Monday, May 19, 2008

Player Report Card: Carmelo Anthony

(Boulder-CO) Now we’re getting somewhere! Grab a drink, maybe a snack, and get comfortable because Carmelo Anthony’s report card is going be nothing short of a novel. There’s just so many good and bad memories from Carmelo Anthony’s 2007-08 season and I‘m taking off the gloves.

For starters, all of Carmelo’s numbers, except for in rebounding, were down in comparison to last year’s breakout when he finished second in the NBA in scoring. His minutes per game dropped nearly two full ticks down to 36.4 minutes per game, his scoring dipped more than three points to 25.7 ppg, his assist average tailed off to 3.4 dimes per game, and his free-throw shooting percentage slumped below the 80% mark for the first time in two seasons.

However, Carmelo played in all but five games this season only missing action due to a twisted ankle suffered via the tops of Kobe Bryant’s sneakers. Talk about foreshadowing.

As for statistical silver linings, rebounding may be Carmelo’s only alibi. Anthony upped his impact on the boards from a career-high tying six rebounds in the pervious season to 7.4 boards this year by being more conscience on the defensive glass and averaging nearly a single rebound more per game than in any other season on the books.
And that’s about where Carmelo’s defensive praises stop singing.
It is of my opinion that he is still, if not the worst defender on the team, one of the two worst defenders currently on the Nuggets’ roster. After last year, I may have been inclined to say his defense was on the up and up, but not now. His defensive rotations are still slow (if at all), his post defense was exploited by other competent offensive-minded small forwards all season long (which is evident by his average fouls also being a career-high 3.3 per game, and the fact that he fouled out in games against the Magic when he was paired up against Hedo Turkoglu and Utah when he drew the defensive assignment of the post-minded AK47), and at 6’8” he leaves a lot to be desired as a shot blocker.

Another area of Carmelo’s persona that the Nuggets really need to examine is his ability to serve as this team’s leader. In the genesis of this season I would have argued that Carmelo was, and still is, the Nuggets’ leader even with the addition of AI. But after watching all 86 games this season I would have to disagree with myself and the reasoning is three fold. First of all, to be a leader of an NBA basketball team you have to be able to get the players around you to raise the level of their game in some way. Be it defensively, offensively, or the effort that they surrender it is the sole responsibility of the leader to bring that crescendo out of their teammates and Carmelo certainly did not do that this season. Another attribute of an NBA leader is someone who brings their A-game to the arena night-in and night-out, no excuses. I think you’ll be interested to know that Carmelo’s Anthony’s scoring average, when measured by how many days rest he has had, ranges from a low of 24.7 points per game in back-to-back games to a high of 31.4 per game with more than three days to recuperate and his rebounding follows the same disturbing trend. Does this mean Carmelo wasn’t in the kind of physical conditioning that allows him to compete at his highest level on 24 hours rest or is it just a normal trend of players playing at the highest level of competition? You be the judge, but if you’re the stand-in leader of a team and can’t provide your fellow troops with a steadier, regardless of how many nights off before tip, effort than it certainly does raise some eyebrows. And lastly, an NBA leader must be vocal. Carmelo Anthony makes Tim Duncan look like Kevin Garnett when it comes down to bellowing out a war cry in the heat of battle. Hell, for that matter, his best attempt was accusing his fellow brethren of quitting on him when it was all but too little too late and the Nuggets were already being sized up by the dust pan of L.A.’s sweep.

So, with all those question marks and sour notes fresh in your mind in retrospect of Carmelo’s season, let’s take a look at one very special night at the Pepsi Center. A night that I was in attendance for, and what was certainly the apex of Carmelo Anthony in the 2007-08 season. I present to you ‘Melo’s career-high scoring night of 49 points.

Other solid areas of note for Carmelo’s season are as follows: 25 games with a double-double of rebounds and points, a career-high field goal percentage of 49.2, a career-high three-point shooting percentage of 35.4, and a career-high number of steals with 98. Areas of concern are, also, as follows: Carmelo was not the team’s leader in scoring despite taking the most average nightly shots at 19.2 per game, he was hit with eleven technical fouls, two flagrant fouls, and finished sixth on the team in adjusted field goal percentage at 51%. And I don’t think I need to mention a little late season incident in the midst of playoff position being jockeyed for to justify giving Carmelo Anthony a C for what was an otherwise very average year for a player with so much responsibility to a team with expectations of breaking out of the trend of just being average.

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