View Full Version : Can Carmelo Anthony have a breakthrough season this year?

10-26-2008, 02:07 PM
My latest blog (http://www.prosportsdaily.com/forums/blog.php?b=36):

Rebirth: The Second Coming Of Carmelo Anthony

When speculating about upcoming NBA seasons, I've generally tended to play it safe. But it's time for me to break from that humble tradition and boldly predict:

The 2008-09 season will not only be a breakthrough for Carmelo Anthony, it will be the pivotal season of his entire career. At long last, he will arrive. He'll become the player we've all been waiting for.

Why? He has to.

After five consecutive first round playoff exits, numerous reputation damaging on and off court incidents, and a career marked by a general perception that he has fallen significantly short of expectations, Melo's back is against the wall, and his legacy is at stake. He faces a fork in the road in which the right choice leads to genuine superstardom and championships, while the wrong choice leads to the blowup of the Denver Nuggets, and his being known as one of the NBA's historic disappointments.

I think he gets this. Finally. I'm sure he'd say it differently, but all indications are that he knows what's on the line this season.

In the span of just a few months, Carmelo has just lived the life of a phoenix, consumed by fire and reborn from the ashes. This started with his arrest for drunk driving, an embarrassing and inexcusable mishap which brought back all of the old past skeletons and cast them onto the jumbotron in full relief. The timing could not have been worse, as the Nuggets proceeded to face the overwhelmingly strong Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs, where they were promptly and thoroughly trounced. Melo put in his career worst postseason performance, and appeared to add insult to injury by proclaiming that he and the team had quit. From there, however, things rapidly turned around as he rejoined the U.S. Olympic team and played a key role in helping to bring back the gold to America.

Every single account of Anthony's Olympic experience pointed to a new improved attitude. With Dwayne Wade back in full health, and a new offensive design that put LeBron James and Kobe Bryant at the forefront of the starting lineup's attack, Carmelo was asked to step back from his role as a primary shooter (he was the team's leading scorer in the previous summer's FIFA tournament), and focus instead on defense, rebounding, and "the little things" that the supporting cast must bring for effective team play.

Not only did he accept that role, he did it with not one peep of a complaint, and with that famous grin on his face the entire time. He was gushing patriotic. His happiness at playing any part on the team was evident - and, I believe, genuine. And worn on his sleeve for all the world to see, his pride in representing his country and his hometown of Baltimore. But that positive mindset was only half the story.

On the court, he played some pretty great defense, and he was aggressive on the glass. I repeat: Carmelo Anthony played defense and went after the boards. The words we were hearing from him in the press were actually finding their expression in his basketball game. This to me was the first sign of hope that he wasn't going to let the DUI and the playoff failure own his mind. Just maybe, in the best case scenario, they had sparked a reawakening in him, and might now become fuel he could use for motivating himself to get truly focused on his game, to start paying proper attention to the elements of it such as defense that he's neglected for all too long, and perhaps most importantly of all, to become the true leader by example that the Nuggets need him to be.

So that's the dream that we took going into training camp, and now that we've had the opportunity to see how things have gone in camp and in the run of preseason games, how are things looking?

Very, very good. I won't dwell on all his scouting reports and interviews from the preseason, but the short version is that off the court he's been saying all the right things, and on the court he's been a more vocal leader, he's been working hard, communicating with his teammates and (like the rest of the team) entering into a new focus on playing a more intense and defensively oriented style of ball.

But the real proof is in the pudding. Here are some key stats from Melo's preseason outings. I've calculated them per 36.4 minutes, his average from last season, and stacked them against last season's numbers. My point in doing so is not to suggest that these will be his real numbers if he plays 11 additional minutes, but just to show by way of comparison the things he's doing more - and less - than last season. Also, I should just state that I understand this sample size isn't truly significant in terms of what kind of production he's capable of, but I think it's an accurate indication of which areas of his game he's focusing on, of how he's spending his minutes on the court.

26 5 12 0.417 1 4 5 3 3 0 1 4 16
24 6 14 0.429 0 9 9 5 2 0 3 2 14
24 6 14 0.429 0 9 9 5 2 0 3 2 14
28 5 9 0.556 1 5 6 6 2 0 2 2 15
23 4 11 0.364 0 6 6 0 1 0 1 2 11
Average 25 5.2 12 0.433 0.4 6.6 7 3.8 2 0 2 2.4 14
Per36.4 36.4 7.57 17.47 0.433 0.58 9.61 10.19 5.53 2.91 0 2.91 3.49 20.38

2007-08 36.4 9.5 19.2 0.492 2.3 5.1 7.4 3.4 1.3 0.5 3.3 3.3 25.7

Difference 0 -1.93 -1.73 -0.059 -1.72 +4.51 +2.79 +2.13 +1.61 -0.5 -0.39 +0.19 -5.32

So what is he doing differently? All the things everybody has always recognized as the things he'd need to start doing in order to lift his game to that higher level:

1. Shooting a little less and passing a lot more, as evidenced by the decrease in field goal attempts and the increase in assists. And in an interesting development, George Karl has actually had Melo spending some time playing as a point forward, but notice that the difference in turnovers is negligible.

2. Being much, much more aggressive on the defensive glass.

3. Playing more aggressive defense, as seen by his impressive steal numbers, while at the same time doing so efficiently, with a negligible difference in fouls.

4. Intangibles. Leadership. Doing the little things better. These things of course don't show up in the stats, but as they did in training camp, they are also happening on the court in real game action.

Carmelo seems to be genuinely focused this season, and to be more serious than I've ever seen him before about truly stepping up his game and assuming the responsibility of being the team's leader. I think he means it this time, although it's understandable that many of you will remain skeptical. I admit, my optimism is tentative - but it's real.

So, these are the reasons I'm making my prediction, and I'll stand by it (and, I'm sure, eat crow if it doesn't come to pass):

This is the season when Melo will elevate his game from that of a star to that of a superstar, and by season's end, he will be widely recognized as a top 10 player in the league.

10-27-2008, 04:48 AM

And thanks, eman, for being the one person to reply at the actual blog! :worthy:

10-27-2008, 05:08 AM
One more thing. In the NBA forum (where I also posted this), arlubas said he didn't think he could have a real breakthrough since he's already performing at such a high level.

My clarification of the "breakthrough" idea:

I guess I should have been more specific in framing the question (although that's hard to do in the space of a poll :cool: ). But if you read my blog I think you'll see that by "breakthrough" I don't really mean in the traditional sense of going from 12 to 18 ppg or something as easily measurable as that. What I really mean, first and foremost, is that he'll become a more complete player, key components of which are a) playing good defense, b) focusing more on defensive rebounding (and being effective at it), and c) becoming a player who is more of a team leader and who also has a hand in making his teammates better (which is where assists factor in).

So only two of those three points can really be measured statistically, but the type of breakthrough I'm envisioning is really even less tangible than that. And also, scoring at the same or even a slightly lesser rate would be perfectly acceptable, provided that inversely he's helping others on his team to score more.

10-27-2008, 09:52 AM
1. Shooting less and passing more, as evidenced by the decrease in field goal attempts and the increase in assists. And in an interesting development, George Karl has actually had Melo spending some time playing as a point forward, but notice that the difference in turnovers is negligible.

I think this change more than anything else will transform the Nuggets more than any other change made to the team. In his previous 5 seasons Melo has been in direct competition with Lebron James as to who was the better player. This put pressure on Melo to score and he tended to ignore playing defense and rebounding in order to leak out and score in the open court. But when he was at Syracuse he held the NCAA freshman double double record that Michael Beasley broke last season. By changing his responsibilities on the court Melo now will go to the defensive boards more where he can start the offense after he gets the rebound or be the first outlet if someone else gets it. I have always thought that the problem with the AI experiment was that it took the ball out of Melo's hands. Just before AI came the entire offense ran through Melo and he would continually pass out of double and triple teams and find the open man. Now AI can still be AI, Melo gets to start the offense and defenses have to pay attention to Melo, leaving other players like Nene open (see Nene's monster dunk as proof) if they double Melo.

Also Den I have been reading your blogs and you are dead on about the Camby trade as well. I think the team became lackadasical on the defensive boards and didn't play as physical because Camby was dominating them. The Nuggets also weren't as worried about stopping their man as they felt that they had Camby back their to cleanup their mistakes. There were two halves to that season last year and in the first half Marcus was indeed dominant, but either he wore down or other teams figured out what to do with him and his play diminshed in my eyes during the second half of the season. So maybe there will indeed be addition by subtraction and the overall play of the Nuggets will get better.