The spotlight of the media has been focused on the Denver Nuggets the past month, and in the center of that spotlight stands Carmelo Anthony. The past few years it seems he managed to somehow go from an overrated talent to an underrated franchise player. Weird how that happens these days. Three years ago people said he was young, raw, and had a poor attitude while making playoff runs and losing in the opening rounds every year. Now, the story is a bit different.
When people talk about that amazing draft-class of 2003, it seems that Dwayne Wade, and of course Lebron James, are the two players involved in the discussion. This previous summer I even noticed that Chris Bosh, who was also drafted in 2003, was coming up in discussion as a legit franchise guy more than Melo was. Amazing how we can quickly dismiss players, and it's even more impressive how those players come storming back.
Coming into the 2008-2009 season Carmelo was a known star. But with that, teams would scheme around him, knowing he was an offensive force that had a somewhat poor shot selection and jacked up tons of shots, was a mediocre passer, and more importantly a poor defender.
He was never at the level a franchise player should be. While he had three seasons in a row of 25 or more points per game (one with 28.9), he never really had a complete game, and more importantly never seemed to play within a system and make those around him better.
In steps Chauncey Billups. Attained at the beginning of the season, he came over and instantly impacted the entire culture of this Denver franchise. He is the savvy veteran leader that they've longed for the past few years. The team responded quickly to his mindset and team-play style, on both defense and offense, and as a result the Nuggets had their best season in the history of the Nuggets franchise. They clinched the second seed in the West, and are currently playing the best basketball in the West, possibly in the NBA.
Going into the playoffs, people, including myself, were still underrating both Carmelo and the Nuggets. After a quick, humiliating five game series in which Denver destroyed Chris Paul and his Hornets squad (including a record-tying 58 point win), it was obvious that Denver was finally a contender, and Anthony was their go-to guy.
Then it was Dallas in round two. Game Three was questionable and could of changed the series, but let's not worry about that. Instead, we look and see that Denver completely dominated the first two games with Dallas, defensively scheming and executing extremely efficiently.
In Game Three Melo and Denver showed they were clutch hitting three-pointers to win the game in closing seconds. Game Four was a hiccup like many teams have, though not a big one, and then Game Five they entirely dominated all game, showing they are the better team without a doubt.
So let's "Melo" things down a bit. Denver is playing much better basketball than the Lakers (and Houston), and people are finally starting to respect that. If Denver faced the Lakers squad that has been playing the last few weeks, Denver would win that series in five, maybe six.
This Denver team plays too well on both ends of the floor, and more importantly they show up night in, night out. Chauncey has this team mentally focused and is the conductor of this train, but Melo is the engine that drives this team to wins.
Melo's regular season was a bit up and down, but still ever impressive. His scoring dropped, and for some reason his percentages dropped a little too. But overall, we have seen his attitude and mindset change, and more importantly he plays for the team and to win games.
He has shown games where he plays great defense; a great example was against Dallas he would match-up with Dirk and do a great job pestering Dirk on the post. Melo not only can score at will, but he can now create plays for other people, rebound better than most power-forwards, play very solid defense, and will take, and possibly make, any clutch shot necessary.
Then come the playoffs. It's only been 10 games for Melo and the Nuggets in the two rounds, but it's a great sample to see just how well Melo is playing, and explains why the Nuggets are at this level:
27.0 ppg, 4.3 apg, 6.4 rpg, 2.0 spg, 0.8 bpg, 48%FG, 45%3ptFG
That's what I call impressive. You can see that he not only is scoring and passing at an amazing rate, but look at his efficiency doing so. Nearly making half of his shots, and 45 percent of his three-pointers. Simply phenomenal. You can't Melo things down much from there, he's just too damn good.
Then you can see he's not only playing tough defense, both man and team D, but he has stats to prove it: two steals a game and one block a game. Pretty all-around perfect numbers for your franchise small-forward.
Now those are all things tangible. Yes I can rely on stats a little too much, but I just love my numbers. Mathematically Anthony is playing the best ball of his playoff career, but more importantly we can just watch the kid play and concur with that statement. Watching this kid is a blast, as he might be the most versatile, pure scorer in the entire NBA. This kid has a more expansive offensive style than both Kobe and Lebron possibly.
Melo's pure jump-shot from both 17 feet and three-point land are better than both Kobe's and Lebron's. Melo has a better post-up game than Lebron; a better ability to get to the rim at will than Kobe. I am not saying he's a better player, because he's not, and probably not a better offensive player than either of those guys either; but like Charles Barkley said: "Melo is the best pure scorer in the NBA".
Credit to: AboveLegit at RealSportsTalk.