A national championship with Syracuse and a three-time Olympic gold medalist, Carmelo Anthony has a storied basketball career. However, it hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows for Hoodie Melo or Olypmic Melo or any other, but most specifically NBA Melo, version of Melo.
Despite being a 10-time All-star and 6-time All-NBA selection for 15 seasons in the league, his NBA career may not seem as successful without the elusive NBA championship under his belt.
From being the main man in Denver, to being in the middle of the controversy in New York, and a stopover in Oklahoma, it has been tough for the 34-year-old forward. A superstar in his own right, the once deadly scorer has slowly experienced his role and skills on a steady decline.
Nearing his twilight, he continues to chase his first ring. He opens a new chapter in his career playing for the Houston Rockets this season. Unfortunately, his moves have always been under a microscope of scrutiny. This one was no different.
He continues to take flak regarding his porous defense and his distaste for coming off the bench. It has been a reason for concern around the league on what he can bring to the championship aspirations of the Rockets.
Let me shed light on those two things just to balance out the things that have been said about Carmelo Anthony.
Let’s be honest, Carmelo Anthony was never synonymous with defense. On the contrary, it’s a name that sounds off about not having defense. The worry might be a little valid.
A true natural volume scorer who can take over a game at any time, Anthony is known to have a deadly repertoire of moves to score on you. On the other hand, just to make it clear, he does play defense. Not as obvious or impactful as many expect, but he does.
If it were easy to gauge this metric on just steals and blocks, Anthony won’t be in a good spot having an average of 1 steal and .5 blocks over the course of his career. Not looking entirely on just the stat line, defense is about staying on your man, not biting on fakes, pressuring the ball handler into a bad situation, and the like.
It would be also unfair to assume that his failure to defend is solely on him. Melo is not built in the mold of a LeBron James, a multidimensional kind of superstar who makes everything on the floor better. Melo is the type of player who needs to be set up to succeed.
With that being said, it leads to the next part.
What does Melo actually need in a team in order to function to his strengths or succeed? Let’s look at his last moment of glory, the 2012-13 season of the New York Knicks. 54-28 in the season, it featured Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd in the roster.
Let me focus on three metrics to make a point: offensive rating, true shooting percentage, and defensive rating. For that season, the Knicks’ defensive rating was 103.5, offensive rating was 108.6, and their true shooting percentage at 55.0%. They were a good defensive team, a mediocre scoring team, with a mediocre scoring percentage.
Here are the season numbers for the Thunder and Knicks last year.
The Knicks and Thunder aren’t too far apart. Factor in Russell Westbrook and Paul George from the touches he used to have, Melo is put in unfamiliar ground. Maybe not entirely a great idea to put Melo’s shortcomings last season on the shoulder of giants, but few expected the fit to work anyway.
Let us look at the number for the Rockets.
We are looking at a team that defended better than the Warriors but can closely match their offensive output. What am I saying? Melo needs a great defensive team that scores well to be efficient. Individual defense is tough without Ariza and Mbah a Moute, but their team defense compensates that and it is second to none.
He doesn’t need to be the focal point of the offense again like in his Knick days. What Carmelo Anthony needs is a team that plays a high level of team defense and has a good offensive scheme. With elite playmakers in Chris Paul and James Harden, his arrival in Texas is close to a hand and glove fit.
His doubters better watch out. They might see a better version of Melo in the upcoming season.