Carmelo Anthony is quickly firming up as a genuine 2021-22 Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
This may have been unthinkable a few years ago, but it has now become reality as the veteran star continues to thrive after accepting his role-playing future.
Anthony’s story is well told. Plucked out of NBA obscurity by the injury-riddled Portland Trail Blazers a couple of seasons ago, Anthony was desperate to return to an NBA floor, even if it meant he had to part ways with the feature role he carried throughout his career.
Two season with the Blazers led Anthony to a Lakers roster over flowing with some of the marquee names the game has had to offer over the last decade. Rather than attempting to get into a battle of where or how he gets his touches, Melo has simply slotted into the second unit, taking what comes his way in an offence that has often sputtered elsewhere.
The veteran exploded for 24 points off the bench in the win over the Cavaliers, knocking down six triple from his eight attempts.
“He’s one of the best in the league. He’s a professional scorer throughout his career,” head coach Frank Vogel said.
“To his credit, he’s really made a transition to be an elite catch-and-shoot guy that has good size that can shoot with a hand in his face. 6-for-8 from three, a lot of huge buckets, a big part of the win.”
As is the nature of playing alongside players like LeBron, Russ and AD, Melo is finding his shot attempts in open space, which bodes well for his continued success in this offence.
Coming into the game against Cleveland, Anthony was attempting 5.0 catch-and-shoot threes a game, knocking down a very respectable 40 percent. Anthony shot 40.2 percent on those attempts in 2019-20 and 39.8 percent last season.
Perhaps more importantly, NBA.com tracking data shows that 5.0 of his 6.0 3-point attempts per game are classified as wide or wide open.
“Just finding my spot, finding my position on the court,” Anthony said postgame. “LeBron does a great job of reading the court, seeing where every is at and knowing where guys are on the court. Today he did a great job of finding me.”
Averaging 15.7 points per game through six, Anthony’s scoring average is the highest it’s been since his last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017-18.
The outburst against the Cavs is the second time Anthony has knocked down six triples in a game this season, with the first instance coming in a 28-point night against Memphis. The Lakers won that game against the Grizzlies and similar to tonight’s game against Cleveland they needed every single one of his ‘three to the dome’ celebrations.
Melo recently passed Moses Malone on the all-time scoring list to sit ninth. It’s been a muddled few years for Anthony but there are only eight players in the history of the league that have scored more points with Shaquille O’Neal likely to also be leapfrogged this season at current pace.
Anthony is a weapon off the bench in this offence, and should only become more so as the Lakers build chemistry with the rest of the roster.
More than anything, we should appreciate watching Anthony extend his career in a role he has never had to fulfill throughout his basketball life.