After a much quicker end to his tenure with the Houston Rockets than was expected, Carmelo Anthony is still searching for a new home within the NBA and it is something that he is attempting to attack head-on, as evidenced by his appearance on ESPN last Friday.
"Out of 30 teams, you mean to tell me I can't make a 15-man roster?" Anthony asked rhetorically during his recent interview with Stephen A. Smith on "First Take," but in doing so may have unwittingly provided the league an answer. Anthony's attitude is the red flag keeping him off of teams right now. For two years he bristled at the notion of coming off of the bench. But after nine months without basketball, Anthony is no longer claiming he is an All-Star or even a starter. Only that in a league with 450 roster spots, he deserves a seat at the table.
Anthony probably is one of the 450 best basketball players in the world. He just needed to prove that he was okay with being closer to the back of that list than the front before any team would feel comfortable signing him. His interview with Smith should have accomplished that goal. It was a rare display of off-court humility for the 10-time All-Star.
He has displayed plenty of it on the court in recent years. Olympic 'Melo finally hit the NBA stage two years ago, as 40.6 percent of his shot attempts with the Oklahoma City Thunder came from behind the three-point line. In Houston, that figure rose to 52.9 percent. But they only went in 35.3 percent of the time, less than league average. In a three-point obsessed NBA, that makes finding a fit difficult. So does his porous defense
But for all of his other faults, Anthony can create his own shot. In a small sample last season, he scored 0.9 points per isolation attempt, per NBA.com. He landed at a nearly identical 0.89 with the Thunder. Both figures are better than what Damian Lillard (0.87), Donovan Mitchell (0.85) and D'Angelo Russell (0.83) posted last season. Ironically, Anthony may need to be more selfish to succeed in the NBA now. He just needs to be willing to do it in fewer minutes.
Not every team in the NBA needs that sort of player. There is a reason SportsLine has set 8/1 odds that Anthony won't sign anywhere this season, but a forward who can generate his own offense and create mismatches should have a place on certain bench units. If the right team surrounds Anthony with shooting and defense, he can still wreak havoc against backups for 15 minutes or so per night. So, let's go through all 30 teams in the NBA and see which ones could actually use a player like that. These are the best fits for Anthony next season in reverse order.
30. Houston Rockets: They are the muscle handshake meme personified. Russell Westbrook and Daryl Morey probably don't agree on much in terms of basketball philosophy, but neither is taking Anthony back.
28. Golden State Warriors: The Warriors are hard-capped thanks to the D'Angelo Russell sign-and-trade. They currently have less than $300,000 left under that cap to spend. Anthony's minimum salary, from a cap perspective, would cost them around $1.6 million. The Warriors literally cannot sign Anthony at this moment.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves: New president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas came from Houston, and young Andrew Wiggins is basically just old Carmelo Anthony without the headband and existential dread.
25. Milwaukee Bucks: If anything could cause riots in Wisconsin, it would be Bucks twitter watching Carmelo Anthony become the latest aging forward to steal minutes from D.J. Wilson.
24. New Orleans Pelicans: There just isn't any playing time. Zion Williamson, Derrick Favors and Jaxson Hayes are going to eat up most of the frontcourt minutes, and developing Kenrich Williams and Nicolo Melli is too important to devote any leftover playing time to Anthony.
23. Utah Jazz: Donovan Mitchell's first-round humiliation of Anthony might be what ended his career. The Jazz aren't going to be the team that revives it.
22. Chicago Bulls: If any team could talk itself into Anthony's brand of basketball, it would be the one that just paid Jabari Parker $20 million. But the Bulls already have Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter and Thaddeus Young at forward.
21. Atlanta Hawks: The Bulls used to pay Jabari Parker. The Hawks currently pay him. SportsLine currently has the Hawks at 12/1 odds to land Anthony, but Parker's signing likely eliminated that possibility. They are just too similar.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers: Cleveland has drafted four all-offense guards in the past two years and already has Kevin Love. Stick Anthony on this defense and Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point record would be in danger every single night.
18. Miami Heat: They have the same hard-cap restrictions that the Warriors do, but more ambition in circumventing it for the right players (as they would have done for Westbrook). Anthony is a star, and Miami loves stars, but he isn't a fit with Jimmy Butler in place and a glut of forwards already on the roster.
17. Sacramento Kings: The Kings go two-deep at every position. There is no room in this rotation for Anthony.
16. Indiana Pacers: The Pacers are already paying T.J. Warren nearly $11 million to be their Carmelo Anthony.
15. Phoenix Suns: Anthony would be a welcome distraction for what promises to be another season in the high lottery, but Monty Williams deserves better than trying to build a defense around him and Devin Booker.
14. Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers are SportsLine's current favorite to sign Anthony at 2/1, and for good reason. They have an empty roster spot and his close friend LeBron James, but the Lakers have cast their lot with Kyle Kuzma in this role. If they were going to pursue Anthony, either by choice or coercion from James, it likely would have happened by now.
13. Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers have an empty roster spot as well, and their offense should be fairly isolation-heavy with Kawhi Leonard leading the way. If Paul George is going to miss time recovering from shoulder surgery and Leonard adopts any sort of load-management schedule, it wouldn't hurt to have some sort of offensive facsimile of either on their roster. The Clippers are too analytically inclined to realistically sign Anthony, but there is some semblance of a fit. That is why SportsLine has placed their odds of signing Anthony at 5-to-1.
12. New York Knicks: The dream of an all-power forward roster died when Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the Knicks only would have been interested had they landed two star free agents. Perhaps they'll sing a different tune as fans grow restless midway through another lost season.
11. Memphis Grizzlies: Small-market tankers could always use a box office draw, but the Grizzlies won't risk letting him influence their young core.
10. San Antonio Spurs: They already have DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, so this shouldn't be a fit, but they were willing to pay Marcus Morris $10 million to take bad shots for them. He turned it down. Anthony would do it for far less.
9. Boston Celtics: There really isn't a power forward on this roster besides rookie Grant Williams, but the Celtics prefer it that way. They like to play with versatile forwards on defense. Anthony doesn't qualify.
8. Charlotte Hornets: Anthony is a Jordan brand endorser, and Charlotte managed to squeeze some production out of a fading legend two years ago in Dwight Howard. But really, this comes down to how awful the Hornets are. Do they really have a better way of spending this season than hosting the Carmelo Anthony farewell tour?
7. Detroit Pistons: It's time to correct the injustice of the Darko Milicic pick, and given Detroit's lack of assets, it's not as if they have any realistic path to acquiring actual All-Stars. Their best bet is building a 2012 All-Star Team. Imagine how many jerseys the Pistons could sell with Anthony, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose under one roof?
6. Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers have been interested in Anthony in the past, and Damian Lillard has vocally supported him in his free agency. They have enough scoring as is, but they lack forward depth. Anthony isn't the sort of wing defender they need, but he could at least fill some regular-season minutes that would otherwise go to undersized guards.
4. Dallas Mavericks: Tim Hardaway Jr. has dealt with leg injuries over the past two years, leaving the Mavericks with only two players who can create their own shot if those injuries persist: Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. The latter began his career with Anthony in New York, and the two seemingly had a strong relationship. They aren't going to play good defense anyway, but with Anthony, their offense would at least gain some upside.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Anthony struggles on defense. The 76ers have perhaps the best defense in the NBA. Anthony is a statistically excellent clutch scorer. The 76ers no longer have a closer after losing Jimmy Butler. If any team is equipped to hide Anthony's weaknesses and take advantage of his strengths, it would be the 76ers. Most teams shy away from pure isolation scorers. Philadelphia could really use one.
2. Orlando Magic: The Magic scored only 101.3 points per 100 possessions when Nikola Vucevic sat last season. That was a decline over nine points per 100 without him, and their only major additions this summer were Al-Farouq Aminu, a defensive specialist, and Chuma Okeke, who is recovering from a torn ACL. Anthony is the only available player who has any chance of helping their offense when Vucevic rests.
1. Toronto Raptors: The defending champions lost one of the league's best one-on-one scorers in Kawhi Leonard. They traded another isolation specialist in DeMar DeRozan to get him in the first place. This is an organization that knows how to support ball-dominant players. They could surround Anthony with great defense and spacing whenever he takes the floor. Like the 76ers, the Raptors are well-situated to accentuate his strengths and minimize his weaknesses, but they have lower ambitions and more credit with their fan base after winning the championship.
That is why SportsLine gives the Raptors the second-best odds among NBA teams to sign Anthony at 3/1, but it's important to note that very little is known about Anthony's future at this moment. SportsLine lists only odds for four teams to sign him, and the field has 8/1 odds in those sweepstakes. The fits above are theoretical until one team decides to take the plunge and bring Anthony aboard.