So could Carmelo morph into 2011 Dirk if you gave him the right situation? We don’t know because he’s never been in the right situation.
Choice No. 1: Grab $122 million over five years from New York, play with another inferior team, miss the Finals for his 12th straight season,
Choice No. 2: Grab $97 million over four years from the Lakers, become the new face of the second-greatest NBA franchise ever,
Choice No. 3: Sign a four-year deal in Chicago for less money (starting around $14-15 million), become the crunch-time guy for an absolutely loaded Bulls team, and answer every question anyone ever asked about him.
I wanted him to sign with Chicago for less money — a wildly unrealistic outcome that was never going to happen.
At the same time, I wanted to know once and for all. I wanted to know how good Carmelo Anthony is. Because, right now, I believe the following things:
1. He’s one of the best natural scorers I’ve ever seen.
2. He’s one of the NBA’s eight or nine best players and has been for some time.
3. He could win you a title on his version of the 2011 Mavs.
Again, those are just opinions. But what am I about to present to you? All facts.
1. His best team ever was the 2009 Nuggets. (Covered above.)
2. His best teammates ever: Chauncey Billups (post-Detroit version), Allen Iverson (post-Philly version), Andre Miller, Marcus Camby, Amar’e Stoudemire (post-Phoenix version, right as his knees were going), Tyson Chandler (post-Dallas version), Kenyon Martin (post-Nets version), Nene (never an All-Star — not once) and the one and only J.R. Smith.
3. He never played with anyone who made an All-NBA team except for Billups (third team, 2009), Chandler (third team, 2012) and Amar’e (second team, 2011).
4. He had only four teammates make an All-Star Game: Iverson (2007, 2008), Billups (2009, 2010), Amar’e (2011) and Chandler (2013).
5. He had five head coaches in 11 years: Jeff Bzdelik (never coached again), Michael Cooper (became a WNBA coach), George Karl (coached 1,887 games, only won two Finals games),
6. Dirk has spent his entire career with the same owner — the lovable and influential Mark Cuban, who didn’t always make the right moves, but built a state-of-the-art organization and spent as much money as anyone. Carmelo spent seven years in Denver enduring multiple front-office power struggles,
(The real irony here: Carmelo had only one truly competent front-office mind in 11 years. Who was it? Masai Ujiri … who traded Carmelo to New York in 2011 once Carmelo made it clear he was signing there anyway. Carmelo = not blameless. By any means.)
7. He suffered bad luck two different times — when an already loaded Pistons team unbelievably picked Darko over him in 2003,
8. Here’s how much Carmelo’s teams have relied on him since 2003 — right now, he owns the fifth-highest career usage rate ever (31.7 percent),