season progressed, we all realized that the Thunder’s new “Big 3” was really more of a “Big two-and-a-half,” with Russell Westbrook and Paul George being the Superman and Batman of the team, and Anthony looking more like Ryan Reynolds’ (memorably bad) rendition of the Green Lantern. By the end of the season, Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan had to figure out a way to balance Anthony’s ego and ignorance to his declining skill set, with the fact that the Thunder were, for the most part, better – offensively and defensively – with him not on the floor.
Unlike the Knicks, the Thunder had the foresight and ability to get themselves out from underneath Anthony’s monstrous contract, mostly because there was only one year left on it. They found someone willing to do what the Thunder were highly reluctant to do: pay a majority of the $27.9 million owed to Anthony for a buyout, to get him off the roster. The Atlanta Hawks took on Anthony’s contract, in exchange for trading a distressed asset of their own in Dennis Schroeder (with Mike Muscala being thrown in to balance the trade).
Atlanta immediately bought out Anthony’s deal, allowing the latter to effectively become a mercenary for any team of his choosing. He appears zeroed in on joining the Houston Rockets of James Harden, a logical choice considering they were one win away from ending up in the NBA Finals, and they employ one of Anthony’s best friends in the league in Chris Paul.
Whether it’s Houston, Miami (another rumored landing spot), or any other team, what exactly is that team getting when they sign Carmelo Anthony? Fans have to be careful in convincing themselves that this is the same superstar from a decade ago. As a role player and a bench scorer, Anthony could be very useful, but that’s a role Anthony has been very reluctant to accept. He’s never been a willing defender to begin with.
So we sure that Anthony really is the missing piece for any team’s championship aspirations?