According to Brian Windhorst, Carmelo Anthony’s days in the NBA may be over. Melo’s fling with the Rockets lasted only ten games before they sent him home with an “illness”. Houston has gone 7-6 and are a game out of the final playoff spot since parting ways with Anthony. Ten games may have shown us enough to see that Melo wasn’t exactly a great fit in Houston, but is it enough of a sample size to show us that he no longer belongs in the league? I’m not so sure. Let me make the case for Melo to the Pelicans.
One of the reasons that the media has started talking about Anthony Davis eventually leaving New Orleans is due to the lack of surrounding talent. That may be a popular notion, but it isn’t really true this year. Mirotic, Randle, Holiday, and Moore have all been plus players for the Pels. New Orleans also landed Elfrid Payton on a cheap one year deal this summer and he looked good doing a poor mans Rondo impression before he got hurt. When healthy the Pelicans have a pretty good six-man rotation that provides a healthy mix of offense and defense. The problems arise when you start looking at their depth on the wing. The Pelicans have gotten next-to-nothing out of their small forward spot. Solomon Hill is making almost twenty-six million dollars over the next two years (yikes) and he has a PER of 5.4. Darius Miller and Wes Johnson haven’t been much better. Neither has a PER above 8. When Payton is healthy the Pelicans can go with a three guard lineup to put a band-aid on the position, but he’ll be out until at least January. The West playoff race is so tight that one bad stretch might drop you out of the race completely, so they may not have time to wait.
The Pelicans are going to have to be creative if they want to get a seventh rotation player, as they have little assets to go get said player. The waiver wire is pretty bare right now and we’re months away from the buyout market (Trevor Ariza is a fun candidate to think about here). Giving Carmelo Anthony a final shot could be worth the risk for New Orleans. The Pelicans don’t have many power forward minutes available with Mirotic and Randle dominating the time share there and Anthony hasn’t played any small forward since his last season in New York, but he can’t be any worse than the Johnson, Hill, Miller trio.
Saying that Carmelo struggled with Houston may be an understatement but the team was a bad fit. Despite the misconception that the Rockets are the quintessential pace and space team; they’re actually a space but no pace team. To avoid switches Harden and Paul do a lot of one-on-one to get into the paint where they look for a drive and kick to shooters. They’re slow and methodical about it and it puts their shooters in a lot of stand still catch and shoot situations. Melo isn’t a Ryan Anderson level shooter, the experiment was doomed from the start.
When the Pelicans get into their half court actions they’ll run sets more conducive to getting shots on the move. Watch as their “Flash 4” series gets their wing open off a pin down on the wing. The wing has the option to catch and shoot or come off a curl to get into the paint. Melo can attack the rim or pull up for a mid-range jumper.
https://youtu.be/lPtPeIZdbJo?t=63 or skip to 1:03 of video.
With “Elbow 1 Punch”, you can envision Melo initiating the set and getting back into the post where he did a lot of his work pre-OKC.
https://youtu.be/lPtPeIZdbJo?t=484 or skip to 8:04 of video
“4 Pop” could be Melo’s favorite set. This action would get Melo a clean look in the mid-post coming off a pin down from a guard.
https://youtu.be/lPtPeIZdbJo?t=570 or skip to 9:30 of video
You can see that there are ways to integrate Carmelo into the offense. The defense is a concern but you can do your best to hide Melo on the weakest perimeter player. Having Anthony Davis as your last line of defense doesn’t hurt. That can get you by in the regular season. The playoffs are another story, but the Pelicans need to get there before they worry about that.
We can all agree that Melo was really bad on Houston, but I think the sample size was too small to prove that Carmelo Anthony is done being an NBA player. He was much better only a year ago in OKC for the Thunder. You weren’t getting prime Melo there either but he was fine. When Melo was on the court last year the Thunder had an OffRtg of 113.5. The OffRtg dropped to 108.4 when he was off the floor. The defense was roughly the same either way. He wasn’t the ideal third wheel to Russ and PG but he was a net positive overall. Adding Melo could give New Orleans a much needed shot in the arm. Melo is a respected locker room vet and the team isn’t averse to taking chances on offense only players (ahem Jahlil Okafor). If it doesn’t work out, you can cut ties with him quickly. As it stands now they need to do something to shore up the wing. The Hill, Johnson, Miller trio isn’t getting it done and the AD clock is ticking. We’ve seen one unlikely renaissance already this year in Minnesota, maybe Melo can make it two.