NBA: Were the Thunder Better without Carmelo?

Carmelo Anthony has been a well-known name throughout the NBA for years now. In his 17-year-long repertoire he’s been an All Star 10 times, was the scoring champ in the 2012-2013 season and has over 25,000 points! Needless to say, Melo has proven to be a terrific scoring forward.

After spending the first 15 seasons of his career split between the Denver Nuggets and the New York Knicks, he eventually signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2017-2018 NBA season. The Thunder were the eighth best team in the league that year with a 48-34 record. The following season they were the tenth best team in the league with a 49-33 record.

Now these stats alone aren’t sufficient enough to prove this, but it does beg a question. Were the Thunder better without Anthony?

Comparing the Past Two Seasons

There are a few things to look at to answer this question. One of which is their last two season; the seasons with and the immediate season without Melo. In 2017-2018, the Thunder went 48-34 and were the fourth overall seed in the Western Conference in the playoffs. They went 49-33 and were the sixth overall seed before losing to the Utah Jazz in the first round.

In the 2019 playoffs, they were eliminated by the Portland Trailblazers in five games in the first round. The Thunder had a better team with Melo as they had a slightly better playoff performance with him than they did without him. They were a higher seed and won one more game.

Team Stats

Still comparing the same two seasons. The Thunder had slightly different team stats, but they still bat an eye. In the 2017-2018 season, OKC had an offensive rating of 110.7 and a defensive rating of 107.2. The following season (without Melo) their offensive rating slightly dropped to 110.3. Their defensive rating dropped to 107.0. Now these differences aren’t very definitive enough to answer the question but it adds some context; it shows how Melo affected the team. However it still isn’t enough.

Another stat to look at is their field goals made in each year. In the 2017-2018 regular season, OKC made 3,271 FG’s with a .453 field goal percentage. The next season, they would score a total of 3,497 FG’s. This shows that OKC did better without Melo, however we need to look more beneath the surface. While they made 3,271 in 2017-2018, they missed 3,950 FG’s. Compared to the 2018-2019 season, OKC missed a whopping 4,209 FG’s. This shows that Melo did in fact have an affect on the team. OKC missed much less shots and had slightly lower offensive and defensive ratings.

Melo’s Contributions

Anthony did exceptionally well on the Thunder, in terms of team stats. He was ranked fourth overall on the team with 6.1 FG’s per game and averaged 16.2 points per game. This resulted in the Thunder being ranked eighth in the league. The next season, they were ranked tenth in the league. Anthony has shown to being an effective player on the Thunder. With Melo they averaged 107.9 points per game. Without Melo they averaged 114.5 points per game. An odd circumstance, but OKC did better without Melo than they did with him in terms of points per game.

Now that we’ve analyzed plenty of stats, it shows that the Thunder were better with Carmelo Anthony than they were without him. Despite improving in some areas in their game, overall, Melo did have a positive affect on this team and had a negative one when he left. Anthony is currently playing for the Houston Rockets, but was restricted to 10 games. He was held out with an unknown ‘illness.’ His contract rights are now owned by the Chicago Bulls.

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