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What Winning 2013 NBA Scoring Title Means for Carmelo Anthony's Career Resume

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 31:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks celebrates his three point shot in the first quarter against the Boston Celtics on March 31, 2013 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 14, 2013

With his first NBA scoring title close enough to taste, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is on the verge of raising his star profile to new heights.

Unfortunately, finishing the 2012-13 season with a scoring crown still won't be enough to elevate Anthony to the NBA's highest level of NBA superstars.

That's not a knock on Anthony, though. He's been undeniably brilliant this season and deserves a mountain of credit for refining his three-point shot and showing inspired toughness in the paint. For all that, Melo still doesn't measure up to LeBron James or Kevin Durant.

The comparisons between Anthony and the league's two best players are layered and complicated. Contexts and systems always matter, so trying to isolate individual strengths and weaknesses isn't as simple as looking at points per game or field-goal percentage.

But to boil things down in as simple a way as possible, here's why Anthony isn't on the same plane as James or Durant:

LBJ is the league's most dominant player by a mile, and much of what makes him great is his unparalleled two-way play. James not only elevates the Miami Heat's offensive rating from a pedestrian 101.4 to a truly elite 112.8, his presence on the floor also improves their defensive rating by a full five points per 100 possessions.

On balance, Anthony's on- and off-court splits are very good, but they also illustrate how far he has to go as a defensive player. When Anthony is in the game, the Knicks score at a pace of 109.3 points per 100 possessions. When he sits, they put up an offensive rating of only 105.9.

More importantly, though, New York actually improves its defensive rating by 1.5 points when Anthony sits.

Numbers aside, watching Anthony play defense is nothing like watching James. The latter player flies all over the floor, helping teammates, meeting opponents at the rim and destroying passing angles with his quickness. James guards players of all sizes and is never overmatched.

Anthony, on the other hand, competes against his man and has developed into an able defender on the block. But his activity and effort come nowhere close to James'.

The comparison to Durant is a closer one, as the pair share the distinction of making their teams better on offense, but slightly poorer on D.

But KD's elite efficiency makes him a far more valuable offensive player than Anthony is.

Despite the best perimeter-shooting season of his career, the Knicks forward's shooting percentages trail Durant's from the field (50.8 percent to 44.9 percent), from long range (41.5 percent to 38.1 percent) and from the foul line (90.1 percent to 83.3 percent).

Durant's not the only top-flight scorer who has rated as a more efficient offensive player than Anthony this year, either.

James, Kobe Bryant, James Harden, David Lee and Al Horford have all functioned as more efficient scorers than Anthony has this year.

Clearly, there's something to be said for Anthony's ability to generate his league-leading 22.2 field-goal attempts per game, but it's impossible to ignore the fact that there are a half-dozen more efficient point-producers in the game than the player who'll almost certainly end up with the scoring title.

Again, Anthony has been spectacular this year. There's no shame in sitting atop the NBA's second tier of superstars alongside players like Chris Paul, Bryant, Tim Duncan, Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade.

But he's not on James or Durant's level. For that reason, an All-NBA First Team nod is a virtual impossibility; the forward spots are occupied by the league's two best players.

Looking more broadly at what the scoring title means for Anthony's legacy, it does appear that it'll help him enter Hall of Fame territory.

This season will mark the eighth time he's finished in the top 10 in scoring, and he's got a good chance of bettering the sixth-place finish he registered in the MVP voting following the 2009-10 season.

In addition, his all-time numbers are starting to pile up in a way that bodes very well for his place in history. With nearly 18,000 points, Anthony already ranks 67th in career scoring. If we conservatively peg him for about 1,900 points per season over his next five years, he'll reach 27,000 points by the time he's 33.

Assuming he stays healthy and continues to score somewhere around his career pace, that'll mean Anthony will rank close to No. 10 all time (a spot held by Elvin Hayes and his 27,313 career points) with a few more good seasons left in him.

The numbers will be there, and Anthony's reputation as a player who doesn't help his team win has lost some weight this year after the Knicks captured their first Atlantic Division title since 1994. Taken together, Anthony's projected statistics and the improved success of his teams should be more than enough to propel him into history as a Hall of Famer.

Bringing things back around to where we started, Anthony's first scoring title doesn't put him on par with the game's very best players. But it does prove that he's a great scorer who has gradually come to better understand what it takes to win.

He's still got his flaws, but Melo has definitely taken a step forward this season. It's just too bad that James and Durant have taken such giant leaps.

 

*All stats via NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.

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