Life is a bit unfair to Melo at the moment. Linsanity coincided with an easy Knicks schedule, which Anthony missed out on. Now the schedule is brutal and he’s back. Even if New York loses, the Knick-killing factors could be wholly divorced from whatever he’s doing. So why harp on the guy, especially when Amare’s wane has to be chief among New York’s problems?
Well, because our conversational scope is still too narrow when it comes to points merchants. We pay homage to the idea of how overvalued some are, without going one step further and drastically adjusting our rankings. It is as though–despite acknowledging the perils of No-D ball-stoppers–the impulse still exists to bless such players as “elite talents,” and “pure scorers.”
So I believe that “trolling” Melo is about having the courage of my basketball philosophy convictions, even if such convictions sound deviant when espoused publicly. Yes, I think Andre Iguodala is better. No, I don’t believe Anthony’s the “best player” on his team–that would be DPOY candidate Tyson Chandler, thank you very much. Defense matters, passing matters, and scoring efficiency matters. And if you believe that, then it is difficult to believe Melo matters all that much.
It would be nice to espouse “I don’t think Melo’s very good,” and have such an opinion recognized as within the sphere of legitimate debate. It feels necessary to say it loudly when Beijing 08′ is often, bizarrely brought up as greatness-proving evidence (Carmelo shot 42% in the games. Wade shot 67% on more attempts). To my eyes, nearly every game–including last night’s–is a reminder of how ridiculous the Knicks were for pursuing The Trade, especially in light of their bad history with overvalued volume scorers.
To those same eyes, Anthony is a value neutral player. Better in certain situations, worse in others. On the balance, the ability to draw fouls and get rebounds will make up for some other flaws. It all adds up to being a fairly average contributor who happens to shoot a lot. It all adds up to not being worth the contract and all the pieces New York parted with for the privilege of paying it.
There are counter arguments, certainly. Melo’s career PER is 20.3, 5.3 points above average. The Nuggets had some decent offenses that featured Anthony. None of this speaks to superstar status, but much of it speaks to certain above average skills, such as his rebounding the ability. But as is often the case with Carmelo, one skill takes away from another. New York’s small forward perhaps is often in rebounding position because he doesn’t help on defense (See 3:33 of this clip).
Ah yes, those pesky “other aspects” of the game, the stuff that matters as much as it doesn’t matter in our fantasy leagues. Though plus-minus is not a perfect measure, it is worth noting that Carmelo has not registered a positive defensive plus-minus since basketball value started tracking the stat (2007). It is easy to see why this could have happened. Simply put, Anthony often falls asleep on D.
Last night provided multiple examples, but I’ll use this one. In the first quarter, LeBron James inbounded to Chalmers as Mario streaked to the hoop. Chalmers was a step in front of Lin and Anthony stood a few paces to the left, watching James inbound. It would have been helpful for an unencumbered Anthony to do, well, anything. A step towards Chalmers would have been nice. An upraised arm would have been super. Instead, hands on knees, ball in hoop. Few NBA players screw up like this. Therefore, many NBA players are better.