NOTE: This is the first in a three-part series by Kyle Wright and Sam Shin regarding potential candidates for Comeback Player of the Year in the NBA for the 2019-2020 season. While we are aware there is no such distinction, we thought it would be interesting to consider who would receive the award if there was to be such a recognition.
50 G | 32.5 MPG | 15.3 PPG | 6.3 RPG | 42% FG | 37% 3PT
Kyle: Coming in at #3 on my list is Carmelo Anthony. After tensions grew between Melo and Phil Jackson in New York, Melo demanded a trade and eventually found himself in Oklahoma City. Things weren’t much rosier in OKC, and after one season they traded him to Atlanta, where he was ultimately bought out. The next season Melo signed with Houston, but only appeared in 10 games, as he was blamed for their early woes due to a poor fit and tensions within a third-straight locker room. Melo was traded to Chicago and immediately waived; he watched the rest of the season from home.
This season, after a rash of injuries forced their hand, Portland sought out Melo’s services, signing him in November to a non-guaranteed contract. This time, Melo performed well enough to keep his role, starting 50 of 50 possible games. While his counting numbers were fine (16.9 PPG & 6.9 RPG per 36, .371 3P%), the rest of his stats don’t paint as pretty a story.
Melo recorded the third-worst mark of his career in both AST/36 (1.8) and FG% (.447), the latter of which comes in just slightly above his rookie season and his year in OKC. Melo posted an ORtg of 102 per 100 possessions (tied with rookie season as career low), and a DRtg of 115 per 100 possessions (career-worst). He boasted career-worsts in OBPM (-1.9) and DBPM (-1.8) to match.
Frankly, Melo just isn’t a very helpful player anymore. He still has the ability to get some buckets, but they just aren’t very efficient ones. His notoriously poor defense is poorer than it has ever been. Yet still, Melo is Melo. He is a future Hall of Famer who is wildly popular, and he deserved a better exit than it seemed he was going to have. Melo rose from the dead, and it was a joy to see him back in the league for what could potentially be the last time.
Sam: As much as Carmelo Anthony’s been a good story this season, I just can’t put him at #1 or #2 on this list. For now, let’s start with the positives of this comeback narrative.
As the third scorer behind Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Melo still showed flashes of that elite scoring capability he possesses. Averaging 15.3 PPG and 6.3 RPG, Melo’s done what Melo does best, which also happens to be what Portland needed most this season – scoring. Sure, Dame and CJ are enough on the offensive end, but the Trail Blazers were hit with such a vast array of injuries (were they cursed?) that they needed another player to space the floor out and put the ball in the basket. Enter Carmelo Anthony, who shot 37% from deep this season (his highest since his 2013-2014 season with the New York Knicks) and showed he’s still got it on that end:
However, after multiple stops recently in Oklahoma City and Houston, Melo’s biggest issue – defense – still remains. His Defensive Box Plus/Minus (DBPM) was at the worst mark of his entire career (-1.8), and he’s been downright terrible on that end of the floor. To be fair, the Portland Trail Blazers as a team aren’t exactly locking anyone down on the defensive side. But when you watch Melo individually on the defensive end, you begin to question if he’s just conserving his energy for the offensive side of the ball.
Overall, Carmelo Anthony just isn’t as elite of a scorer as he used to be – at least, not enough to compensate for his lack of defense. He still has a tendency to hold onto the ball a second too long, and isn’t efficient with his production when he does try to score. With how decimated and barren the Portland Trail Blazers were due to injuries (seriously, it was bad), they needed all the help they could get. Don’t get me wrong, Melo had a solid bounce-back season, but I just don’t think his role will get any bigger on a potential playoff team than what it is right now with the Trail Blazers.