First of all, let me say that many people do point out Carmelo isn’t good at all in many areas, but I rarely see someone compare him to other bench players (who we can agree are on his level) and explain why he specifically isn’t on a NBA roster.
My point is that what teams look for in end-of-rotation players, in general, are clear strengths and things they can add to the team. They usually are pretty good at certain things (nowadays those things tend to be either perimeter shooting, defense, or rebounding), so they can actually help the team a lot in certain games instead of just being a presence on the court to score some points a game and that’s it.
We can see how this helps teams in the playoffs. Last year, Mike Scott had great games shooting from deep and was a tremendous player for a Sixers team that needed shooting, especially because their stars were below-average in that area. That guaranteed him a 2-year contract in the off-season, even though he only averaged 8 points in 27 games with Philly. Another guy that performed really well in the playoffs was Kevon Looney, who showed up every time the Warriors needed rebounding and a strong presence inside — the result was a 3-year extension for the big-man.
To exemplify this, I’ll show my favorite team’s bench and how this applies:
Likely Mavericks bench rotation: Seth Curry, Maxi Kleber, Jalen Brunson, Justin Jackson, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Boban Marjanovic. You can name each player’s specialty — something they are above average at — easily.
Seth is a pure sharpshooter and spaces the floor really well. Maxi brings defense and 3-point shooting as well. Jalen Brunson is a good guard with and without the ball, is really smart, and can score decently. Jackson is long and has a perimeter shot. DFS is a long defender that can get boards. Boban brings size to the rotation and is a strong presence inside. You can do that with basically any roster.
The thing with Carmelo is that he doesn’t have that thing he’s above average at. He’s not a great shooter (35% from 3 in 6 attempts in the last 2 seasons while being really inconsistent), isn’t athletic anymore, isn’t either strong or fast for a foward, can’t be efficient posting-up or slashing like he used to… The only area he is good for his position is rebounding, which he has been good at for his whole career.
GM’s look for role-players that can fit their system or make up for their weaknesses in certain game situations. Using Dallas as an example again, the Boban signing was basically an assurance that we have a big guy to match-up against tall players that Maxi, Powell or KP can’t handle, or have a counter against 2 big rotations like the Lakers. Right now, the only reason a team would give Carmelo a shot is if they needed a forward to secure defensive boards, but how many teams are actually needing or caring about that? He isn’t a good enough shooter for us to classify him as a “sharpshooter”, and he certainly doesn’t bring anything else to the table at an above-average rate.
In certain specific cases, players can get a chance due to their age too. Young guys that aren’t that good at anything get chances because they have potential. Vets can fill roster spots to bring a strong locker room presence to the squad and mentor young lads. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with Anthony either. It looks like he just doesn’t have a case anymore.
Teams look for players with specific strengths, to make up for their weaknesses, when filling the last roster spots, and that’s something that Melo just isn’t anymore.
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