It’s been widely reported that Carmelo Anthony has played his final game with the Houston Rockets. With the team off to such a poor start relative to their championship expectations, they have decided Anthony no longer fits within their organization.
Early Monday morning, reports surfaced that the Sixers front office was “kicking the tires” on adding Carmelo to support their newly formed big three.
The reaction from the vast majority of fans has been a resounding “no.” Carmelo’s reputation around the league has deteriorated, mainly due to his unwillingness to accept a smaller role as he ages. Not to mention he has become a major liability on defense—although to be fair, Houston doesn’t play much defense to begin with.
But hear me out. While I’m not about to guarantee that Melo is the perfect fit for the Sixers, I’m about to lay out the argument as to why he would useful to us, why the team is right to be considering him, and why his negative reputation is wildly overblown.
He adds scoring and size (both needs)
Prior to the Butler trade, the Sixers were in dire need of players who could reliably score from the wing around Embiid and Simmons. Butler alone isn’t going to satisfy that.
Carmelo is obviously a shell of his former self, and that’s really what skews his reputation so poorly, but he’s still a polished isolation scorer who can stretch the floor MORE than Covington and Saric—I think that point needs to be stressed.
I’m not exaggerating when I say opposing teams rejoiced when a Sixer possession ended in a Saric three, contested or not.
And, despite the fact that Cov and Melo are similarly efficient three-point shooters—both hit at 35.6% over the past three seasons on roughly 6 attempts per game—Covington’s inability to threaten defenses after being run off the line is a major flaw that is easily exploited. Anthony is more than capable of putting the ball on the deck and creating/scoring if he needs to.
As Melo has aged, the role that most analysts believe he should fill is more in line with his role with Team USA; a spot-up three point shooter, playing small-ball-four, who occasionally operates as the focal point of a second unit offense.
Despite his clear ambivalence to the change, he has embraced that role to some degree. With Houston, he’s attempting a higher percentage of his shots from beyond the arc, while a smaller usage rate is leading to increased efficiency inside the arc and at the rim.
To highlight the value of his role change, Anthony has posted an effective field goal percentage of 49.2%—the highest since 2013-14. Translation: through just 10 games, Melo is having his most efficient scoring season in five years (albeit, with a smaller usage).
That’s where I see his potential value on offense. It’s hard to argue that he won’t be a better offensive wing than Saric and Covington.
Additionally, with the team trading away the 6’10’’ power forward and 6’8’’ swing-forward, they suddenly find themselves lacking size. Dario and RoCo combined for 13.3 rebounds per 36 minutes; Butler only adds 5.2 boards per 36 minutes, and giving Muscala a few more minutes won’t make up the difference.
Insert Anthony, who per 36 minutes averages 6.6 boards, with a rebound % similar to Dario (10.2% to Dario’s 11.2%).
And while we’re talking about the areas where Anthony improves over those two forwards, then we need to mention turnovers. Saric owns a turnover rate of 14.7% while Covington sits at 14.8%. Carmelo, on the other hand, turns it over on just 5.8% of possessions despite having a higher usage rate—that’s a significant difference.
The Sixers have been plagued by turnovers throughout the entirety of The Process, and Carmelo (however incrementally) will help rectify that issue.
Additionally, with Redick set to return to the starting lineup, the second unit is in need of a player to run the offense through. While Melo would likely always be paired with either Embiid, Butler, Simmons, or Redick; he could provide a vital role taking pressure off that player when the second unit is on the floor.
I understand that Carmelo doesn’t provide much on defense at this point in his career, but Sixer fans would no doubt be doing backflips if we added Belinelli off waivers again, and he was loved by a majority of fans despite being a black hole on defense.
The team is also continually linked to Kyler Korver. While I’m all in on bringing Korver back to Philly, he’s another player who doesn’t have defensive value.
If adding Anthony is viewed through the lens of bringing in auxiliary pieces (a la Ilyasova or Belinelli) then it wouldn’t be scrutinized as much. But because of the player he once was—and still may think he is—his addition is constantly viewed with unrealistic expectations.
When viewed from a purely offensive perspective, he’s obviously a player that the Sixers should “kick the tires on,” especially considering the teams obvious need in the areas he can support.
“But Melo is a cancer”… “We can’t bring him into our locker room”… yada-yada
Brett Brown and the players love to wax poetic about the “culture” in their locker room, but if the prospect of adding Carmelo Anthony threatens to disturb the peace, then odds are it isn’t as strong as they say—and we should blow this whole thing up right now, because Jimmy Butler won’t hesitate to emasculate this young roster at the first sign of weakness.
The Warriors added a “cancer” like Nick Young and made it work; that’s 100% due to their culture. And if you think that’s because of their system and not their culture, then I have news for you: those two things are one in the same, that’s what makes them so unselfish, and in turn, successful.
If the front office is confident in the locker room’s ability to absorb a player who just used dramatic flair to bully his way out of Minnesota, then why would they be hesitant to add someone like Melo?
Carmelo is being scapegoated in Houston.
His presence has not been an issue for the Rockets whatsoever—if you want to cling to a 1-11 performance for some mindless chuckles go right ahead—but Daryl Morey (Houston’s GM) is merely trying to deflect blame from what can only be described as a historically disastrous offseason for the self-absorbed genius and his band of nerds.
The stubborn arrogance of Morey and his legion of analytics zealots can only be compared to Chip Kelly and his scapegoating of McCoy and Desean.
Houston and the rest of the NBA fandom can cast blame on Carmelo Anthony all they want, but if you think removing him from their roster will solve their problems then you haven’t been watching. The fact that their situation didn’t “work out” or however they try to spin it, is not an indictment on Carmelo’s ability to contribute on a contender.
And while I’m not confident on Anthony’s ability to contribute or fit here with the Sixers, I am confident that the NBA bylaws state the team isn’t married to him if they pick him up. The Sixers have every right to cut ties with him at the first sign of distress—no harm, no foul. If Houston is playing that card this early in the season then why wouldn’t we be prepared to?
I reiterate, scoring and size are commodities that can’t just be found off the street like this. Are we really about to ignore his potential value because we can’t get over his wildly overblown, negatively-skewed reputation?