IN late July on Power 105’s ‘The Breakfast Club’, Carmelo Anthony’s trainer Chris Brickley stated that his client was “easily better than 60 percent, 70 percent of the NBA players walking around”. Whether you agree with his statement or not, it’s fair to say that Anthony’s continued absence from an NBA roster has surprised most, if not all of us. The 10x All-Star has played the best basketball of his career but after a tumultuous 12-18 months, Melo appears steadfast on returning to the league and ending his career the right way. Luckily, the Denver Nuggets can offer him a chance to live out that fairytale conclusion.
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ONCE the Denver Nuggets decided to draft Carmelo Anthony 3rd overall back in the early 21st century it quickly became clear that they had a future star on their hands. Melo was a walking 20 points from day dot, making four consecutive All-Star appearances with Denver before he was traded away in 2011. At the time of his departure, Anthony was third all-time for points scored in a Nuggets uniform at a tick under 14,000, cementing his status as a great franchise, leading them to the postseason in each of his seven and a half seasons. The only thing that eluded Melo and the Nuggets during his time with the franchise was playoff success. A meek 16-30 record illustrates just how off the mark they were, managing just one trip outside the first round.
THAT trend continued in New York with Anthony reaching the playoffs only to find his stay in the postseason continually become a brief one. His personal streak of 10 consecutive playoff appearances came to a screeching halt in 2013-14 and bouncing around from the Knicks to the Thunder to the Rockets has led the future Hall of Famer to where he is today; fighting to find a spot on a roster, eager to prove to the world and himself, that he can still compete at the highest level.
SO why is an Anthony/Nuggets reunion such a good idea? For starters, things are very different in Denver now, with the team set up to be a future powerhouse fuelled by their new, young exciting core. They only have one player on their roster aged over 30 (Paul Milsap, 34) and adding another veteran presence to their locker room to mentor generation next is an appealing concept. Of course, Melo isn’t any other veteran and the path to resigning the former scoring sensation is a complicated one.
MELO aired a lot of his grievances last week on First Take, addressing a lot of his issues head-on. He quickly shot down the rumours that he wasn’t willing to come off the bench, instead, stating that he was never told he was going to play that role in Houston, so he assumed he would be starting. What transpired from that point onwards led Anthony to lose confidence in his ability, questioning whether he still wanted to play in the NBA at all.
FUELED by a newfound belief in himself and his game, Anthony is longing to make his way onto a roster for season 2019-20. While there may be other teams that can offer him more minutes or even more money, rejoining Denver could immensely help both parties and may even lead to Carmelo ending his career with an NBA championship. Some will say it’s difficult to carve out a spot for Anthony on the Nuggets’ current roster, with 14 players currently contracted and a glut of forwards already on the team, but I think he could contribute a hell of a lot more than someone like Vlatko Cancar and/or Jarred Vanderbilt.
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THE thought of a farewell tour isn’t what Melo is seeking, but playing for the club that drafted him could be the perfect way to end his NBA career. Whether that’s only for one year or a few more to come, giving Carmelo the chance to play out his days for the Nuggets would be worth it from a nostalgic perspective alone. He is still loved in the Mile High City and there’s no doubt he would receive vocal support from the Nugs faithful anytime he checked into the game.
DENVER presents Carmelo with an opportunity to play the role that he knows and thrives in as an iso scorer. The Nuggets owned one of the best bench units in all of the league last year, with players like Monte Morris and Malik Beasley thrust into bigger roles as the injury list grew. However, Denver still only finished 16th for bench scoring (36.2 PPG), an area that Anthony could have a profound impact in, carving up second units with his array of mid-range moves.
WE saw Anthony’s production decline once he was discarded by the Knicks, but you have to attribute part of his woes to playing alongside two ball-dominant stars in Russell Westbrook/Paul George with the Thunder and then Chris Paul/James Harden at Houston. While the appeal of joining an L.A. powerhouse is real, you can’t tell me that a similar instance wouldn’t happen if Melo was to sign with the Lakers or Clippers in the next few weeks/months.
Image from zimbio.com
SIMPLY put, if Melo really is happy to accept a lesser role off the bench then Denver is where he needs to go. It makes sense from a schematic perspective, it gives him a real shot to win a title and if all else fails, at least his final chapter in the NBA can be a happy one. He continually states that he isn’t chasing a farewell tour, but Anthony is still a favourite of NBA fans around the world and his return to the court would only be a positive for the league.
MELO signing with a team is no certainty and as we have seen from greats of the past, ‘Father Time’ waits for no one. There’s a chance that Anthony has played his last meaningful NBA minutes, with a potential experiment with a random team like the Charlotte Hornets or Detroit Pistons his last chance of survival. The Nuggets are in a rare position where they can add: a scoring punch to help their team, a veteran presence to help their young stars and a longtime Denver hero all with one signature. Now we have to hope they extend the olive branch.
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