Carmelo Anthony is almost a lock for the Hall of Fame, he is a bona fide National Basketball Association superstar, and one of the most polished scorers in the league. He is one of only a few basketball players who can score from all three tiers of the basketball court and he creates his own shots with regularity. However, he has never challenged for a NBA title. Despite his immense talent, Anthony has never even been to a NBA Finals. This could be a function of the consistently mediocre talent level of his teammates or it could indicate that Anthony is incapable of elevating his team. And either way, the Cleveland Cavaliers would do well to steer clear of him. Reportedly, the New York Knicks have offered a trade of the ill-used and underappreciated Kevin Love for Carmelo. The Knicks would have procured a talented low post presence who could also hit threes efficiently and occupy a different space than their burgeoning star Kristaps Porzingis, and the Cavs would attain a gifted, high-scoring wing to pair with LeBron. Both teams would hypothetically be filling a specific need that could potentially take their teams to the next level, so the proposed deal looks good on paper. But, looks can be deceiving.
Trading Carmelo Anthony to the Cleveland Cavaliers would be a huge mistake. Anthony is primarily a scorer who does little else to help his team win games, he and LeBron James essentially play the same position, and though he and Love play different positions, they play the same level of defense, almost none. Carmelo would be a terrible acquisition for Cleveland, and his presence could very well be the reason that the Cavaliers fail to repeat as champions.
Carmelo Anthony, in essence, is a specialist. He may be one of the most celebrated specialists in the country and one of the most gifted scorers of a generation, but he only affects the stat sheet with scoring points despite having a good frame for defense and above average athleticism. For a player of his physical stature and his skill level, he is surprisingly mediocre at everything else. Anthony averages nearly as many turnovers on his career as he does assists, 2.9 and 3.1 per game respectively, and he only averages 6.6 rebounds per game despite being at least 6’8″ and 240 lbs. His move to the Cavaliers would make them more explosive offensively because he could make plays that none of the current Cavaliers’ wing players can make on offense other than James. But, Anthony would make the team decidedly worse on perimeter defense and cost them possessions because he is a poorer rebounder than Love. He would take minutes away from good defenders like Iman Shumpert and Richard Jefferson and scorers like J.R.Smith and the newly acquired Kyle Korver. But, even more importantly, the addition of Carmelo Anthony means less of the basketball in the hands of LeBron James.
Lebron and Carmelo play the same position and are both accustomed to having the basketball in their hands on most possessions. Though LeBron is excellent at making back cuts and posting smaller players, he is also the best passer on the floor in most games, so having him play off the basketball would be a travesty. He needs the basketball for his team to be efficient on offense. However, Carmelo Anthony has played most of his career exclusively with the basketball in his hands. And, Carmelo never had to learn to play within the confines of an offense that was not designed specifically for him to score on isolation plays. He may not be able to play effectively off the basketball, and there may not be enough basketball for him and LeBron to share. And, having both Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James on the same squad relegates Kyrie Irving to becoming a glorified jump shooter. Irving is one of the best ball-handlers in the league, and he also is one of the most explosive scorers in the game. He penetrates past defenders and creates shots for teammates or he scores himself on drives and pull-up jumpers. With Anthony in the mix, Kyrie would be forced to play off the basketball too.
But, the biggest problem with adding Carmelo Anthony to Cleveland Cavaliers is that his addition would fully expose them defensively. With Love And Kyrie Irving, the Cavs have two glaring holes in their defense, however they have been able supplement their shortcomings with good defenders like Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson against good competition. But, if Love is traded for Anthony then Shumpert’s time on the floor will be diminished drastically and Thompson will have to play the entire game to compensate for the loss of Love. Carmelo would eat up nearly all of Shumpert’s minutes and relegate him to the bench while forcing the offensively limited Thompson to play more of the game. Irving rarely gives any effort on the defensive end of the floor, James is an aging, but talented defender, and Carmelo is mediocre at best in one-on-one defense. Putting Carmelo on the wing would allow opposing offenses to have free reign when attacking from the perimeter. And though Kevin Love was equally as disappointing at playing defense, there are far fewer exceptional power forwards in the NBA than there are wing players. Love only had to compete on defense and rebound misses to be a competent defender. Carmelo will be exposed unless he takes a leap forward defensively.
The Cavaliers have begun to panic because the Golden State Warriors are finally gelling as a team with the newly acquired Kevin Durant. They have been actively searching for a player that can give them a competitive edge against the Warriors. However, they are the reigning champions, they play in the Eastern Conference which gives them a significantly easier path to the NBA Finals, and they have the best basketball player in the world on their team. Cleveland should not trade for Carmelo Anthony at the midseason trade deadline. He only affects the game through scoring, he would have to play a style of basketball that he has never played in order to be effective, and he would make their porous defense even worse. Sometimes the best move that a team can make is no move, and if Carmelo is their only option, then they do not have any viable options.