Is the art of the mid-range game dead? Are isolation players that can create their own shot no longer a commodity? Well, from recent memory we saw Kevin Durant put on an absolute clinic against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the 2018 NBA Finals. He torched them even when his shots were heavily contested.
Being able to get your own shot is what separates great players from good players. It’s what separates Superstars from All-Stars. Durant showed this often during the game, regardless of the defender.
If that style of play is still proven to be effective when necessary, then why has there been so much grief for Carmelo Anthony? Anthony has seen his stardom plummet sharply over the course of the last two seasons. From an underwhelming last season with the Knicks to an early first-round exit with the Thunder, Anthony has had it rough. His stock has declined from starter to role player, to now individuals calling for him to be the sixth man. If you were a starter for your entire career, wouldn’t you have a hard time being relegated to the bench?
Carmelo Anthony has been a perennial All-Star during his NBA career. He’s shown flashes just this past season that he can still hang with the best. When going up against the former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green, Anthony got the best of him on several possessions.
In the following clip, Anthony hits the tough jump shot over Green, strips Stephen Curry and hits the 3 in transition:
Let’s take a look at another possession in which Anthony bests Green. Green has to honor Anthony’s ability to shoot over a contested hand, so he does the next best thing, pump fake!
Even when Anthony doesn’t get a shot off, he still has the ability to draw fouls:
As he recently joined the Houston Rockets, Anthony is once again in a position to contribute to a winning team as a starter. Although the Rockets are coming off a Western Conference Final appearance, they lost Luc Mbah A Moute and Trevor Ariza during the offseason. This leaves a gaping hole at the Forward positions, though critics seem to endorse the idea of starting Gerald Green and PJ Tucker. Both players seemed to have trouble guarding Anthony last season.
In this series we see Anthony drill a catch and shoot, and in a different possession blow right past Gerald Green for the dunk.
Earlier in the same game, Anthony was guarded by PJ Tucker, but the result was more of the same.
Of course, the NBA is a copycat league, and to be the best you must beat the best (or if you’re Kevin Durant, join them). Teams tend to follow suit and mimic those at the top to succeed. Ball movement and player movement are the philosophies teams are trying to embody in light of the Warriors recent success. However, the Superstar players always rise and take the most shots in any given game. Maybe it’s time for Anthony to take fewer shots (as he already did this past season), but as long as he can be efficient, there shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Anthony hasn’t been the 30 PPG scorer he once was, nor is he the athlete he once was. Nevertheless, the skill still remains. The silky smooth jump shot and form. The extra precise footwork on the mid-to-high block. The ability to connect over a contested shot. The tools are there for Anthony to flourish with the new look Rockets.