The lead art accompanying this article was taken on January 6th, 2008 when the Denver Nuggets defeated the Philadelphia 76ers, 109-96. Nearly a decade has passed and the NBA has changed a lot, some things, however, remain the same.
Carmelo Anthony, for example, is still chasing that ever-elusive NBA championship. At 33-years-old, it’s unknown how much longer Anthony can continue to be an integral part of a championship contender. With this in mind, while perched on his throne and gazing across the ruins of the charmless New York Knicks franchise, Anthony finally made a move to put himself in the best situation possible; he waived the no-trade clause in his contract so that the New York Knicks could send him to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Oklahoma City Thunder now have a roster that looks, to some pundits, like a genuine contender.
However, for the Thunder to truly compete, Anthony might have to put his ego to one side and accept a slightly more limited role. That’s not to say the Thunder shouldn’t go to Anthony for the occasional isolation play or feed him when he has the hot hand, but by sacrificing the touches he’s been accustomed to as a superstar he just might be able to achieve something special.
There’s a long list of players who in were once the face of a franchise in their prime and proved incapable of adjusting to no longer being "The Man" in the twilight of their career. Alas, if they had taken a step back and surveyed their surroundings they may have found an NBA championship within reach, just a few steps outside of the spotlight they had been bathing in for so long.
Andre Iguodala's sacrifice
Take the Warriors' very own Andre Iguodala for example. At one point, Andre Iguodala was the face of the Philadelphia 76ers, averaging close to 20 points per game and establishing himself as one of the leagues elite defenders. Fast forward to 2014 and after a brief stop in Denver, Iguodala was signing with the Warriors.
One season later, Iguodala was benched.
Coach Kerr asked Iguodala to sacrifice his starting spot to make room for Harrison Barnes and while Iguodala could have whined about it like many other former stars have done, he humbled himself stating, "It's just growing up, being smart about the situation.”
Iguodala's sacrifice led to a lot of success for the Warriors, having that caliber of a play-maker and defender coming off the bench opened up a lot of different lineup possibilities for coach Kerr. It also helped the Warriors win the championship that same year, where Andre Iguodala was named the 2015 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.
While Carmelo Anthony coming off the bench isn’t a realistic prospect — due mostly to the makeup of the Thunders roster — he should still take some advice from Iguodala: “It’s about growing up, being smart about the situation”.
What being smart about the situation means for Anthony
Anthony’s demeanor on the court throughout his career has been consistent if nothing else. He was a straight up gunner. A player who has never seen a shot he didn’t think he could make. For the most part, his teammates during his career have remained passively tolerant of Anthony’s adoration for shooting the basketball. I’m not sure that this will be the case with his new teammates in Oklahoma City.
If Anthony shows some willingness to sacrifice the amount of time he has the ball in his hands, he might still be able to get the number of shots he’s accustomed to.
One of the more interesting parts here is some of the numbers back up Anthonys’ impact playing off others as a spot-up shooter.
As the infographic above clearly displays, Anthony is one of the better catch and shoot players in the league from deep.
When you take into account 2-point field goals as well as 3-point shots it still looks impressive; only 19 players averaged a minimum of 6 points per game on catch and shoot opportunities. Of those 19 only nine had a better effective field goal percentage (eFG%) than Anthony.
Anthony has never played with a point guard as talented as Westbrook nor has he played beside a duo of players who can attract so much attention defensively like Westbrook and George.
If he’s smart, he has the opportunity to be one of the best stretch-fours in the league offensively. But to do so Anthony would have to become more self-aware, right now I’m not convinced he’s ready to accept a “lesser” role.
Adapting to a new role and humbling yourself helped Iguodala win a finals MVP trophy as well as two championship rings, it helped Vince Carter remain relevant well into his 30s to the point where most of his peers have retired and he’s still signing deals worth millions.
For the Thunder to have even the smallest chance of defeating the Warriors, the message is clear.