After LeBron and Kobe, Carmelo Anthony Is the Best Player in the NBA

Alec McAfeeCorrespondent IMay 22, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 21:  Carmelo Anthony #15 of the Denver Nuggets smiles in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 21, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. 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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

All season long the question has been, "Who is better: LeBron or Kobe?"

Well, odds are that question will not be solved, so it is time to move on.

A better question to ask is 'Who is the third-best player in the league behind LeBron and Kobe?'—that's the order I like, feel free to flip it.

Many people feel that Dwyane Wade came back from two seasons of injury to take the honor, while many others feel strongly that the physical specimen that is Dwight Howard has risen to the third spot.

I, on the other hand, believe firmly that Carmelo Anthony has reached this position, and done it somewhat under the radar.

Melo has put up consistent numbers this entire season, and in the playoffs especially—scoring at least 22 points in each of his last 11 games, the last five of which have gone for over 30.

He is the only player in the league who scores 22 points, grabs six rebounds, dishes out at least three assists, and shoots 37 percent from behind the arc (among players who have attempted at least 170 three-pointers this season).

Carmelo simply does it all.

Not to mention he is the best player on perhaps the best team in the Western Conference, and has scored 39 and 34 points respectively over the past two games against Kobe Bryant—one of the premiere defenders in the game and a First-Team All-Defensive Team member.

Carmelo has been called soft in his career, and has been called out for not stepping up in big games. But in this postseason he is the only player to average 28 points, six rebounds, and shoot at least 42 percent from behind the arc.

Melo also makes his teammates better—more than people think. He demands a double team when he drives—which is often—and routinely finds the open man, who either gets a wide-open look or finds someone who does.

The other two candidates for the third best player in the league—Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard—can not compare with Anthony.

Anthony is a much better shooter and post player than Wade, and simply more consistent and skilled than Howard.

However way you look at it there is no denying the vast improvement and maturity to Anthony's game over his six full NBA seasons.

And he is only getting better.