From All-NBA to almost out of the league: What comes next for Carmelo Anthony?
Carmelo Anthony's career wasn't supposed to go this way. With yesterday's trade to the Bulls, Melo joins his third team this season. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Bulls have no plans to play Carmelo and he will be waived unless the Bulls can find a suitable trade partner before the February 7th deadline.
How did we get here?
Things weren't always this bad. Despite long having a reputation for not being able to win in the playoffs (an unfair brand considering he averaged over 25 ppg in 6 separate playoff runs), up until the 2016-2017 season, he was still considered to be one of the NBA's premier pure scorers.
With an illustrious career that saw him named to 10 All-Star games and 5 All-NBA teams, Melo was still a highly respected veteran prior to the Oklahoma City trade. With the Knicks going into full rebuild mode, there were a litany of suitors for Melo when he became available.
Despite seeing a decline in production in years past, most NBA execs expected that Melo would provide a decent scoring option in exchange for his hefty contract with the Knicks. When the Thunder finally decided to make the move for the aging all-star, Thunder fans were ecstatic to pair up the pure scoring ability of Anthony with the assist-hunting Russell Westbrook and he was expected to be the third option on a Western Conference superteam.
Instead, Melo struggled with his transition from primary offensive weapon to floor-spacing three and D wing player. An old-school shot creator, Melo uses his rhythm while breaking down a defender to get him quality looks that he is comfortable taking.
With the ball out of his hands, Melo has primarily been used in catch and shoot situations behind the arc where his skill set and familiarity playing the game of basketball are a bit less effective.
Since the Thunder experiment went south, Melo has essentially been tossed around the NBA between teams that really didn't want or need his services. Branded by NBA execs as a dinosaur unable to adapt to the "new NBA", Melo has admirably worked hard to try and rebuild his game to fit the role NBA execs expect from him.
However, with his prime playing days well behind him, teams are more inclined to give that sort of role to a younger player with long-term upside.
What comes next for Melo?
By all accounts, interest in trading for Melo is at rock bottom among NBA teams. With the Bulls' plan to cut him by the trade deadline should nobody make a move for him readily known, most executives are simply planning to wait it out rather than give up assets to add him to their roster.
While the Lakers are a prime candidate to eventually scoop him up, their roster really has no need for Melo. He is extremely close with LeBron and likely well respected among the Laker's young core, but Los Angeles is loaded on the wing with the impending return of James and has gone on record saying that while interested, they would not make a move unless a roster spot made itself available (aka someone goes down for the long-term). Unless that happens, expect the Lakers to remain on the sidelines in the hunt for Melo.
While unlikely to take a gamble on Melo, the Spurs are also a name that has been thrown out due to mutual fit. While Melo has struggled to fit in under his new schemes and coaching regimes, the Spurs run an old-school offense and one of the tightest ships in the NBA.
Gregg Popovich hates the 3 pointer too, so Melo likely would not be relegated to a 3 and D role here and may be given more of an opportunity to play to his strengths and create off the dribble from mid-range. This is an unlikely match as the Spurs don't necessarily need a wing player right now, but given the circumstances, may be worth the gamble if they can unlock a fraction of the scorer "prime Melo" was.
Philadelphia is another potential option for Melo. As a contender in the East in desperate need of wing depth, Philly actually makes sense for both sides here. While Melo doesn't offer much of a defensive threat, neither do incumbent players Dario Saric and Wilson Chandler (backup SF/PF) and Melo undoubtedly offers a better scoring punch compared to either Saric or Chandler.
All in all, this is simply a sad saga to see go down with one of the best pure scorers the NBA has ever seen. The fact of the matter is, Melo didn't simply get bad at basketball overnight.
Instead, he has been ripped out of the role he played for his entire life and has been expected to learn an entirely new skillset on the fly. Given up on and left for dead by the league, only time will tell at this point if another team picks him up with the intention of utilizing his strengths and giving him another shot.