Buyer Beware: Signing Carmelo Anthony Comes With More Risk Than Reward

Posted on Jul 8 2014 - 7:08pm by Darren C. Lee
Carmelo Anthony is one of the hottest commodities available on the market this offseason, but signing the 11-year NBA veteran is risky for any team wanting to build a championship contender - Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports via Bleacher Report

Carmelo Anthony is one of the hottest commodities available on the market this offseason, but signing the 11-year NBA veteran is risky for any team wanting to build a championship contender – Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports via Bleacher Report

This year’s free agent pool is loaded with top-tier talent.

Big names such as LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Lance Stephenson may all find new homes this offseason via free agency, along with a plethora of other role players who are available. In addition, disgruntled all-star power forward Kevin Love could be traded before the season begins.

Another All-Star available in this year’s star-studded free-agent class is Carmelo Anthony.

While there is no doubt that a number of teams will be looking to woo the 2013 scoring champion, there are a couple of reasons why teams should exercise caution when deciding whether or not to pay the price for the 11-year veteran.

No. 1: his defense is lackluster – to say the least.

Anthony has never been known for his play on the defensive end. Following the blockbuster trade that sent ‘Melo to the New York Knicks in 2011, former Denver Nuggets coach George Karl had choice words about Anthony’s lack of defensive prowess – per Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

“Defense is commitment. I’ve got young guys and if they don’t give me the commitment, I’ve got other guys who will give me the commitment. The system sometimes ties you up from getting the commitment.  You have to handle what Melo gives you. I’m not knocking Melo, he is a great offensive player. Melo is the best offensive player I’ve ever coached, but his defensive focus, his demand of himself is what frustrated us more than anything.”

Needless to say, whoever decides to take a chance on ‘Melo will have to accept that he offers little to nothing on the defensive end. Part of this is due to the fact that he simply doesn’t have the awareness or footwork on defense, but at times it has also seemed that it’s his lack of effort and heart on the defensive end that ultimately lead to easy buckets for opposing offenses.

There were times last season when the Knicks seemed to be playing with four players on the court while playing defense. A lacking in defensive effectiveness is one thing, but lacking effort is another thing entirely.

And No. 2: whether signing him short-term or long-term, he will take up far too much cap space for what he is worth.

Yes, Anthony’s talent on the offensive end is undeniable. He is able to change the complexion and outcome of any game at any given moment with a variety of offensive skills. But his aforementioned lack of talent and intensity on defense means that any team contending for a title with Anthony on the roster needs multiple role players who are willing to compensate for his weaknesses. For that, you need space in your salary cap.

In addition to having strong role players to support Anthony, any team looking to contend for a championship would likely need at least one other star player to help carry their team to the promise land.

‘Melo is 30 this year, and if his dominance on the court wasn’t enough to earn the Nuggets or Knicks a championship when he was in his 20’s, it certainly still won’t be enough as his body continues to age and his athleticism begins to wane. That said, Anthony’s consistent scoring during his 11-year career has definitely earned him a nice chunk of change heading into next season, so his services won’t come cheap.

There are also questions about how age will impact Melos offensive abilities and health.

It would be impossible to guess how many seasons of dominance on the offensive end Anthony has left, though he isn’t exactly nearing the end of his career. And there is no telling how his body will respond to the aging process. Can he remain healthy, or could the rest of his basketball days be plagued by nagging injuries? Either way, he’s no spring chicken, and only time will tell if Anthony can remain the dominant force he has been up until this point in his career.

Just ask the Knicks what risks are associated with signing aging superstars to $20 million-plus deals (no offense to Amar’e Stoudemire, who will be the highest-paid benchwarmer next season).

Regardless of the risks involved with signing ‘Melo, there will certainly be teams willing to pay top dollar for him. Any club that does sign him will have to accept the risks of signing a player with as many uncertainties as Anthony brings.

The question now becomes: who will take the leap of faith?

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Darren C. Lee

A sports analyst covering the NFL, NBA and NHL. Objective and insightful analysis 100% of the time. That's the "Darren Lee-guarantee".

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Darren C. Lee