For the better part of the last few weeks, Carmelo Anthony, a 9-time All Star, 3-time Gold Medalist, former scoring champ, and (likely) future hall of famer, has been firmly on the trading block. However, only 3 teams have been linked to him as potential trade destinations. Why is this? And what does it say about Carmelo and where he is in his career at the age of 32?
So far, Carmelo hasn’t been involved in trade rumors with any teams other than the Clippers, Cavaliers, and Celtics. However, Danny Ainge came out recently and said that the Celtics won’t be trading for Melo. That leaves the Clippers and Cavs, two teams that thus far have made it clear what Carmelo’s value on the open market is, although his no-trade clause limits how “open” the market truly is. Neither team has been willing to give up any of their own stars, with the Clippers uninterested in dealing Deandre Jordan or Blake Griffin, and the Cavs already declining to give the Knicks Kevin Love for Anthony. This makes sense, as all of the mentioned players are arguably more talented than Carmelo, younger than him, and as such have higher upside. But it’s more telling that no other contending teams are interested, given that 'Melo would be willing to go to any team close to contending since the Knicks are nowhere near relevance, let alone contention.
Carmelo does not offer much in today’s NBA. He is horrendous on defense, posting a negative defensive plus/minus. Overall, he has only a 0.8 Value Above Replacement or VORP (the value in points per 100 possessions contributed in relation to a replacement-level player) this season, his lowest since 2005 and the second lowest of his career. He has only shot 45% from the field once in the last 6 years, although he narrowly missed that plateau in 2013 (44.9%). In addition, he has only shot 40% from three once in his 14 year career, and is shooting only 36% this year. He specializes in the midrange, an area of the court that has been dying in recent memory, as teams are trending more and more toward an emphasis on the three pointer and easy buckets near the basket. This year alone, he has taken almost 60% of his shots from 16 feet and out, and is only shooting a combined 42% from this range.
A player like Carmelo, who has not experienced much team success in his career, is not worth the risk for many teams. He is not an accomplished winner at the NBA level, even though he has been unfortunate with some of the roster management around him in New York. He has also had a problem in his career sharing the spotlight with players he thinks are less talented than him, specifically Amare Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin when they were Knicks. His amazing performances at the Olympic level, and the fact that he’s the all-time leading scorer for USA Men’s Basketball, do support the argument that he excels when surrounded by other talented players, but this eliminates all but about 10 teams in the league, if that. The pool of franchises dwindles even further when you take into account his subpar defensive skills and increasingly outdated offensive game. Take another step and consider he neither offers much critical playoff experience to younger teams nor adds more experience to an already seasoned team of vets, and you end up with the Clippers and Cavs, two teams with one of his closest friends on each (Chris Paul and LeBron). Finally, no matter which team chooses to trade for him, they will likely have to deal with him playing the small forward position rather than the power forward position. For some reason Carmelo prefers the small forward spot, even though his two most productive years in a Knicks uniform came when he spent a majority of his playing time at power forward and as a stretch 4. This will surely present another issue with bringing him onboard in the middle of the season.
The Knicks' recent struggles must serve as a humbling experience for Carmelo, and he has done everything right while dealing with the firestorm of rumors. Considering he’s the wrong person that should be removed from the Knicks organization, it’s commendable how professional Melo has been. Meanwhile, Phil Jackson, the person who deserves the lion's share of the blame and should, definitely, unequivocally, be the person who loses his job, has consistently shown how out of touch he is as an NBA General Manager. He has previously refused to travel to away games unless they were in Los Angeles, alienated his star player who’s been nothing but loyal during his stay in New York, and has made terrible roster decisions time and time again. The most recent glaring mistake he’s made was gifting Joakim Noah a 4 year $72 million deal last summer. That’s the same Joakim Noah who is averaging 5 points and 9 rebounds a game. In other words, he’s on pace to make over $40,000 for every point he’ll score this year. And somehow Carmelo is the one who has been cast as the scapegoat for the Knicks’ struggles and even suffered boos at the hands of Knicks fans Saturday night against the Cavs.
No matter how much Melo has declined, it’s admittedly difficult to see a player of his magnitude be fractionalized the way he has recently. However, it seems as if he’ll be relieved of the rumors soon enough and likely be traded to another team. It’s now a matter of where and when, not if.