The Oklahoma City Thunder, on paper, are a top five basketball team in the NBA. They boast three players capable of making the All-Star team, and one player who just finished a long string of 10 All-Star appearances in 11 seasons. That one player is Carmelo Anthony, who many people feel may finally be starting to show his age.
Anthony is putting up the worst numbers of his 15-year career this season, and is barely shooting 40% from the field on the year. While this could be looked at as Melo starting to decline as his career progresses, it could just be that he isn’t clicking with stars Russel Westbrook and Paul George.
This season, Anthony hasn’t played a single possession at the small forward position, and — for the first time in his career — has played an extended time at center. For a player who’s averaged 70% of his time as a small forward, switching to a new position full time could be a challenge, especially for someone less than two months away from his 34th birthday.
This could all be erased if the Thunder started the game with Anthony on the bench, and attacked the opposing teams second unit with Anthony leading the charge. Having Melo starting on the bench wouldn’t only help out Anthony, it would also help out Westbrook and George. Without the presence of Carmelo, these two stars could take the extra touches and go to work on offense, attacking with 100% of their energy knowing they have the bench unit capable of giving them a breather.
Moving Melo to the bench would also allow for him to slide back down to the small forward position where he can use his size to bully smaller and slower opponents. Having Melo battle against the other teams second unit almost guaranties that he would have an easier defender, which means an easier time to get his buckets.
Although this switch seems beneficial, it’s very unlikely, as Carmelo has made it known time and time again that he refuses to come off the bench. As many recall, at the beginning of the year, a reporter asked him if he would consider coming off the bench, and a very irritated and confident Melo responded by refusing the idea of coming off the bench all together.
While the Thunder are currently a wild card in the stacked Western Conference, a simple switch could pole vault them into a top three team in the West and a top contender to oust the Warriors.