Conversations about the best pure scorer in the NBA always start with the usual suspects: Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James are almost always the unanimous choices and, more often than not, dominate the discussions.
However, this year Carmelo Anthony has clearly introduced himself into this debate by asserting his dominance as an offensive sensation. In terms of the difficulties an individual player creates in the game planning process, I don't think that there is a tougher matchup to plan for than Carmelo Anthony.
Against smaller players, 'Melo can post up and use his size on the block to power his way to easy buckets. He is one of the best post-players in the NBA, and this might be the most underrated part of his game. He is very powerful for a small forward, and he uses his imposing strength to finish with contact better than almost any other player in the league.
Against bigger players, he can use his jab step to create the necessary distance in order to get his silky smooth jump shot off. He has developed into one of the league's most feared jump shooters over the past two years, and with enough space he is nearly automatic.
Against slower players, Anthony uses his deceptive quickness and exceptional ball handling skills to blow by his defender to get to the rim. Besides Chauncey Billups, Carmelo handles the ball more than any other player on the Nuggets, and does so impressively.
Pick your poison. As an opposing coach, it is nearly impossible to contain Anthony, regardless of who you put on him. There is at least one facet to his game that is superior to anyone who matches up against him, making him a nightmare to defend.
I assume at this point you will frantically attempt to offer your own reasons as to why Kobe, Wade, or LeBron are better than 'Melo in one, if not multiple aspects on the offensive side. You may in fact be correct.
Wade is probably a better slasher, and has more brute athleticism than Carmelo, but in the paint and from beyond 20 feet, 'Melo is by far the superior player.
Kobe is probably the best player off the dribble in the NBA, if not one of the greatest ever. He also can get off and finish some of the most difficult shots I have ever seen. His fade away jumper is indefensible, and when he is hitting his shots, Kobe might be the best offensive player on the planet. Bryant has also developed into one of the best players in the post, and thanks to some recent work with Hakeem Olajuwon, he has only improved upon that this year.
That said, I would still give Carmelo the slight edge with his back to the basket. There isn't an active player that combines the speed, power, finesse, creativity, and footwork that 'Melo possesses on the block.
LeBron is one of the most well rounded offensive players alive. He is an excellent jump shooter, takes it to the basket with authority, and is an outstanding passer. He operates more like a point guard in the mold of Magic Johnson with his ball handling abilities, and involves his teammates as well as any other player in the NBA. Again, though, Anthony is far better in the post and he is much quicker than LeBron, which makes him impossible to stay in front of down low.
When you have to account for all the aspects of Carmelo Anthony's game, he is at the top of the league in terms of creating the most difficult matchup. No matter what type of player you put against him, he has the talent to exploit that defender's weakness and use them to his advantage.
He still has a ways to go in order to be mentioned alongside the "big three" in terms of best overall players, but nobody in the NBA puts points on the board with the ease of Carmelo Anthony, and he is quickly emerging as the best pure scorer in the league.