When Carmelo Anthony was traded from the New York Knicks to the Oklahoma City Thunder last offseason, a few questions immediately arose.
Would he gel alongside All-Star teammates Russell Westbrook and Paul George?
Would he continue to be an elite scorer within Billy Donovan’s Westbrook-centric offensive scheme?
While the answer to the first question is debatable, the answer to the second one is not.
Now in his 15th NBA season, the 33-year-old is having the worst scoring season of his presumed Hall-of-Fame career. The lifetime 24.2 point-per-game scorer is averaging 16.7 this year and has taken 15.4 field goal attempts per game, well below his career average of 19.3. His previous career-low in terms of points per game came way back in 2004-2005 when he averaged 20.8. That was his second season in the league.
Heading into Sunday’s road matchup against the Toronto Raptors, Anthony was in the midst of an inconsistent personal stretch despite the team’s five-game winning streak.
The team’s current run began on March 8 when Melo went 4-for-11 from the field for just 11 points in 26 minutes against the Phoenix Suns. He followed that up with an abysmal 1-for-7 shooting night for a season-low two points against the San Antonio Spurs on March 10 before posting two 21-point performances against the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks. On Friday, he dropped just 11 points on 3-for-11 shooting against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Therefore, it’s been hard to predict what he will produce on a nightly basis.
In a thrilling 132-125 victory over the Raptors on Sunday, Melo shot an efficient 6-for-10 from the field for 15 points in 34 minutes. Although those aren’t particularly jaw-dropping numbers given the high-scoring nature of the contest, he moved up the NBA’s all-time scoring list in the process, passing a legend.
Now only 18 players in the history of the league have scored more total points than him.
Facing up against Serge Ibaka at the end of the first quarter, Melo turned to one of his patented moves. After a jab step to the right, he crossed over to the left, got some separation and rose up to find the bottom of the net.
At times, Anthony has shown an ability to fill up the scoring column this season. However, he has not been able to get into a consistent groove for a prolonged period over the course of the year. Since he doesn’t nearly see the same number of isolation opportunities that he previously had as the primary option on the Knicks, he has spent most of his time working off the ball as one of Westbrook’s passing targets.
If the Thunder expect to make some noise moving forward, they’ll need to find a way to get consistent scoring production out of Anthony, who is one of their most important players alongside Westbrook, George and Steven Adams.
Nonetheless, it was a special personal moment for Anthony at the end of the first quarter on Sunday.