As the NBA transitions into a three-point or lay-up/dunk philosophy, a player with Carmelo Anthony's skill set is not as highly sought after as in the past.
The 10-time all-star went 1-11 from the field for 2 points in his last game for the Houston Rockets. During his career, he has spent 6 seasons in the top 10 for two-pointers made and 7 seasons in the top 10 for two-pointers attempted.
Carmelo's chances during his prime were short and not so sweet. In fact, Carmelo only got out of the first round twice in his career and his teams failed to win more than one game in 7 of his 11 playoff appearances. Certainly, there are a variety of non-Carmelo Anthony factors that led to his lack of playoff success.
Anthony has carried his weight in the international world and at the highest level as he is USA Basketball's only three-time Olympic gold medalist. However, with Carmelo's NBA career taking some twists and turns, his chances to use experience to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy are slowly but surely dwindling down.
That said, a look back at some of the chances and where things went wrong show that Carmelo may have been closer than you might think to winning that elusive title.
3. 2017-18 Oklahoma City Thunder
Carmelo teamed up with Paul George and Russell Westbrook to match up against the Golden State Warriors' star power and, at least on paper, they did. This Thunder team took the pressure off Carmelo from having to be the "go-to" guy and allowed him to pick and choose his spots. For that reason, Carmelo's career-low 16.2 ppg could be justified, but his career-low 40.4% from the field, might be a little tougher to explain.
The Thunder still finished fourth in the Western Conference and had home court advantage against the Utah Jazz. Then Donovan Mitchell happened. Among all the back and forth jabs with Ben Simmons over the true Rookie of the Year, Mitchell informally made his case by knocking off Carmelo and the Thunder.
Anthony averaged a career-low 11.8 ppg and shot 21.4% from beyond the arc. Carmelo and the Thunder agreed to part ways after the season. Still, it remains unclear if the talent on the floor ever really hit its stride. A key injury to Andre Roberson really limited the Thunder's ability to defend and an outstanding issue that Oklahoma City is still looking to address.
It's tough to shift the responsibility away from Anthony, Paul George, and Russell Westbrook, but Roberson's impact may have cost Carmelo a chance to rally with two supporting stars.
2. 2012-13 New York Knicks
In 2013, Carmelo finished third in the MVP voting and Mike Woodson seemed to be pushing all the right buttons. The Knicks knocked off what was left of the 2008 NBA Champion Celtics in the First Round and went into the Eastern Conference Semifinals with home court advantage. The Knicks were on pace to face LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in the next round and were 3-1 against the Heat during the regular season that year.
Amar'e Stoudemire was coming off a knee surgery and not at full strength but Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler were productive enough to give New York a shot. The Knicks were actually a few possessions away from forcing a game 7 in Madison Square Garden for the first time since 1995 against the Indiana Pacers in the Conference Semifinals.
Carmelo's inability to advance was in part due to Roy Hibbert's defensive presence and the emergence of his future teammate, Paul George. Carmelo's efforts gave New York their first real shot since the beginning of the century to make playoff noise, however, due to the expectations that people have placed on Carmelo, it will be a season overlooked by many.
The fact of the matter is Carmelo did what he could do and elevated the play of his teammates on the court. It was all short-lived though as Mike Woodson would be replaced after the following season and Phil Jackson would take over as President of Basketball Operations and restructure the team leading to the eventual departure of Carmelo from New York.
1. 2008-09 Denver Nuggets
Carmelo had gone through a series of adjustments, personal growths, and was finally alongside a veteran leader in Chauncey Billups and coach who knew how to win in George Karl. The only issue was the man they had to go through was one of the greatest guards of all-time, Kobe Bean Bryant. Kobe was coming off an MVP year and a loss in the NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics. Essentially, it was prime Kobe from an athletic sense and prime Kobe from a motivational sense. This isn't about Kobe though, it's about Carmelo and what the Nuggets did and didn't do.
The Nuggets finished 2nd in the West and were tied with the Lakers at two games apiece after the first four games of the 2009 Western Conference Finals. The fact that the Nuggets pushed the Lakers to the brinks shows how good that Denver team was. While Kobe and the Lakers would go on to win the next two games of the series, and defeat the Magic in five games in the 2009 NBA Finals, the Nuggets came within inches of stopping the illustrious franchise.
Carmelo can ultimately thank Trevor Ariza for literally stealing away what was Anthony's best shot to reach and win the NBA Finals. Anthony Carter's pass in game 1 of the series and Kenyon Martin's pass in game 3 were errant attempts and game-clinchers for the Lakers. If you look at Carmelo's face after each one of the passes, you see a guy who appears to have it all together. A guy who still believed he'd be back the next year, and the year after, and year after that. But it didn't happen.
Despite the recent movement between teams, Carmelo still has something to offer teams around the NBA. Will it be the amount of playing time he wants or the number of touches he desires? Probably not. Carmelo's career as it stands right now might be defined more by "what if" questions than any answers. The main question left is, will Carmelo get one more crack at winning it all? Maybe.
Only time will tell so in the meantime, #StayMe7o.