Resume: 28.7 points (1st in league), 6.9 rebounds, 37.0 minutes, 425 free throws made (5th in league), 512 free throws attempted (7th in league), 45% FG, 38% 3PT (career best), and 83% FT… Team record in games played: 47-20 (7-8 without)… Playoffs: 28.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 40.1 minutes, 41% FG, 30% 3PT, 89% FT (career best), 6-6 record… All-Star, 3rd in MVP Voting, 2nd Team All-NBA
I’m sure that you have heard the phrase, “A jack of all trades, master of none; Often times better than a master of one.” These are words to live by in my opinion. I think it’s good to be a generalist rather than a specialist, and boy does this hold true in the game of basketball. If you’ve watched Carmelo Anthony at any point in time over the course of his career, you know that he certainly isn’t a jack of all trades. Sure, Melo rebounds well for his position but he is known for one thing, and one thing only: scoring. On the offensive end he’s single minded and only looking for his own shot. He never has, and never will, be one to thrive at setting up teammates for easy baskets or making his teammates better in any way. But man, can he fill it up.
That’s been the narrative since Carmelo entered the league in 2003, a member of the much heralded draft class that featured LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Ndudi Ebi. He scored a lot at Syracuse, he scored a lot in Denver, and he’s continued to score in New York, where he won his first career scoring title and ignited a spark in Knicks fans that has been absent for far too long. He’s a human heat check; the epitome of the idea that a player could be on fire NBA Jam style where the basketball turns into a ball of flames. He’s capable of pulling up anywhere inside of 30 feet and drilling a three while a raucous Madison Square Garden crowd goes nuts. His post game is sensational; he’s big enough to back down his defender and score in the paint, and his turnaround jumper is a nightmare to stop. He’s delivered late in so many regular season games that he’s now recognized as a great clutch player despite the fact that he’s gotten further than the 1st round only twice in his playoff career. You can decide for yourself if that was a compliment or an insult.
We know that Carmelo can score, and we know that Carmelo at times can be a tremendous rebounder for his position. We also know that his defense in large part is abysmal, his ability to make teammates any better is limited and his shot selection is highly questionable (in 67 games played, Carmelo shot under 50% forty-four times, and under 40% a whopping twenty-one times. This could be an indication that his offensive skill set is not as prolific as it is generally considered, but it more likely means that Carmelo just jacks up a whole bunch ill-advised shots. But this is what separates Carmelo from his most common nemesis, LeBron James. LeBron impacts the game in so many different areas, where as Carmelo is largely a one dimensional player. Carmelo is a master of one trade; over time, LeBron became a master of a whole bunch of trades.
So why move Carmelo up three spots from last year even though he didn’t really evolve as a player at all? A brilliant late season stretch where Carmelo went completely bonkers scoring—including an absurd six game stretch where he scored over 35 in every game and averaged 40 points and 10 rebounds per game while shooting 56% from the field and 52% from downtown—that allowed him to steal one first place vote, denying LeBron James from becoming the first ever unanimous MVP winner. In addition, there were times when ‘Melo showed more of a commitment to rebounding, defending and making hustle plays and he battled in the playoffs even though he was playing in pain thanks to a torn labrum. He’s a competitor. Whether you like the general one sidedness of his competitiveness, you can’t deny Carmelo that. He comes out and gives the Knicks a shot to beat any team on any given night. That’s a top ten player.