In the playoffs, having a superstar player matters (if they step up), but what truly sets teams apart is their weaknesses — in the playoffs, those are exposed teams hammer them. Put a minus defender out there for extended periods and teams will isolate and attack him. Put a non-shooter out there and teams will help off him and make scoring much more difficult for the better offensive players.
Enter Carmelo Anthony. He averaged 11.8 points per game on 37.5 percent shooting overall and 21.4 percent from three. On defense late in the series, the Jazz went right at him on switches whenever they could (often with Donovan Mitchell attacking off the dribble and blowing right by him), to the point that coach Billy Donovan had to sit him for key stretches the last two games of their eventual first-round loss to the Jazz. The Thunder were -9.7 points per 100 possessions in that series when Anthony was on the court.
This summer Anthony has a $28 million player option, one everyone expects he will pick up (there is not near that kind of money available for him on the open market). He will return to the Thunder.
At his media availability after his exit interview on Saturday, Anthony was asked if he would take a lesser role, maybe coming off the bench (via Royce Young of ESPN).
So… there’s that.
Attitudes can change and shift over the summer. Billy Donovan was hired in part for his ability to relate to players, connect with them, and get them to buy into his plans. Donovan is also a smart coach, he saw what the rest of us saw, he understands what is happening on the court. It’s not some just-discovered secret around the league, mid-season a scout I knew used the term “washed” to describe Anthony. However, it’s not that simple. Anthony is one of the leaders in that locker room, someone highly respected by his peers, and a guy players don’t want to see just bumped to the side. Donovan has a lot of work ahead.
And that’s not even getting into the challenges around Paul George and his free agency. It’s going to be an interesting summer in OKC.