Is Melo drowning OKC?
December 19, 2017
If we can all agree that performances against the spread are a general measure of how good teams are compared to expectations, then the Oklahoma City Thunder are seriously dogging it. They are one of the worst bets in the league at a paltry 10-20 ATS, and have gone a brutal 1-9 ATS over their last 10 games. At no time have they really seemed to be in sync or on route to developing chemistry. Somehow, this team was better when it was just Russ.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are still +2000 to win the NBA Championship, which is a fine value if you truly believe that the team can fix their chemistry issues. Compared to the +5000 odds they opened with at the beginning of the summer, that’s a much more reasonable bet. But right now, it seems like a total waste of money.
2018 NBA Championship Futures
Golden State Warriors -150
Cleveland Cavaliers +500
Houston Rockets +700
Boston Celtics +1000
San Antonio Spurs +1400
Oklahoma City Thunder +2000
Minnesota Timberwolves +2500
Throwing together any random combination of NBA superstars can have mixed results, but the one piece in Oklahoma City that seems to be of grave concern is Carmelo Anthony. He’s averaging 17.3 / 6.3 / 1.5 on the season which is essentially a career worst slash line for him. His rebounding numbers are fine through 29 games but his other metrics are absolutely abysmal. Melo is shooting .403 from the field, which is also the worst percentage he’s ever posted in a relatively steady 14 year career.
Writers and basketball fans have skewered Melo’s career ad nauseam for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it’s just a fascinating study. One of the elements of Anthony’s resumé that nobody seems prepared to admit is that he’s never really succeeded in the NBA at a high level with any frame of consistency.
Melo’s been to the playoffs a lot but he’s only escaped the first round twice. The Nuggets were crushed by the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals 4-2 SU and his Knicks were bounced by Paul George’s Pacers in 2013. In eight other playoff appearances, Melo’s teams have been summarily ripped to shreds by a grand total of 11 wins against 38 losses in nine first round series. That’s freaking awful.
Basically, when it comes to putting up when it matters, Melo has proved next to nothing. If you’re wondering why there’s a huge faction of fans who wonder if Melo is actually a winner, that’s the reason.
None of this is meant to suggest that he’s a bad player, because it’s obvious that he is a cultural icon and a superstar in his own right, but the only times he’s ever won it all is in the Olympics (against lesser competition) and while at Syracuse where he was the best college player in the country. To me, that’s just a weird hook to hang your career on if you’re as talented as Melo.
Listen, if you’re getting all hot and bothered because I’m throwing shade at your guy, then let me remind you that everything in terms of NBA legacy is defined by what you accomplish on the court. The most interesting thing that Melo has done in the last five years is wear a damn hoodie. I still don’t understand why that was a big deal. Set your bias aside for one second and consider that for a moment. We are way too far removed from his NCAA championship for that to be the highlight of his damn career. Excuse me if I don’t count the Olympics.
If there is any part of Melo that we can agree on no matter where we stand on him as a player, it’s that he’s a defensive liability. He’s never been good at it, which is fine. But defence for a man his size is more about effort than it is about anything else, and Melo’s defensive metrics are absolutely lousy. You know it and I know it.
The hope for Melo in Oklahoma City was that he could just be a third banana and score like he always does. Basically be a more glorified Kevin Love. Part of the reason that this hasn’t matriculated in the way that we expect is because he gets caught just standing around far too often. He’s also proven that his passing hasn’t developed in the slightest. Considering how much movement Westbrook and George create on a nightly basis, Melo seems frozen as if he’s unsure how to work with his newfound teammates. It’s like he doesn’t know where to go to get a shot.
Frankly, the whole thing is jarring to watch. The saving grace for the Thunder has been their incredible defensive metrics but even those create a generally false narrative. Oklahoma City is 2nd overall in defensive rating but that’s a bit of a misleading stat. As games unfold, Oklahoma City has to shuffle around their stars to account for minutes and fouls and that leads to them allowing 92.7 points per 100 possessions in the opening quarter (1st) to 106.9 points per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter (19th).
In short, as games drag on, Oklahoma City’s defence unravels for a variety of reasons.
Then there’s the transition offence, which is strangely non-existent. Considering how good this team is at rebounding overall (9th on defence, 12th on offence), it’s almost staggering that they aren’t better in transition then they have been. It almost seems like it’s not even a consideration. I hardly blame Westbrook or Paul George for this, but Melo certainly doesn’t seem like he knows how to take advantage of his spots. He loves to slow things down and squeeze the ball as defences get set to guard him.
It’s mind boggling hat he isn’t a better passer out of the post considering that he has Patrick Patterson, Russell Westbrook and Paul George to dish out to. What’s also staggering is that his assist numbers are so awful. Shouldn’t he have better numbers here simply by default since he’s playing with more great players than ever before?
Let’s also look at the list of players that Melo hasn’t been able to make it worth with already. Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith are great examples. Both were almost non-existent in New York with Carmelo and then became champions in Cleveland with LeBron. Kristaps has taken the league by storm, but Melo never seemed to care that he had a transcendent youngster playing with him. He’ll blame Phil Jackson for all the problems – and that’s worth something in the big picture – but it also says a lot that Doug McDermott and Enes Kanter have been borderline prolific in New York in replacing him.
The point I’m getting at is that Melo has never really proven that he’s a team player. In the Olympics, and in college, everyone happily gets out of his way because Melo against non-NBA players is as easy as easy gets. But in the NBA, that kind of strategy doesn’t translate at all.
This is where you may have to question the ego of Carmelo, and how coachable he is. I’m giving that whole New York era a pass because Phil Jackson was obviously a huge wart that ruined everything. Is it a viable excuse for Melo not evolving at all over the past five years? I don’t think so, but that’s up to you to decide.
And now we’re seeing the results of a mercurial player who never took the time to get better at the game. You can’t even chastise LeBron James with that same accusation because he’s visibly tried to become a better team player while also improving every facet of his game. Yes, LeBron has gotten better every summer. So has Durant. So has Curry. Everyone brings something new to the game, and yet there’s Melo just being Melo as if that’s good enough.
What has changed about Melo? Not much. Just his surroundings. And everywhere he goes, he’s been met by mediocre results. This is by far the best situation that Melo has been in during his illustrious career, and he seems painfully aphetic in making the most of it. He wants more shots but doesn’t want to do the work to get those shots. He plays with better teammates, and doesn’t care to pass to them.
Melo is wasting his own talent and he may be too conceited to even notice. This is what happens when we worship players instead of holding them accountable for the talent they should be capitalizing on. It’s like Tracy McGrady saying that he “deserves to be in the Hall of Fame” despite the fact that he never did anything meaningful in an important game ever.
Considering how much the league has evolved over the course of the last decade, it’s astonishing that Melo hasn’t really embraced a different approach to this great game. It’s made him a lot of money, but it’s netted him zero championships and no MVP consideration. Shouldn’t a player of his ability want more?
Or maybe we just expect too much out of him.
While you’re avoiding Melo and the Thunder in the sportsbook, why don’t you check out every other bet on our daily NBA betting boards! We also have a nice slate of NBA futures at BetOnline.ag too!
With a VI Gold Membership, you can SAVE 20%
off Daily Pick packages, SAVE 10%
off a Live Odds Pro subscription, and receive access to up to 1,000
Member Plays each month!