After losing star SF Kevin Durant last offseason, the Oklahoma City Thunder have reloaded, adding Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. The addition of George has been well documented. But it seems as if Anthony’s acquisition isn’t garnering the respect it deserves. This just continues a trend that has emerged over the last few years: Carmelo Anthony is a severely underrated player.
Anthony was drafted 3rd overall in the 2003 NBA Draft. Throughout his career, he has been compared to fellow draftees LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. During 14 seasons, 7.5 each with the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks, Anthony has compiled an impressive list of accolades: 10 All-Star selections, six All-NBA selections, league scoring leader in 2012-2013, one Olympic bronze medals and three Olympic gold medals. His individual accomplishments are certainly hall-of-fame worthy, but what leads people to underrate him is the fact that he’s never won anything in the NBA. The furthest he’s gone in the playoffs were the Western Conference Finals in 2008-2009, after leading the Denver Nuggets to the #2 seed. But Anthony has only missed the playoffs four times in his career; each of the last four seasons, while playing on a talent-stricken Knicks team. He has always been the de facto #1 option on his teams; he played with an old Allen Iverson for a bit in Denver, and an aging and injury-prone Amar’e Stoudemire in New York. It’s safe to say he hasn’t received much help from his supporting casts, so the fact that he’s made the playoffs in over 70% of his seasons is quite impressive.
Anthony has long been renowned as one of the NBA’s premier scorers, and rightfully so; he is one of the greatest isolation players the NBA has ever seen. His ability to catch-and-shoot, shoot off the dribble, or drive the ball inside is remarkable. And because his game never relied on elite athleticism, he should continue to be an extremely effective player as he ages.
Anthony’s peak came in 2013-2014, the year after he won the scoring title. In 38.7 minutes per game, he averaged 27.4 points on 45% shooting, 40% on three-pointers, 8.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.7 blocks. Those numbers were certainly worthy of MVP consideration, but Anthony placed just 15th in voting because of New York’s abysmal 37-45 record.
Over the course of his career, Anthony’s consistency has gone underappreciated. His averages are impressive; 24.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game. His worst scoring season came in his sophomore year when he averaged 20.8 points per game. Since then, he has a career high of 28.7, and has averaged at least 25 points per game nine times.
But despite these incredible statistics, Anthony doesn’t get the praise and respect he deserves. After he averaged 22.4 points last season, while Derrick Rose and Kristaps Porzingis took on larger offensive roles. Anthony is ranked lower than he should be on just about every NBA top 100 players list. Here are some examples:
CBS: #22 (behind Al Horford and LaMarcus Aldridge)
SB Nation: #49 (behind Otto Porter, Avery Bradley, Clint Capela, Brook Lopez, Joel Embiid, etc.)
Sports Illustrated: #37 (behind Khris Middleton, Porzingis, Aldridge, etc.)
Because of his team’s lack of success, Anthony’s impact has been ignored by many people. However, now that he is finally on a real contender, he should re-gain the respect he has wrongfully lost. OKC posts an impressive starting lineup; MVP Russell Westbrook, defensive extraordinaire Andre Roberson, Paul George, Anthony, and big man Steven Adams, but their bench is extremely bare. One way this could be combated is to stagger Anthony, Westbrook, and George’s minutes, so that during the middle of the game, two of the three are on the court, because there is only one ball and only so many shots to go around. Anthony could be in charge of the bench unit as Westbrook and George sit, so that the offense runs through him, allowing him to score and carry the team as he is used to doing. When the starters are playing, Anthony will be moving full-time to the PF position, rather than his previous SF role. He will play as a stretch-four, rather than being in the post most of the time, he will play as a Kevin Love or Ryan Anderson, with the ability to catch-and-shoot the three-ball very well, but with the added threat of driving and iso scoring that Love and Anderson don’t have.
Carmelo Anthony is 33, and already ranks 25th in the NBA in all-time scoring. If he continues on his current pace and scores a conservative 1,500 points this year, he would rocket up to 18th. He truly is an all-time great scorer, that is not a hyperbolic statement in the slightest.
Despite his incredible career accomplishments, Carmelo Anthony is one of the most underrated players in NBA history. And even though he now has a chance to further his legacy, he will probably still be disrespected by the general public. Still, he is a special talent and an all-time great player that we have been fortunate to witness.