It’s late March, and Carmelo Anthony remains unsigned. The former scoring champion who was once a mortal lock to make the All-Star team has become an afterthought in one of the quickest descents we have seen in the history of the NBA.
Anthony began the season with the Houston Rockets and played all of 10 games before the Rockets decided that things weren’t working. Houston then essentially exiled him before trading him to the Chicago Bulls in late January, who then promptly waived him.
Many felt that the natural next destination for Anthony would be the Los Angeles Lakers, where he could join his buddy LeBron James, but that never materialized.
For the first time in his NBA career, it seems that Anthony is entirely unwanted, as no contender is touching him with a pole attached to another pole after seeing what he did with the Oklahoma City Thunder a year ago.
So, what really is next for Carmelo Anthony?
One thing is for sure: It doesn’t appear that Anthony will be playing for a championship ever again. The Thunder gave him a shot. It didn’t work. The Rockets tried it. They got sick of him after a month.
It’s hard to envision any team that has title aspirations taking a chance on him, as the changing NBA landscape has phased out players like Anthony to the point where they are entirely useless in today’s game.
There was a time when Anthony was one of the game’s most lethal scorers, possessing an incredible and seemingly never-ending arsenal of moves inside and out. It reached a point where you were surprised if he didn’t drop 25 points in a game.
But now, the game has made Anthony’s style an ancient relic, one that will probably never return. At least not on the level of Anthony.
Where, then, can Melo go?
Of course, two destinations that probably immediately come to mind are the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks. After all, those two teams were where Anthony spent his prime years, leading the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals one season and winning a scoring title with the Knicks in another.
The question is, can either of those two clubs find room for the 34-year-old at this point?
Let’s start with Denver.
The Nuggets have been one of the league’s most pleasant surprises this season, as they have been near the top of the Western Conference standings all year and possess an exciting young core led by Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray.
Denver isn’t ready to win a championship, but with the right moves, the Nuggets could be a legitimate threat in another couple of years. So, is there a way that Denver can squeeze Anthony on to the roster without hurting its long-term prospects?
It’s honestly difficult to say yes. The Nuggets clearly have something positive brewing right now, and throwing Anthony into the mix might mess things up. Jokic and the rest of the guys seem to have a great synergy, one that an iso-heavy player like Melo can really tamper with.
Remember: Anthony’s teammates in his first go-around in Denver were nothing like the players currently on the Nuggets. Those old iterations of Denver (sans the brief period where Allen Iverson was a member of the team) were built specifically to tailor to Melo’s strengths, with guys like Andre Miller, J.R. Smith and Nene allowing him to work freely without impeding his isolations.
But guys like Jokic and Murray? Yeah. They wouldn’t really work with Anthony. Heck, even Chauncey Billups was a bit risky in 2009, but because he was a seasoned veteran who knew what it took to win, he made it work.
I can’t imagine the Nuggets would really want to tinker all that much with what they currently have, and it seems hard to envision them adding Anthony to that formula.
So, what about the Knicks?
New York is clearly in rebuilding mode. Barring a couple of major free-agent additions this summer, the Knicks will probably not be playing for titles anytime soon, so it seems like a logical place for Carmelo’s swan song, right?
Well, not really.
Let’s keep in mind that this current Knicks regime is the one that ran Anthony out of town just before the 2017-18 campaign, and with New York assembling pieces to prepare for its next run, Anthony doesn’t really seem to fit the mold.
For the first time in a while, the Knicks actually have a decent future, with guys like Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox and Allonzo Trier providing them with some long-term hope, and the fact that they may end up with a top-three pick in this year’s draft is just icing on the cake.
What use, then, would New York have for Carmelo? He wouldn’t even sell tickets at this stage of his career, and let’s be honest: As much as Knicks fans loved having Anthony on the team all those years, he was never Patrick Ewing.
The only reason why you would even entertain the idea of bringing such a player back at this point would be for fanfare, and I’m not even sure how much buzz signing Melo would create at Madison Square Garden.
Again, Ewing? Different story, but Anthony isn’t Ewing and never was.
Plus, even if the Knicks do make a big splash by adding Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving or another free-agent piece this offseason, it still seems hard to imagine them bringing Melo back into the fold. We have already seen what happens when star-laden teams try to incorporate Anthony, and the results have not been pretty.
It has really reached a juncture where we may have seen Carmelo Anthony play his last game in the NBA.