Been a nice couple of days, right?
Derek Fisher slung some heartstring-tugging verbiage. Big Daddy Phil and he are in lock-step. All is right in Knick-ville, si?
Let’s just enjoy the finals and see what else is…OHMIGOD. MELO TO THE HEAT. PANIC. Here’s all the Rangarok-y details, via a report by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein.
Hi Pat Riley. I hate you, Pat Riley. Now that that’s out of my system, let’s try to break this down. Realistically, the chances of Anthony, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joining forces is slim to none. In order to fit under the cap, all four would have to take salary cuts in the tens of millions over the next few years. Although Wade’s begun to deteriorate along with some key role players, the Heat have been to back-to-back-to-back-to-back Finals. Miami’s current big three would have to believe they need Anthony to continue competing, or find it extremely appealing to play with their former Olympic teammate, money be damned.
Melo himself would have to sacrifice a massive chunk of income in pursuit of a championship as well as his image. In the end, it only takes one of these four not being fond of the idea to effectively kill it. Theoretically, the Heat could part ways with either Wade or Bosh and replace them with Anthony, but this would be an even crazier idea considering the ties Wade and Bosh have to the franchise and their fellow stars.
So, yes, Miami being able to ink Anthony AND James AND Wade AND Bosh is a long shot. But if they were able to, it’s hard to envision anybody stopping them.
The league’s fifth best offense in terms of efficiency would bring on one of the most lethal scorers in basketball to play in his optimal role. One of Miami’s current weaknesses is the stretch four position, a vital cog of their space-heavy system. In years past, Shane Battier was a step quicker and a more consistent shooter, making him a capable suitor. Battier shot 43% from downtown last season, a number that slipped to a below average 34.8% clip in 2014. His spot was taken over by Rashard Lewis – who has been an improvement – but Lewis’s jumper still doesn’t demand the amount of attention necessary to open up more lanes for Miami. This hole doesn’t seem like a real vulnerability because with the game on the line, MIami’s gone to their “game over” lineup of James at the four with Wade and Ray Allen on the wings.
Enter Carmelo Anthony, who had the best season of his career in 2013 playing at power forward. We first saw a glimpse of his ability to space the floor and drill catch-and-shoot jumpers in the 2012 Olympics, where he finished with 130 points on 86 shots, making half of his threes and setting the nation of Nigeria ablaze to the tune of 37 points. The season following, Anthony shouldered the load for the Knicks offensively at the four, nearly doing the work of two players in terms of usage rate (35.6% – distributed evenly, all five players on the court should take up 20%) when he was on the floor. He tallied a career-high in three-point attempt rate and three-point percentage (37.9%) despite the sheer amount of offensive output. Melo boosted the latter number to 40.2% this season, or 43.8% if you specify catch-and-shoot threes via SportVU. That’s lights out.
Now imagine this ability in Miami, with the most transcendent superstar of this era that plays pass-first and does so better than almost anybody at his size in history, the best floor-spacing five the NBA has to offer and yet another ball handler that creates well for others. What separates Anthony from Battier or Lewis isn’t just his edge in accuracy, but that opponents can’t just close hard on him and have to respect his ability to step in for a mid-range shot or drive to the cup.
Forget schemes for a second. Though, remember them later, because a good part of Anthony’s iso-heavy ways have been the product of a coach that has a reputation for loving isolation offense. Picture LeBron running a simple pick and pop with Chris Bosh as Chalmers, Allen and Carmelo are stationed behind the arc. How do you stop that? Help and it’s an open three. Don’t and James puts you on a SportsCenter reel. It’s laughably unfair. It’s Grand Theft Auto with a God Mode cheat. It’ll be the The Dream Team v. Nigeria for 82+ games. Cats and Dogs, living together.
But Carmelo wants the ball in his hands! He loves isolating and hates passing! Why would he ever subject himself to this?
Because he did it during the 2012 London Olympics, for a piece of jewelry he already won in 2008. Yes, the entire team was stacked with talent he wouldn’t want to tick off, but Miami has the star of stars in LeBron James and the championship pedigree to back it up. Besides, it’s not as if Anthony won’t get any chances to create his own shots.
One of Erik Spoelstra’s best strategies is that he rarely if ever rolls with a unit sans one of his three headliners. Spo can have Anthony be the first of the four to sub out of the first quarter, returning as the second period begins to command a bench unit. The offense can be all his for this stretch and a similar one in the second half. Factor in the bailout attempts he’ll be given with the shot clock running down, and he’s probably not going to lose a ton of attempts.
I’m not the only one trembling in the wake of this offensive superpower. “The Heat’s offense would be literally unguardable,” according to Sean Highkin in a piece on Sports on Earth. “And James might average a triple-double with the extra assist opportunities.” Tom Ziller adds, “You could start Toney Douglas and play 4-on-5 on offense without concern against 27 or so teams,”
As for defense, within the Heat system, all he has to do is give them what Rashard Lewis/Mike Miller have done, Melo ranked 16th in post defense per Synergy Sports, holding opponents to .64 points per play (or 35% shooting) down low. Anthony is a capable help defender when engaged, especially since adding his funky swipe block thing. Having to take on much fewer duties on offense in Miami means there’s a chance Anthony could be more active defensively. LeBron’s voice in his ear might prevent Anthony’s lapses on that end as well.
This is, admittedly, more conjecture than fact, but it’s by no means outlandish to expect. There are probably two offenses Miami’s defense wouldn’t be equipped to handle with Melo in the game, in which scenario the Heat can just resort back to their Bron-at-the-four lineup.
Anthony also brings an added edge to the glass, where Miami’s struggled this season. The Heat rank 29th in offensive rebound rate and 24th in defensive rebound rate, a purposeful negligence of the boards implemented by Spoelstra. Anthony’s 7.5 rebounds a game this year would have led the Heat, despite his playing a good amount of time at the small forward and the board-gobbling of Tyson Chandler. Miami is by no means desperate for rebounds, but Anthony’s excellence in the aspect would certainly help. Melo’s quick second jumping on the offensive glass can create more offensive possessions for the Heat, and he’s no slouch on the defensive boards either.
It would be a stretch to get there, but Anthony coming together with Wade, Bosh and James in Miami would be the death of everything, all things. Their offense would set fire to the Earth’s atmosphere and cause lava to rain down from the heavens. This wouldn’t just be a gut punch to Knicks fans, but to the other 28 NBA teams. Luckily, the process of making this happen is convoluted and probably isn’t going to happen.
Then again, that’s what we said back in 2010. [Time to hit the Inception button!]