Everybody loves Carmelo Anthony. His teammates rave about him. His peers borderline worship him. Personally, the Blazers are usually the first team I check on League Pass these days. I want to watch Melo. He’s as smooth as ever. I’m not just rooting for him — I am prepared to die on the “Melo is still good” hill.
But when news broke that Anthony had been named Western Conference Player of the Week, even I had to take a step back and wonder if he really deserves that honor. Pretty clearly, he does not.
Talking strictly numbers, Melo averaged 22.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists in three games last week. Most impressively, he shot 57 percent from the field, including 45 percent form three.
Last Monday, Melo scored 25 points against the Bulls on 10-of-20 shooting including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. He followed that up by going 9-for-11 from the floor against OKC, and 8-for-16 in a second matchup with Chicago. Portland won all three games. And Melo wasn’t just putting up empty numbers. He was BALLING.
That said, there are a couple of fellas named James Harden and Luka Doncic who dwarfed Anthony’s production last week. Melo, for instance, scored 67 total points in three games. James Harden scored 60 points in THREE QUARTERS against Atlanta.
All told, Harden averaged 42 points per game last week, nearly double Melo’s output. He also posted 24 assists to Melo’s eight, and had five steals to Melo’s two. The Rockets went 2-1 last week while the Blazers went 3-0 (if you want to make the “winning” argument), but Portland also played the Bulls twice and the Thunder. Competition does matter if an individual race is even close — but in fact, this one isn’t.
This is to say nothing of Luka Doncic, who also played three games last week and topped the 40-point mark in two of them — going for 41 in a win over Houston (Harden’s lone loss) and 42 in a win over the Suns, against whom he finished one assist shy of a triple-double. Doncic, like Harden, not only outscored Melo by a mile but also dusted him in assists to the tune of 27-8.
None of this is to take away from what Melo has done in his return to the NBA after a full calendar year off. He looks remarkably rhythmic and efficient. He jumper is pure. He can still get to the cup and overpower smaller defenders.
I’ve griped about Melo’s defense and shot selection as much as anyone over the years, but deep down, I just LOVE his game. The way he’s been playing makes my basketball heart sing. I’m super happy for him. He NEVER should’ve been out of the league. And in the end, that’s what this award is about. People are happy for him. It’s a great story.
But he wasn’t the best player in the Western Conference last week.