Carmelo Anthony’s Fall From Grace

An analysis of Carmelo Anthony’s performance in the current NBA season versus past seasons.


Keith Allison, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Carmelo Anthony was once considered to be one of the most irreplaceable NBA players in NBA history.

Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and Michael Jordan — these are the names that come to mind when one thinks of basketball. They’re the marquee names, popular enough to catch the eye of Nike and to be marketed to everyone in the world. But, they’re also commonly referred to as ‘the best,’ and rightfully so. It’s the versatility of these great players that truly stands out. The NBA has a tough atmosphere with an ever-revolving culture that demands versatility and adaptability. It’s not the kind of place to wait for somebody to catch up, and even players with a household name can be reduced in stature. Sadly, Carmelo Anthony is one of them.

Although it’s misleading to believe that Carmelo Anthony is not a good player, he is and has always been a great player. However, he is not quite at the level he was before, a bit diminished from his former glory. While his traction and improvement as a player haven’t been nearly as extensive as they were at the beginning of his time in the NBA, it is in no way his fault, and to determine why this is so, we have to examine his early days in the NBA.

When Carmelo entered the NBA in 2003, he was a scorer first and foremost. In a Post-MJ and Kobe age, his talent allowed him to stand out. A two-pointer wouldn’t be much of a difference as a three-pointer since a player will keep on shooting. The term “efficacy” was not a main concern of that time.

Then, the era of LeBron set in, and with it came a player who could score and do everything else, while challenging himself to do more each year. LeBron started changing the dynamics of the NBA while players began adapting to this new pace — a mix of Kobe and LeBron with more focus on the former. The play style is best summarized by the president of the San Antonio Spurs, Gregg Popovich, “You’ve got to have downhill players. You’ve got to have people that can penetrate and kick. You’ve got to have people who can switch. You’ve got to have big guys who can play little guys.” However, this shift highlighted Carmelo’s deficiencies in defense and playmaking, skills that he lacked despite his best efforts as a shooter. Carmelo is predominantly a midrange specialist, but critics are increasingly questioning the efficacy of a mid-range shot compared to a deep three or traffic-filled shot. People are increasingly favorable of taking a three-pointer rather than a mid-range shot. This is evidenced by the 2014-15 Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers playoffs: the teams took second and third place in NBA history for average 3’s taken during each game, 29.1 and 30.3 respectively. Generally, the Lebron era made Carmelo’s specialty look somewhat insufficient. Adding the fact that Carmelo’s defense isn’t a notable thing about his play style; peak or post-peak seasons, it leads to an overall play style of inefficient shots and mediocre defense.

However, the problem today is Carmelo’s inability to produce results into this new era. An example of this was the 2018 Western Conference playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz. At that time, Carmelo was part of the Oklahoma City Thunders. In 194 minutes with Anthony on the court, the Jazz outscored the Thunder by 58 points and the Thunder had a net rating of minus-12.6. Net rating is the offensive rating minus the defensive rating, and essentially serves as a way of saying how much better or worse a team is when a specific player is on the court. Then, in the 94 minutes with Carmelo on the bench, the Thunder outscored the Jazz by 32 points and had a net rating of plus-18.1. These two statistics paint a drastic picture, but there’s more to say. After Carmelo was put on an offseason contract, waiting to be traded, the 2018-19 Thunder suddenly had the most efficient defense in the NBA.

Hannah Ren ’24, a member of the Bronx Science Junior Varsity Basketball team, summarized Carmelo’s post peak season. She said, “After Carmelo was traded to the Thunder from the Knicks, he started averaging roughly eight points less while staying in the shadow of Russell Westbrook. His stats improved a little for the 2020-2021 season with the Trail Blazers. He was averaging 13 points per game, but that was still less than half of his peak back with the Knicks.” At his peak, Carmelo could stand among other stars and still hold his ground on the court, but recently, he has become overshadowed by many of his teammates.

The diminishment is primarily caused by something that happens to everyone. Carmelo Anthony is getting older, and that’s unavoidable. Players like LeBron James, who are seemingly ageless, are the exception. Most players in the NBA retire by the age of 33, and Carmelo Anthony will turn 38 in May 2022. 

However, Carmelo Anthony has been improving his stats with the Lakers this season. With the addition of Carmelo Anthony in the 2021-2022 season, the Lakers are in an uphill battle to secure a seed in the 2022 playoffs, which is a stark contrast to their previous season in which they won the championship. Even with the Lakers poor performance, Carmelo Anthony is not performing poorly, by any means. He has averaged 13.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 50 games this season and contributed fairly well to the team.

In the end, much of Carmelo Anthony’s fall from grace isn’t his fault. He’s still a hall of famer and had been elected as one of the best 75 players in NBA history, a feat that is hard to accomplish. 

In the end, much of Carmelo Anthony’s fall from grace isn’t his fault. He’s still a hall of famer and had been elected as one of the best 75 players in NBA history, a feat that is hard to accomplish.