Listening to Sports Radio, one of my secret shames, and the local host said that everyone in the NBA Draft Class of 2003 was going to the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame. He was using hyperbole, of course, but I wanted to disagree with him slightly, because this is not the first time I’ve heard this narrative. Let’s review the Top 5 Picks again, shall we.
#1 LeBron - LeBron could drop the mic today and he would be enshrined tomorrow. Literally, like Roberto Clemente.
#5 Dwayne Wade - Ditto. They may need to build a new wing for James and Wade.
#4 Chris Bosh – You can argue he’s not a first ballot Hall of Famer, but he’s got those rings.
#2 Darko Milicic – You can laugh if you want, but beyond Vlade Divac, there aren’t a lot Serbians you would recognize that have made it to the NBA. Darko could end up in the Serbian Basketball Hall of Fame. (Okay, that’s like a participation trophy.)
#3 Carmelo Anthony – And this is where I disagree with conventional wisdom. When I think of Carmelo, I was trying to think of who he reminded me of in the past generations. Does he remind me of Michael? No. Does he remind me of Magic? No. The name that kept coming into my head is World B. Free.
Now I’m clearly not a basketball aficionado, but I decided to look up the stats and see how close I was. For those unfamiliar with Free, I knew him from his days with the Cleveland Cavaliers from 1982-1986. He played with 6 different NBA teams and never met a shot that he didn’t like.
He went to high school in Brooklyn and was 6 ‘ 2” and his playing weight was listed at 185. Free made one All-Star Team and here are his stats from Basketball Reference.com:
Now Carmelo Anthony was born in Brooklyn and went to High School in the suburbs of Baltimore. He is 6’8 with a listed weight of 240. Here are his stats from the same resource material:
So Carmelo is a bigger version of Free with more rebounds, but Free’s not in the Hall of Fame. But what about all those Championships of Anthony’s?
NCAA Champion. Okay, put him in the College Sports Hall of Fame.
Olympic Champion. Okay, put him in the FIBA Hall of Fame.
NBA Playoffs: Can’t find too much on that. As a matter of fact let’s analyze that a bit more.
Opening day starters on 17-65 New York Knicks 2014 team:
Carmelo Anthony, Iman Shumpert, Shane Larkin, Samuel Dalembert, and Amar’e Stoudemire with J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway coming off the bench.
Starters for the Cavs in Game 2 of the 2015 NBA Finals:
LeBron James, Timofey Mozgov, Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and Mathew Dellavedova with J.R. Smith and James Jones coming off the bench. Now, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were injured so it’s not a direct comparison, but if you look at the 2 lineups, one has the King, and one has, well, World B. Free.
Here’s Free numbers broken down a bit more:
If you drop Free’s first two seasons in Philadelphia, and his last 2 in Philadelphia and Houston, his numbers for the bulk of his career are strikingly similar. The main difference is Free hit his stride around age 25, whereas Anthony hit his stride around 21. Don’t forget the advent of the 3 point shot was later in Free’s career, so if you factor in 2 less 3-pointers attempted, per game, across the career, you come up with the point differential.
You could go to Playoff Stats, but comparing different eras is tough, so let’s do this:
Carmelo Anthony – 10 Playoffs, out in first round 8 times.
World B. Free – 5 Playoffs, out in first round 3 times.
Now I’m a jerk blogger who doesn’t love basketball. But the geeks at Basketball Reference.com say that Anthony’s 2 closest analytical peers (depending on two separate Similarity Scores) are Rasheed Wallace and Alex English. English is a Hall of Famer, no doubt, but Rasheed Wallace? Wallace is 6’10 and more of a rebounder in my mind. Now I know Anthony’s rebounding numbers are better than Free’s, but Anthony doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude of Wallace, on any level.
Now they’re going to put Anthony in the Hall of Fame anyhow, based on his days in Syracuse and on the US National Team, but let’s review Anthony greatest success, 2008-2009’s Denver Nuggets team that made it to the Western Conference finals.
Starting 5: Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Nene Hilario, Dahntay Jones with J.R. Smith and Chris Anderson coming off the bench. Now if you put Anthony in the Hall of Fame, now all of a sudden you have arguments for Billups, Martin, and yes, J.R. Smith as Hall of Famers.