Carmelo Anthony: How Does He Fit In with the Nets?

By: Evan Kaplan

What started out as a pipedream for Nets fans is now looking like a realistic possibility. Everyone has heard the Carmelo Anthony rumors heat up over the past 48 hours, with many sources around the NBA reporting that the Nets have the most attractive package to offer to Denver. It has been reported by multiple outlets that the Nets would deal lottery pick Derrick Favors, Troy Murphy, Kris Humphries and a future first round pick for ‘Melo. With the framework of a possible deal in place, we at NetsAreScorching felt it was a good time to look at how Anthony would fit in on both sides of the ball in New Jersey.

On Offense
There is no question that adding Carmelo Anthony to the roster would bolster the team’s offense. As I wrote last week, Nets Coach Avery Johnson wants to implement an offense that gets out and runs the floor. A dominant wing presence like Carmelo would be perfect for this offense, as he would relish the fast-paced system where he could get easy, open shots. When the fast break doesn’t yield an open shot, Johnson wants the team to swing the ball in their half court set and not have one player hold it. This type of system may not jive with ‘Melo as much. As one of the best pure scorers in the NBA, he is going to demand the ball a lot on offense. He puts up about 20 shots a game (21.8 field goal attempts per contest in 2009-10) and his effectiveness centers on him dominating the basketball. Anthony averaged 28.2 points per game last season (while dishing out just 3.1 assists) and has been in the league’s top 10 in scoring since 2005-06. If the Nets are to acquire the Denver small forward, Avery Johnson is going to need to tailor his system a bit to best accommodate ‘Melo.

The Nets new head coach has had experience with a star player before. He coached Dirk Nowitzki for three years in Dallas, and Dirk had his best 2 seasons while playing for Johnson. In 2005-06 he averaged a career-high 26.6 points per game and he was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2006-07. One thing Carmelo is going to have to do with the Nets on offense is play in the post. If the trade goes through the Nets will be very weak at the power forward position, and the team will need another option down low to go with Brook Lopez.

On Defense
The Nets should get a definite upgrade on the offensive side of the ball with the addition of Carmelo, but defense is where they may struggle. Carmelo Anthony is not a bad defensive player and he has actually been very much improved since he played for Mike Krzyzewski and with Kobe Bryant on the 2008 United States Olympic team. While I don’t doubt that he will play solid defense for the Nets, he cannot consistently defend the power forward position. Here is the biggest problem with the proposed trade. The Nets would deal three power forwards to Denver (Favors, Murphy and Humphries) and be left with 50-year old (he’s only 35 but it seems like he’s much older) Joe Smith. This will cause a myriad of matchup problems on the defensive end. Although ‘Melo is 6’8, 230, he cannot match up with guys like Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire, the three premier power forwards in the Eastern Conference. With the Nets roster as is, the team would be forced to have guys like Johan Petro, Terrence Williams and Joe Smith matchup with power forwards on defense. This would put tremendous pressure on the other four guys and cause a lot of headaches for Avery Johnson.

There is no question that adding ‘Melo to the Nets would bring a buzz to the franchise that hasn’t been there since the early 2000s. The team would see increased attendance, jersey sales and coverage around the country. The Nets would also have one of the best pure scorers in the NBA and instantly contend for a playoff spot. But they would struggle on the defensive end and may find that they gave up too much size and young talent. Acquiring Carmelo Anthony would make any Nets fan excited, and while he would fit in on offense and play solid defense, the franchise needs to realize they can’t give up too much at the power forward position just to get him.