Carmelo Anthony was the third pick in the 2003 draft; a draft many are arguing has a place in the top 10 of all time. That year the top five picks were LeBron, Darko Milicic, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade. Wade won the championship with Shaq in his third season. It also gave us the starting center of the 2008 NBA Champions—Kendrick Perkins of the Boston Celtics.
The Pistons had the second pick of that draft, but elected for Milicic who is now wallowing at the end of the Grizzlie bench. Chauncey Billups was the starting PG for those same Detroit Pistons.
We can only imagine "what if."
What if Joe had drafted Carmelo? It might have been a disaster, because Carmelo did not have the mentality to take Larry Brown's coaching style.
Brown is a very demanding coach who preaches "playing the right way." Melo's immaturity would have seen Brown limiting his playing time, plus they had Tayshaun Prince.
Of course, now Joe is angling to trade Prince for a more durable SF who can handle defensive assignments on the LeBrons of this world. He might be able to get a late first round pick for him.
This NBA season saw Billups and Anthony finally playing on the same team. Billups, the home town hero, was now into his second stint with the team. This time he came back as a Finals MVP and NBA Champion. Dumars had honored his wish of being traded to Denver.
At the time of the trade the Detroit media went crazy. They essentially got Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups (McDyess was later released at his request). But their joy quickly turned into the team's frustration.
Iverson promptly skipped a practice, and balked at coming of the bench. Chauncey brought leadership to a team with a young star who was still finding his way as a leader.
Meanwhile, Detroit became disjointed and was unceremoniously swept out of the first round of the playoffs.
Anthony accomplished one thing that, for all his accolades, LeBron James has not done; led his team to the playoffs for every year he has been in the league.
His rookie season he averaged 21 PPG in the regular season, but saw his performance dip to 15 PPG in the playoffs. That is to be expected; winning the NCAA championship as a freshman is much easier than winning an NBA championship in your rookie season.
Anthony is learning from Billups, most of all how to think about the game and work better with his teammates. This new duo finally took the Denver Nuggets out of the first round; something they had not done since Mutombo roamed the paint in Denver.
Now they face the Dallas Mavericks, a regular season matchup they won 4-0. History says they will beat them. Last night Nene became the new Pele of finger-rolls and dunks over Dirk and Dampier. They dominated Dallas in the paint.
They won't sweep but I don't look for this series to go anymore than six, and Denver will win.
Let's see if Melo learned anything from kibitzing with Kobe on the redeem team as he takes this playoff journey with Chauncey.