The Celtics are reportedly determined to acquire superstar wing player Jimmy Butler, and that says a lot about Carmelo Anthony.
Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas scored 30-plus points 31 times in 2016-17. The only other Celtic to score 30 points in a game was Avery Bradley, and he did it just once. Depending so much on Thomas hurt Boston in the playoffs, particularly against the superior Cavs. They averaged just 100.4 points per game in the Eastern Conference Finals compared to 108.0 during the regular season.
The Celtics are a good team, but they need to give Thomas help. General manager Danny Ainge is reportedly in the process of going out and getting it. That help would come in the form of Chicago Bulls superstar Jimmy Butler. He’s been linked to the Celtics for awhile, so it makes sense to be skeptical, but this rumor seems legit.
Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported that the Celtics were in trade talks with the Philadelphia 76ers involving the first overall pick in the 2017 draft. Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog subsequently reported that the Celtics could be acquiring more picks to acquire Butler.
The 27-year-old coming off the best season of his career and a third-straight All-Star appearance would be a phenomenal get for the Celtics. However, they could’ve had another star wing back at the trade deadline.
New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony could’ve been their guy. Instead, Boston was reluctant to deal with his exorbitant contract and polarizing style of play. Ultimately they decided to pass.
Boston’s willingness to trade the No. 1 overall pick for Butler and hesitance to make a deal involving role player Jae Crowder for Anthony is an indication of how far the 10-time All-Star’s stock has fallen.
It’s not that they didn’t want to give up the asset. They just didn’t want to give it up for Anthony. He’s not worthy of a role player much less the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
Anthony dropped 30-plus 15 times last season. Despite a decline in his overall game, he’s still one of the best scorers in the Association. So, why didn’t the Celtics want him? Well, it’s simple. Despite what Knicks fans want to believe Anthony has a reputation as a selfish ball hog, and team president Phil Jackson has done nothing but reinforce that since he took over the role.
To get a better idea of why Boston passed on Anthony, let’s take a closer look at how the Celtics run their offense. Long story short: Everything goes through Thomas. The newly-minted All-Star had a usage percentage of 34.0 percent, while the next highest Celtic (Gerald Green) was at 22.7 percent.
Isaiah was ninth in the NBA in total touches (6,434) and tenth in time of possession (507 minutes). He was surrounded by a supporting cast that was comfortable letting him be the man. Nobody complained when Thomas would dominate the ball. There must have been some concern on Boston’s side that that wouldn’t be the case if Anthony were in the locker room.
There’s no argument about the fact that Anthony would have had to play second fiddle on that team. Apparently, Boston didn’t think he could do it, and they had every reason to believe that. He’s always been the focal point of the offense.
Despite his decline in play Melo still led the Knicks with an astronomical usage percentage of 29.1 percent. He took over 400 more FGA and launched nearly 100 more three-pointers than the next nearest Knick. That would be Kristaps Porzingis.
In fact, Anthony took just 84 FGA less than Thomas. The difference is that Thomas’ workload was forced upon him and he was still far more efficient than Anthony. The point guard shot 46.3 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from three-point range, while Anthony shot 43.3 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from three-point range.
Anthony was third in the league in isolation possessions, and that wasn’t a large part of Boston’s offense. Per NBA.com, they were second in passes made (one ahead of the Knicks), fourth in assists, and third in assist points created. Boston was just 28th in isolation possessions.
There was a time when a team would’ve traded the farm for Carmelo Anthony. Back in 2011 when Knicks brought him in and gutted their roster in the process. One playoff series win in seven seasons later and things have changed in New York. When you’re desperate for scoring help in the NBA, Anthony’s no longer a primary option via trade.