Carmelo Anthony is the best player in the Western conference, at least for the first month of the season.
The Nuggets small forward won Western Conference Player of the Month honors for October/November, which was announced mere hours ago on ESPN’s Kia NBA Shootaround.
Melo has been nothing but smooth in 2009—his shooting stroke seems sweeter than ever, his passing is on point, and his energy on the defensive end is way up.
Carmelo’s best asset is his scoring prowess and ability to take over any game on the offensive end. He averaged 31 points per game in the first month, and continues to lead the NBA in scoring.
His scoring has been so consistent it was good enough for a new franchise record of consecutive games scoring at least 20 with 19 currently, passing Nuggets great Alex English (13).
Anthony's .489 percent shooting from the floor is quite respectable, and his relentless driving to the hoop has helped it. In past years, if Carmelo struggled with his jumper, he would just try to shoot himself out of it.
This year, Melo follows a missed shot with a slash to the hoop more often than not, which is making him a more effective all-around scorer. Plus, Anthony is No. 1 in free throws made, his FT percentage is a career-high (.869), and he’s learned that driving to the hole will put him to the line many times.
This past month has seen some amazing finishes around the cylinder by Anthony as well. One of the best was when some helpless Minnesota defenders grabbed him on a drive to the bucket. Both arms seemed tied up, but Melo somehow flipped the ball up and into the hoop for an and-one.
Carmelo’s best scoring game of the year was his career-high 50-point night against New York on Nov. 27. Anthony was completely unconscious in the game, going 17 for 28 from the field (.607) while adding six rebounds and five assists.
And really, Anthony is best for Denver when he plays an all-around game, rather than a ball-hogging style—when Melo shares the rock, everyone else does too.
Carmelo’s dimes have evolved to top of the line, especially when they come out of the post. In Nene’s huge game against the Nets , Melo dished three consecutive passes to the big Brazilian who dunked them quickly and forcefully.
Anthony’s biggest improvement so far this year has been his defense, in which he plays at a much higher level than he used to. His steals per game numbers are up to 1.4 per and Anthony gives more energy chasing and swatting at defenders than he has in the past.
And even though Carmelo is already considered among the best players in the NBA today, his dedication to improving should have him in the MVP talks with the national media.
One could argue that more nights like Nov. 21 against Chicago, during which Melo flirted with a triple-double (30 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists), could further boost the small forward’s MVP stock big time. And as those nights come with more frequency, as they surely will, no one can argue that Carmelo is the most important player to his team.
Anthony’s 30.2 points per game are almost as much as Denver’s next two scorers put together (Billups 16.7, Smith 14.8) and he easily leads the Nuggets at 36 minutes per contest.
Sure, Denver had a huge let down against the Timberwolves Sunday, but this team is still 14-5, 9-1 at home and leading the Northwest division by 2.5 games.
The questions becomes as the league makes note of his gaudy numbers and accomplishments so far this season with this award, will the national writers and TV personalities jump aboard and argue that a small-market superstar can be MVP? Or will Melo’s accomplishments be lost because of a big-market bias?
Just because Denver isn’t on a coast doesn’t mean it can’t have the best player in the NBA.
And really it all falls on Carmelo and his teammates—if he keeps dominating and the team competes for a championship, Anthony will force his way into MVP talks.
But for now, the hands down best player in the league is Carmelo Anthony and everyone in Denver has a mile high amount of pride for their Nuggets’ great.
Notes: Melo will get his chance to keep up the MVP pace with a four-game road trip that starts on Saturday night in San Antonio against the Spurs. Check out my fellow Nuggets Featured Columnist Courtzide Seats’ preview of the trip here . Denver’s 9-1 home record is best in the NBA and the Nuggets have gone 8-2 in their last 10 games overall. The Nuggets are 2.5 games ahead of both the Jazz (11-7) and Trail Blazers (12-8), but the teams are heading in two different directions. Utah is on a four-game winning streak while Portland has lost their last three.