For the past few weeks, I have been breaking down NBA players that I feel are franchise players. I have come up with a list of criteria that the players have to meet in order to be considered a franchise player. You can find the requirements by clicking here. Here is the list of previous players that I have covered so far:
With that said, let’s get to our featured player of the day…..
Back in the late 1990’s, something was completely off in Denver. From 1998 to 2003, they managed a record of 133 wins and 245 losses (35.2% winning percentage). Teams go through ups and downs all the time depending on the roster, so it’s not a big shock that a team could be bad; however in the Nuggets case, look at the players they had during that time span (a lot of them played together as well):
-Nick Van Exel
-Antonio McDyess, (this version of Dice was putting up 20 and nine per game against the likes of Malone, Webber, Duncan and Garnett);
Despite having a young nucleus at the time, that squad should have challenged for a playoff spot; but instead they were doormats to most teams in the league. If things weren’t bad enough, they had ugly jerseys. The Nuggets organization needed help in the worst way, and they got it in the form of the NBA Draft lottery.
Once the lottery was done, here were the top five spots:
Quick tangent: why doesn’t the NBA use celebrities to actually pluck the balls out of the machine? Wouldn’t you enjoy watching the Lottery if say Kim Kardashian was picking balls while Ray-J announced the names of the teams? By the way, I meant picking the ping pong balls…or did I? Back to the topic...
Once Detroit screwed up by picking Darko; Denver was free to select Syracuse player Carmelo Anthony, who had just led the Orangemen to a National Championship in the NCAA tournament. Carmelo Anthony’s arrival in Denver helped precipitate a change to the team uniforms (my eyes are truly thankful) and also made the Nuggets “must see TV”. Carmelo Anthony has since become the face of the Denver Nuggets and is now one of the best players in the NBA. No longer is the discussion about Kobe, LeBron, Wade and Dirk; now Melo is officially part of the debate. With that said though, is Carmelo Anthony a franchise player?
The Kobe Bryant Exception
Carmelo Anthony turned his team around the moment he set foot on an NBA basketball court. Anthony is currently in the midst of his seventh season, and his squad seems poised to make its seventh straight postseason appearance. The Denver Nuggets have yet to miss the playoffs under the watchful eye of their superstar. He passes this requirement with flying colors.
The Kareem Standard
Carmelo Anthony is now becoming a household name amongst NBA fans. Nuggets fans have always known what he brought to the table, but now the rest of the NBA fan base is starting to pay attention. Anthony has been selected three different times to the All-NBA third team and has also participated in three NBA All-Star games. Melo’s list of accomplishments in his NBA career might not necessarily impress you; but make no mistake, he is part of the elite. One of the biggest stages in the NBA is the All-Star game. That’s where you see the respect that each player garners amongst his peers. If the league’s best players feel that you are out of your element, they will avoid going your way with the ball. It’s the reason that Kobe Bryant (when he participates in the ASG) always gets the ball in late in the fourth quarter of tightly contested All-Star games; because players respect his contributions and his game. Although Carmelo is a few steps behind the Black Mamba, he has still earned the respect from players around the league. In his three All-Star game appearances, look at what Melo has done in just 25.3 minutes per game: 21.7 points per game, 8.7 rebounds per game, 1.3 assists per game and 57.4% field goal percentage. Carmelo reminds me of Elgin from the movie You Got Served. Elgin (portrayed by former Immature lead singer Marques Houston) is part of the Lil’Saints who happen to be the best dance crew in the region. They step their game up and dance their asses off when needed. Marques Houston’s character is an incredible dancer; he has the moves, the charisma, the sex appeal and the swagger. However, he is the second best dancer of the group behind David (portrayed by R&B singer Omarion). David is the alpha dog and although it’s never been discussed, things go through him. David is Kobe Bryant and Elgin is Carmelo. You see, Melo might come second in the pecking order of Western Conference All-Stars; but he’s a great second guy to have.
The Karl Malone Rule
Every year, Melo seems to miss a few games here and there. The impression that some might have is that he is always injured, a bit like Dwyane Wade. Turns out that he misses games but not as much as I originally thought. Carmelo Anthony has appeared in 495 out of 555 games in his NBA career. The Syracuse product has appeared in 89.2% of the Nuggets games in his career. So contrary to popular belief, Melo is in fact a durable player.
Magic Johnson Provision
Carmelo Anthony is an incredibly gifted scorer; however fans in general would pick Kevin Durant in a heartbeat over Melo because they feel as though KD affects the game in many more facets and also, because Anthony as had some bad playoff performances. Are these fans right?
Say what you will about Carmelo Anthony, but the man changed the fortunes of a franchise and did so by playing hard each and every night. Have a quick look at Denver’s record each year since the Melo has joined the team:
In addition, let’s just quickly compare Carmelo Anthony’s career numbers to Kevin Durant’s:
Anthony: 24.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 46.0 FG%
Durant: 24.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 46.0 FG%
Isn’t it a bit creepy how similar their numbers are? Let’s take it a step further; let’s peek at their 2009-10 regular season numbers:
Anthony: 28.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.3 SPG, 46.0 FG%
Durant: 29.7 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, 47.7 FG%
The production is similar, but Durant has better numbers than Anthony in every statistical category except in the assists department. However, Durant has yet to participate in the tough grind that we call the NBA postseason. Although Anthony struggled in his first five playoff appearances (in his first five seasons, Anthony appeared in 23 playoff games, whereas last year alone he played in 16; which means he always went home extra early in the postseason in his first few seasons), it helped him become the clutch assassin that we have seen in the past few years. Indeed, if we look at the clutch numbers from 82games.com, you’ll see that Melo is truly the guy that you want to shoot the ball when the game hangs in the balance. Real quickly, let’s have a look at 82games.com’s definition of a game winning shot: “Game Winning Shot Opportunity = 24 seconds or less left in the game, team with the ball is either tied or down by 1 to 2 points.” Now let’s see how Anthony fares in those situations; the data compiled ranges from 2003 up to last season (includes regular season and playoffs).
Have a look at Carmelo Anthony’s field goal percentage in game winning situations; it’s an outstanding 48.1%. Our Denver Nugget has a better clutch shooting percentage than Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Carmelo Anthony shines brighter than the players that we have come to associate clutch with.
Indeed, those performances late in games have taken him to another level. Anthony used to struggle in the playoffs against tough defenders such as Quentin Ross, Trenton Hassel and Bruce Bowen. But all the tough battles and failures made Carmelo Anthony a different man; a battle tested playoff man. Look at what he did in last season’s (2008-09) playoffs in every round against some of the NBA’s best defenders:
vs. New Orleans (Posey): 24.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.8 SPG, 46.9 FG%.
vs. Dallas (Josh Howard & A. Wright): 30.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.4 APG, 2.2 SPG, 49.1 FG%.
vs. Lakers (Ariza, Odom, Bryant): 27.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.3 SPG, 40.7 FG%.
Anthony encountered some shooting woes against the Lakers, but had a great playoff performance overall last year. He stepped up his game in the postseason and it has in turn allowed him to lead his team this year to the second best record in the west. At 42-21, Anthony’s Nuggets are creeping up on the 46-18 Los Angeles Lakers. If we’re talking about stage presence, Melo pretty much lights up the stage on fire.
The Shaquille O’Neal aka Diesel Test
In light of what was previously mentioned, I can see Carmelo Anthony making $20 million in one season and not even blink. He is a top three small forward in the league (you know with scrubs like LeBron James and Kevin Durant) and a top 10 NBA player. Few players are as good as the headband wearing Anthony. Considering that he is part of the elite, I think that Melo qualifies and passes The Diesel Test.
Back in January, I wrote a preview for the Cleveland at Denver game; here’s a quick look at what I wrote: “Carmelo Anthony was the guy as a freshman for a Syracuse team that won a national championship. He then declared for the NBA Draft and watched a high school player be taken number one overall (a high school player named LeBron James) while he slipped to the number three spot. If that wasn’t enough, Carmelo Anthony led his Denver Nuggets to the playoffs in his first season and yet watched the NBA declare LeBron James the Rookie of the Year. LeBron has since won two NBA All-Star Game MVP trophies and one NBA League MVP trophy. In addition, King James has had a trip to the NBA Finals whereas up until last year, Melo had been unable to make it out of the first round. If the equivalent of this had been happening in the music industry with Beyonce and Britney Spears, all the tabloids would have written stories about how Britney was jealous of all the attention that Beyonce was getting. And yet, Melo vs. LeBron doesn't seem to garner any attention at all in the media. As much as people think that Kobe Bryant has a worthy rival in LeBron James; the guys just don't have the history together. Mind you, Anthony and James have played against one another in high school, they have played together in the Rookie-Sophomore game and they have played together on Team USA. All that we need now is for these guys to play each other at some point in the NBA Finals.” Carmelo Anthony’s Nuggets will try to make a title run this year, and it’s in large part because they have a great franchise player. If we’re lucky, we might get the chance to see him play Kobe and LeBron in the playoffs; but in case it doesn’t happen, make sure you tune in to watch him play. Every night that Anthony plays, he puts on a dazzling show worthy of the attention of all. Know why? Because that’s what franchise players do…