Carmelo’s Fate Will Decide the Title Winner

He’s been borderline irrelevant for four years now. Ever since his epic 2011-2012 season–where his one MVP vote prevented LeBron from becoming the league’s first unanimous MVP, I might add–Melo has fallen victim to the Knicks.

Despite injuries, he’s been a consistent scorer, and a perennial All-Star. He didn’t fail the Knicks, the Knicks failed him.

So it’s a breath of fresh air for me to say this: Carmelo Anthony may very well decide the title winner next season, wherever he ends up.

Rumor has it that the Rockets are closing in on a deal, while the Cleveland rumors are still refusing to go away. Knick management has said that it’s certainly possible that he stays in New York for next season, amidst the turmoil. Of course, he has a no-trade clause in his contract, that he’ll likely only release if he’s guaranteed to go to either Houston or Cleveland.

If he winds up in Cleveland, we may have a Western Conference Champion not named the Warriors for the first time since 2014. Golden State matches up pretty well with a Big 3 of Chris Paul, James Harden, and Carmelo Anthony all things considered, but Houston certainly has the advantage in the paint and off the bench. It’ll certainly be a tough, tough series, but I can potentially see the Rockets pulling it off. If nothing else, they can at least take the Warriors to 6 or 7 games.

If he winds up in Cleveland, everything changes. He may not even start when we get the four-peat of Cavs-Warriors. Cleveland may go with Irving-Smith-James-Anthony-Love, but that leaves the smaller Love on big men in the post. Not that they’ll inflict too much damage. Maybe Irving-Anthony-James-Love-Thompson?

Either way, as the game moves into the second and third quarters, Cleveland can get more creative with its lineups. One of their biggest struggles in the 2017 Finals came when LeBron was on the bench. They got obliterated in those situations. Just crushed. At times, Kyrie was able to hold his own as the sole scorer, but then Cleveland was left with odd rotations where Kyrie and LeBron wouldn’t be on the floor simultaneously very often. With Melo, they’d get another go-to scorer to allow more rest time for LeBron and Irving, which was another glaring issue in the Finals. LeBron especially was exhausted down the stretch.

LeBron James glares at Carmelo Anthony in 2003. Both players were in their rookie seasons

A lineup of (whoever the backup point guard is)-Smith-Korver-Anthony-Love to begin the second quarter sounds interesting. It spreads the floor nicely, and has a go-to iso scorer, a go-to post scorer, and two shooters, all without Irving and James. Bring those two back in the game with 7 minutes or so left in the quarter, and they’ll be full-throttle the rest of the game.

If he stays in New York, the title is almost already decided. Houston currently doesn’t have enough star power to upend Golden State, and it’s difficult to envision Cleveland holding the Dubs to under 120 points in any Finals game. So for the first time maybe ever, the NBA’s title-winner rests in the hands of Carmelo Anthony.

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