Why a Carmelo to OKC Deal Would Make Sense
Phil Jackson has had enough. The 21-27 Knicks seem to be ready to turn the page on the Carmelo Anthony era in New York, but where can they ship him off to? Rumors have been buzzing about a potential deal to send Melo to the Celtics, Cavaliers, or Clippers. Boston has stated their intentions to avoid Carmelo, the Cavs already rejected an offer for him, and the Clippers need a third team to step in if they even want to take that route. So, how about another team that was “intrigued” of pairing Melo with their star point guard? The Oklahoma City Thunder.
Picture Russell Westbrook blowing by a defender and storming into the paint, pulling the entire defense in the process. He kicks it out to a wide open Andre Roberson in the corner, who shanks the shot.
It’s easy to imagine because it happens so frequently.
Now envision Carmelo on the perimeter awaiting a perfectly placed and timed pass from Westbrook. That combination would have the potential to be deadly, if used properly. Let’s see what I mean.
Best as Second Best?
Melo has been the number one option on every team he has been on over his career in Denver and New York. As that go-to option, he has the worst win percentage in NBA Playoff History (22-42, 34%) among players who have played at least 50 playoff games. Many have labeled Anthony as a player who is simply not a “winner” due to this, but I see it differently: Melo just wasn’t made to be the number one option on his team.
In other words, I believe that the 32-year-old is and always has been best as the second best player.
Look, Melo is an exceptional scorer. He’s lost a few steps now that he is in his fourteenth season of his career, but he is still very good at putting the ball in the net. As the first option, Melo relies quite heavily on isolation and pull-ups to score the basketball, which aren’t very reliable (albeit he is good at those shots). With the right players around him, he can better utilize the much more efficient catch-and-shoot while still using his other offensive tools when needed.
The numbers speak for themselves — Melo has been attempting more pull-up shots (8.7 per game) than he has shots off the catch (5.3) even though he clearly shoots better with the latter:
His time with Team USA over the years exemplifies this beautifully. There always seems to be a big difference between NBA Melo and Olympic Melo, and it’s because of the surrounding talent. For starters, it takes pressure off the 11-time All-Star (both mentally and on offense). This is an obvious factor. His biggest change on Team USA though is the type of shots he is taking.
Check out how teammates open up a new world of scoring opportunities for Carmelo
Here’s a little simple drive into the lane, but it’s enough to open up plenty of space for Melo to knock down a catch-and-shoot three:
This is a perfect example of that Roberson case from earlier, just picture Westbrook penetrating the paint and dishing it to Melo the way LeBron does here:
These type of plays allowed the Team USA version of Carmelo to excel from behind the arc:
You see the point? If Melo was used as a second option on a team, it would be beneficial for both him and his unit even though he would have to sacrifice some of his high usage rate and shot attempts. One team that fits this mold nicely is the Thunder.
Melo to OKC?
Oklahoma City has Steven Adams and Enes Kanter (who is injured right now) as options down low. They have Victor Oladipo and Russ to slash (although Oladipo has been a good three-point option this year as well). The clear hole is at the small forward spot, where they have either Roberson (26% 3PT shooter on the year) or Jerami Grant on the perimeter. Westbrook already racks up 10.2 assists a game – imagine what he could do with a scoring threat like Carmelo on the wing instead of Roberson?
OKC is not one of the teams that Carmelo said he would waive his no-trade clause for, but he also never said he wouldn’t. He respects Westbrook and would surely recognize that he would be in a much better position to win. The biggest concern in terms of his no-trade clause is the location and ego — would Melo leave a high-end market where his family is living in New York for a smaller market in Oklahoma? Would he leave a team where he has been “the man” for six years to go to a team where he would be in the shadows of the megastar that is Russell Westbrook? Maybe not.
Honestly, I think Carmelo is content with taking Ls in New York as long as he is taking a bunch of shots in the process. That’s just my opinion though.
All that stuff aside, a deal like this would make so much sense for both Melo and the Thunder. OKC is eight games above .500 and the sixth seed in the Western Conference. They just lost Kanter for an extended time and will now need even more help around Russ on offense. They make the sixth least three-pointers per game (8.4) at the second worst percentage (32.5%) in the league. Acquiring Carmelo Anthony would fix these problems in a big way if they are willing to surrender a young piece or two for a pricey 32-year-old.
Would Melo and Russ make a good pair? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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