NBA Analysis: Nets Smart to Pass on Carmelo Anthony

| by Hoops Karma

As anyone who follows the NBA knows, the Nets have spent this whole season looking to trade the farm for Carmelo Anthony. They wanted a big-name to draw fans (especially as their 2012 move to Brooklyn approaches) and a big-time player to help achieve new owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s goal of winning a championship in the next five years. As the potential trade took on a life of its own—at one time or another involving nearly every Net, first round draft picks past any tenure Anthony would serve with his new club, and a variety of third teams—the price to pick up ‘Melo for a few years became astronomical. Thankfully Prokhorov realized it was becoming too much and ended the courting of Anthony last night.

Most pundits have said that the Nets were simply saving face with the owner’s press conference yesterday, basically showing they have power and are the ones not interested in the deal anymore when in reality they were unable to sell NJ to a player who wants NY. Regardless of what the “real” reason for the Nets walking away from this deal is, it was without question the best thing to do. Carmelo is not the caliber of player who will turn a team into a contender, and trading away the future for him was an unwise proposition from the beginning.

For starters, Anthony isn’t the box office draw New Jersey is looking for with this type of transaction. You can easily name 10 other players you’d rather see play in person (quickly: LeBron, DWade, Chris Paul, Dwight, Blake, DRose, Dirk, Kobe, Durant, Nash), and another 5-10 who you at least want to see as much or nearly as much as Anthony (Amar’e, KG, some combination of Spurs’ stars, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, Deron Williams, Westbrook, Rondo, Kevin Love, don’t forget Monta Ellis, etc.).

In fact, the Nuggets’ attendance numbers right now aren’t even that good. They currently average 16,659 fans per game at home, only 16th best in the NBA. Not only that, their average road attendance is 17,277 per game, 12th in the league, tied with the ho-hum Rockets and behind the horrendous Timberwolves. What’s going to draw fans to the arena in Jersey/Brooklyn is a good team (will take a while to get there) or an exciting style of play (e.g. the Warriors go-go offense draws more home fans than the Thunder, Spurs, or Blake Griffin’s Clippers – an up-and-coming young team everyone loves, the most consistently great team, and the best highlight maker in the league). Long story short, there is no way Carmelo will be a massive draw for NJ unless the team starts playing up-tempo (nope) or gets really good in a hurry (nope).

More importantly, Anthony is not going to be any sort of catalyst that turns the Nets into contenders. Remember the big knock against Tracy McGrady being he never got out of the first round of the playoffs? Well Carmelo has done it only once in seven seasons (unlikely again this year considering the top of their conference), while playing alongside better point guards, better front lines, and better overall team talent. When the Nuggets got to the Western Finals in 2009, it had much less to do with Anthony than you might think. He scored points, but his shooting percentages were nothing special, his rebounding was hit or miss (had as many games with 4 or less boards than with 8 or more), he nearly fouled out of a majority of the games in rounds 2 and 3, and his part in the team’s phenomenal defense was minimal at best. If you’ll remember correctly, the true stories of that team’s run into late-May were Chris Andersen (earned a 250% pay increase because of his performance in the 2009 playoffs), Chauncey Billups’ resurrection as Mr. Playoffs, and the inside “thuggery” provided by Andersen, Kenyon Martin, and Nene that got the ire of Mark Cuban.

Considering Anthony does virtually nothing to help a club win beyond scoring (with a subpar career eFG% of 48%, at that), it’s no wonder his teams haven’t done better in the post-season and his advanced stats have been average for years. Denver has done well in the regular season for a while, which makes it all the more odd that his advanced stats have never looked good. His Offensive Ratings and Defensive Ratings have always been close to dead even (career 107-107, what you’d expect out of an average player on an average team), his Adjusted Plus/Minus has never wavered far from zero (league average), and he got blasted in an article over the summer for ranking below nearly everyone in Wins Produced. These matrices can be tainted somewhat by who someone plays beside, so it’s puzzling and troubling to see the guy who’s usually referred to as the best player on a good team never doing well in any of these calculations. But again, he’s not much of a defender, a rebounder, or a team-offense initiator, so no one should be shocked to hear he’s not positively affecting a club like his PPG would lead you to believe.

What the Nets were being asked to give up was ludicrous. They would have had to part with one of the best young PF’s in Derrick Favors (he’s rebounding well, defending well, making 55% of his shots, and getting to the free throw line at a good rate considering his limited role in the offense), the NBA’s top long-range shooter in Anthony Morrow (career 45% from deep), PG Devin Harris (who would have been replaced by the declining, 34-year-old Billups who likely would have only lasted the remainder of the season, then it would be another search for another PG), plus the $12 million expiring contract of Troy Murphy. And three first-round draft picks, which would have been quite good considering the team would have been missing tons of young talent and been lead by a player who does nothing but shoot. This would have been a crippling blow to a franchise that’s had enough of them over the past two seasons.

So congratulations to the Nets for getting out of the Melo’ situation and putting an end to the proposed madness. Now get back to taking one step out of the cellar at a time.