After a tough season with the Oklahoma City Thunder adjusting to life as a third option in the offense, Carmelo Anthony still exercised his player option for the 2018-19 season. He’s now slated to earn $27.9 million on the year, but according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Royce Young of ESPN, Anthony and the Thunder will look to part ways.
ESPN Sources with @royceyoung: Oklahoma City, Carmelo Anthony will part ways this summer, likely saving team over $100M. Thunder working with 'Melo's reps on exits that include trade, stretch provision. Story: https://t.co/mJbxINv2Cd— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 6, 2018
This will save the Thunder more than $107 million on their salary and luxury tax bill this year, and ultimately, it was the right choice for both parties to part ways. Melo struggled to fit into the system commandeered offensively by Russell Westbrook and Paul George, and his numbers took a major hit.
Averaging a career low in points, assists, and steals per game along with efficiency numbers like field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and true shooting percentage, it’s clear that Melo’s career is winding down. After 15 seasons, over 40,000 regular season and playoff minutes, four stints on Men’s USA Basketball, Melo has clearly had an excellent career...but he’s not the same player he once was.
It was rumored that the Nuggets had interest in bringing in Melo last season. That interest was never confirmed, and there’s no telling if it carries into this year after a full season of understanding what Melo’s game looks like as a non-focal point. There’s also no telling if Melo would want to return. The breakup between Melo and Denver was difficult emotionally for all parties, and it would surprise no one if he decided that he wanted to play with Chris Paul and James Harden in Houston or with LeBron James in Los Angeles.
The Houston Rockets are among the teams that will have interest in Carmelo Anthony once he secures his free agency, according to league sources— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) July 6, 2018
However, if Melo wanted to repair some of his legacy in Denver, returning to the Nuggets as a bench option (much like what Dwyane Wade did this past season) would be intriguing for both parties.
Denver’s starting lineup (barring unforeseen circumstances) is set for next year. Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, and Nikola Jokic will reprise their roles in the starting five, while the re-signed Will Barton will slide into the starting small forward role. While some may see Melo as a better option than Barton in the starting lineup, he isn’t at this point in his career.
Barton was a better scorer, passer, and defender last season. He played extremely well next to Jokic, increasing his efficiency and decreasing his turnover rate. The same could not be said of Melo when playing next to Russell Westbrook, the primary facilitator for the Thunder. Without the ball in his hands, with the team reliant on his pick and roll, isolation, and post-up scoring, Melo struggled to find his place. Things would certainly not be better in Denver, whose offense is predicated on ball movement and player movement, both of which are weaknesses in Melo’s game.
Defensively, the Thunder were far worse with Melo in the lineup. Defensively, according to NBAWowy!, the Thunder allowed just 98.2 point per 100 possessions with their initial starting lineup of Melo, Westbrook, George, Andre Roberson, and Steven Adams. Replace Melo with any other player, and that number drops even more to 95.2 points per 100 possessions. To consider that further, the three-man lineup of Westbrook, George, and Melo posted a poor mark of 109.8 points per 100 allowed. Without Melo, Westbrook and George allowed just 98.7 points per 100.
Both samples are strong enough, and Melo’s actual defensive production weak enough, to make the assertion that Melo doesn’t help an NBA defense at this stage in his career.
So, at this point, Melo isn’t going to improve Denver’s offense in the starting unit, nor will he improve the defense in any capacity. It’s hard to see where he provides the Nuggets with an advantage. Unless Denver is desperate for bench offense now that Barton is moving into the starting unit, it’s hard to see where he fits into the picture. Furthermore, if he becomes a bench contributor, it likely means less minutes for Trey Lyles and Juancho Hernangomez off the bench, two important young pieces who may be asked to step into large roles next year after Millsap’s deal potentially comes off the books.
I get the idea of bringing him back for nostalgia’s sake. He is one of the most important members of the Nuggets franchise, helping bring them back from the abyss and transforming them into a playoff team overnight. The highlights are legit, the battles with LeBron James and Kobe Bryant were even better.
I just don’t see the allure of bringing back Melo at this point for this particular Nuggets team. He likely wants to continue starting as well, which just shouldn’t happen in Denver again. If Denver plans on moving one of Lyles or Hernangomez in a deal that sheds the salary of Kenneth Faried or Darrell Arthur, then it makes more sense.
Other than that though, this should be an easy decision for the Nuggets. Denver needs to win now. They need to find a winning formula on the bench, one that doesn’t involve the team falling apart when Jokic sits. I don’t see Melo being the primary solution there.
It’s simple Nuggets, don’t call Melo.
Do you want to see Carmelo Anthony in a Nuggets uniform again?
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