Is Carmelo worth a max contract?

Of course he is, right? What a silly question. Or is it? Carmelo is one of the most prolific scorers in the league and has been for the past decade. At 30 years old, Carmelo is at a crossroads for his career. He has reached the Conference Finals once in his career, but never further. If not for his title run at Syracuse, it’d be worth pondering whether Carmelo is a winner or not. This is not a Skip Bayless exercise in superstar trolling, but given the fact that Carmelo is often his team’s highest-paid player, and gets to take upward of 20 shots per game, his team’s failures will fall on his shoulders. He maneuvered his way to the big city in hopes of rejuvenating the Knicks in the post-Isiah Thomas era and bringing a title to New York City. As ESPN’s Beckley Mason points out, aside from last year’s 54 win season, ending in a second round loss to the Pacers, the Knicks have remained a laughingstock in the lousy Eastern Conference. At what point do we begin to question Carmelo and his worth? He had his career year two seasons ago, when he led the team to 54 wins, but that was also the year J.R. Smith won sixth man of the year.

Via Kirk Goldsberry, here's Carmelo's 2013 season, the best of his career.

Via Kirk Goldsberry, here’s Carmelo’s 2013 season, the best of his career.

It’s fair to question the players who have surrounded Anthony in New York. The Knicks traded most of their valuable pieces just to acquire Anthony, and were left with pieces that didn’t come close to fitting together. Tyson Chandler wasn’t the same player who anchored Dallas’ championship team in 2011. He fought injuries and has struggled in New York. Raymond Felton hasn’t been a consistent option, and when he’s not fighting his weight, he’s fighting his wife. The pieces on the wing don’t complement the rest of the team, and the Knicks don’t seem happy with them either. J.R. Smith did what we expected: stopped playing well once he got his big payday. His antics were a distraction and he shot just 41% from the field. And the Knicks spent the entire season trying to trade Iman Shumpert, at times for Kenneth Faried and at other times for Rondo. The current roster is in no shape to go anywhere soon, and Carmelo hasn’t proven to be a player that you can build around and win, or even seriously contend for a title. Carmelo may fit well with a team like the Heat (who wouldn’t?) with LeBron handling the ball the majority of the time and creating good, open looks. But when Carmelo is the best player on a team, it’s fair to guess that he’ll be guilty of awful shot selection. At this point, the Knicks might be better off scrapping their current roster and letting Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher molding a team in their vision.

The Knicks are probably better off letting Carmelo walk. He’s a lot more attractive a team like the Heat or Rockets, where he doesn’t have to shoulder so much of the load, than he is on the Knicks. He’s one of the most polarizing players in the league because he puts up extraordinary scoring numbers, but his teams are so mediocre. On the Heat he makes perfect sense. On the Rockets, he’s one more dribble-happy player who stalls the offense, too similar to James Harden. Carmelo would definitely make the Rockets better, but any idea of them being the favorites would be an overreaction. The last of Carmelo’s likely destinations is Chicago. They are looking to construct in a post-Rose era, even though Rose is signed on for three more years at a max level. The Bulls desperately lack scoring and Carmelo could help fix that. Whether he could play under such a demanding coach as Tom Thibodeau, who drills his players on defense, is another matter. Regardless, Chicago is probably his best fit. They are better than the Knicks, and they could win 50 games, but making it out of the East would still be a challenge. And the Bulls could make room for his max contract easiest. They would have to amnesty Boozer and deal Taj Gibson, and then they’d have room.

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