Carmelo Anthony is one of the best pure scorers in the NBA today and in recent memory. Virtually unstoppable on the block or on drives with his physical size and aggressive nature he can get to the rim on anybody or pull up for one of the best mid range jump shots I’ve ever seen. Rather scoring with that pull up or achieving his own rebound on shots for the put back, this man is the complete offense package you look for in a basketball player. When Carmelo Anthony gets locked in offensively there is basically nothing you can do but hope because no defense is going to keep him from putting the ball in the basket at will. Carmelo Anthony is a lot of things; a franchise player is not one of them.
First we must accurately define a franchise player. A franchise player should be a player you can build a team around. A building block that you can put together a franchise around and be competitive for years to come, with that player being your leader and center piece. Based on this definition, Carmelo Anthony is not a franchise player and should not be looked at or treated as one when he enters free agency this summer.
In basketball more than many other sports because of the duality of the player’s roles; teams take the personality of their leader, who is usually the best player on the team. When Lebron James decided it was acceptable to perform unsightly dance routines on the sidelines of games in Cleveland his team followed suite, when he changed that demeanor his team followed. The San Antonio Spurs are a no frills all substance, blue collar team all personality traits of the great Tim Duncan. The New York Knicks are no different in that aspect and their team personality directly reflects that of its leader and best player; and the results aren’t pretty. The New York Knicks follow Carmelo Anthony’s lead so much its amazing. A team more concerned with offensive stats than defensive assignments and void of accountability is the personality of the team which calls Madison Square Garden home, and that comes from Carmelo Anthony.
The biggest knock against Carmelo Anthony his entire career has been defense. It seems like sometimes Carmelo takes an “I’ll get the points right back” attitude to playing tight defense, an attitude his team follows evident by their anemic defensive statistics this season. I was always taught that defense is 70% mental and only 30% physical, if a player wants to put in the work to be a good defensive player he can, and with a player as skilled as Carmelo Anthony he just isn’t interested in learning to play effective defense. No franchise wants a team not concerned with playing defense, because we all know the old adage of “defense wins championships”. If you want championships, Carmelo Anthony is not the player to build a franchise around.
I read an interview recently with a former NBA executive with the Denver Nuggets. He stated that in 2010 a member of the Denver Nuggets team was so high on weed that he could barely start the playoff game they were preparing for at the time. The executive would not name names so it would be futile to say that Carmelo Anthony is the guilty party, even considering his 2004 arrest for possession of marijuana. This is a team which Carmelo Anthony was the best player (i.e. leader) of the team and this happens which begs the question of what kind of leadership and accountability was established on that team for a situation like this to happen? This is not the kind of atmosphere you want when talking about building an entire franchise around a player to carry you into the future.
Another ability a player who will be marked as your franchise player must have is the ability to make those around him better. Other franchise players have all done that, Carmelo Anthony has not. Going all the way back to Denver I don’t remember Carmelo Anthony making any of his teammates play better. The biggest part of making other players better is creating an atmosphere of hard work and dedication in the off season to achieve success. Creating an atmosphere or hard work so strong and engulfing that it is undeniable to all within the organization. Carmelo Anthony has never had the reputation as being one of the hardest working athletes in his profession. Constant allegations of not starting the season in peak conditioning are evident of a lack of focus needed in a leader and captain on becoming better. Carmelo Anthony’s short comings in his game have remained constant over his ten year career, further proving that the work in the off season isn’t there. Franchise players get better every season in every aspect of their game to become a complete player. From Lebron James jumping from a 29% three point shooter his rookie year to 40% last year, to Kevin Durant averaging 4.4 rebounds per game his rookie season to putting up 7.3 rpg last season. Carmelo Anthony averaged 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game his rookie season, 2.6 and 0.8 respectively last season, the work isn’t being done.
This doesn’t at all mean Carmelo Anthony isn’t an all star all pro forward in the NBA, or even that he isn’t a top five player in the NBA right now because that would be foolish to say. But being a top tier player for years does not make you a franchise type player, being a franchise player is so much more. Being a franchise player is more than stats and getting the ball when a basket is needed. It’s more than being the highest paid player on the team and getting to do all of the team media obligations and signing autographs. It’s more than having your jersey sold in the arena. Being a franchise player is about attitude sacrifice and being a leader, all of which Carmelo Anthony lacks. If Carmelo really wants to be the franchise player his fans think he is, he will need to make a lot of adjustments to his game and character.