Carmelo is shooting for something bigger this year.
Ring chasers become a dime a dozen late in NBA careers as players realize they are on the brink of closing their careers without having won an NBA championship. Identifying these players far ahead of that point in their careers can be more difficult.
This slideshow looks at five NBA players who have yet to win a ring. Without favorable circumstances, they may never. The LeBron Jameses, Dwight Howards and Kobe Bryants of the league are rare. There just aren't that many players that can carry mediocre squads to the NBA Finals, and as to whether even those three did is questionable. Without the right circumstances, an NBA player just can't win a title.
These five players all fit into that mold. They have the talent to be key features on an NBA title winning team but aren't the level of talent that can guarantee a title on their own—if any players can at all.
D-Will has always played exceptionally well in the postseason.
Deron Williams is now in his eighth NBA season and has only got to the conference finals once, in 2006-07. It doesn't look as though the Brooklyn Nets are on the verge of contending any time in the immediate future.
D-Will has played outstanding in his 44 career playoff games, averaging 21.1 points and 9.6 assists per game, but he hasn't had the supporting cast to get it done. The Nets, while very good, are still likely to fall short to the Miami Heat and aren't much better than the second tier of teams in the Eastern Conference.
Whether or not D-Will wins a title will come down to the same factors that affect all players: having good enough teammates and hitting the right set of circumstances. The Heat have the East all but secured with their trio of stars, while it will take a very fortuitous run by the Nets to derail James and company.
Are the Knicks true contenders, or pretenders?
Carmelo Anthony is now in his 10th season and still has yet to get further than the conference finals, much like D-Will. In 2008-09, he reached the conference finals with the Denver Nuggets, but they were eliminated by the Lakers 4-2.
Even though the New York Knicks are very good this year and sit at a perfect 5-0, it's going to take a lot by the Knicks to derail the Heat, who are 6-3 so far in this season. Melo may be on the verge of leaving this list of players who are going to chase a ring, but we're going to need further evidence before we can start to throw the Knicks in as true contenders. Five games does not a season make.
In that 08-09 run, Melo averaged 27.2 points per game, 5.8 rebounds per game and 4.1 assists per game. So far this year, he is putting up 26.8 points per game (which leads the league), 7.4 rebounds per game and 1.6 assists per game. His assists have never been as high as they were in 08-09, and really, that may be the key.
Melo getting his teammates involved is what enabled the Nuggets to thrive that year, and he has the talent around him in New York to do big things. I'm just not ready to say he's on the verge of winning a ring after a 5-0 start.
Has Vince's window of opportunity closed? I think so.
Vince Carter has already missed the bus on being a major contributor on a contending team. The Orlando Magic gave him that opportunity, and he wilted under the pressure. Now that he is 35, all contributions he makes on the court are going to be tempered by the fact he is a bench player only capable of scoring in short stints on the court.
He's filling that role rather nicely, though. Vinsanity has put up 12.3 points per game in 25 minutes a night, but Dallas is 5-4 and not even a lock to make the playoffs. They've been without Dirk Nowitzki and winning in spite of it, but even when he returns, does anyone think they have the talent to take out the Lakers, Thunder, Spurs, Clippers or even the Timberwolves or Nuggets?
Retirement must be immanent for Carter, and there's no guarantee he's going to chase a ring on the right team before then. There's not even any indication that he wants to.
Joe Johnson is trying to drive past the doubters.
Like his teammate Deron Williams, Joe Johnson has had a nice NBA career for himself thus far, but unlike Williams, the door is rapidly closing for the 31-year-old Johnson. He's made the playoffs seven seasons in his 11-year career, but has never even made it to the conference finals.
Moreover, Johnson has always played poorly in the playoffs. His career playoff averages over 62 games are just 16.9 points per game, 3.6 assists per game and 4.4 rebounds per game. That's a far cry from his regular season averages during his prime, a line which bordered on 20/5/5, and he posted 25 points per game in 2006-07.
Johnson isn't capable of that type of production anymore, and he won't be called upon to provide it in Brooklyn. Even if he could and did, the Nets still wouldn't be contenders for an NBA title.
Former Sun Grant Hill has sacrificed his body, but with no avail.
Grant Hill has now been in the league for 17 seasons and has yet to produce a ring. While the Clippers are in that second tier of contenders in the league, Hill hasn't played yet this season, as he is nursing a bone bruise in his knee and has no time table for his return.
Hill has had a good NBA career, and at one point it could have been great, but his ankle derailed that. He now cannot get through metal detectors at airport screenings. Joking aside, the screws in his ankles haven't been what has stopped him from winning a title. Rather, like most players, it has been more a matter of not being in the right place at the right time.
Though the Clippers are very good, whether they are good enough to win a title is an entirely different matter.