We have come to the top 5 of my 20 greatest Denver Nuggets of all time and I have chosen a guy who almost literally saved the Nuggets franchise when he was drafted. My 5th greatest Denver Nugget of all time …….Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony came to the Nuggets as the 3rd pick in the 2003 NBA Entry Draft. The Nuggets went 17-65 in 2002-2003 and tied for the worst record in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers. As we all know, the Cavs won the draft lottery and the right to draft LeBron James who was considered at the time to be a can’t miss player. (And this has turned out to be true in every way.) The Nuggets, who were picking third in that draft were thought to be targeting European Center Darko Milicic because the Detroit Pistons had the second pick and were expected to take Anthony. But in a stroke of complete idiocy, the Pistons took Darko with the second pick leaving Anthony for the Nuggets to snatch up at number 3. That may have been the quickest and easiest decision Nuggets General Manager at the time, Kiki Vandewege, ever had to make. “Melo” made an immediate impact with his scoring, rebounding and young legs and the Nuggets made the largest recovery in franchise history in 2003-2004 by going 43-39 and making the playoffs for the first time since 1996. Although Carmelo’s exit from Denver is looked at with much disdain by Nuggets fans, you can’t argue with what he did for the franchise in his 7 plus seasons in Denver.
Anthony is a pure scorer. He can get his shot off in numerous ways and because he likes to shoot a lot, he gets a lot of them off. But it did translate into success for the Nuggets as they made the playoffs in every season Melo was in Denver before his demanded trade to the Knicks in 2011. As a rookie Melo was named to the NBA All-Rookie First team and he was also named the MVP of the 2005 Rookie Challenge Game held during All Star weekend. The only other Nugget to earn that honor was Kenneth Faried as a second year player in 2012. He has been an All Star in every season of his career except 2009 and has been named to the All-NBA second team twice and the All-NBA third team 4 times in his career, many of those in Nuggets powder blue.
As a rookie in 2003-2004 Anthony averaged 21 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game and established himself as a star in the league during his rookie campaign. He steadily improved his numbers over the course of his 7 years in Denver and ranks in the top ten in Nuggets history in nearly every offensive category and a few defensive ones as well. Below is a list of the top tens that Melo shows up on in Nuggets history. Keep in mind that he only played 7 1/2 years with the Nuggets so had the Nuggets been able to convince him that the grass wasn’t greener in New York, he may have ended up on the top of many of these lists.
6th in Games Played with 564
3rd in Minutes played with 20,521
3rd in Field Goals made with 4,989
3rd in Field Goals Attempted with 10,877
6th in 3 Pointers made with 410
3rd in 3 point attempts with 1,320
3rd in Free Throws made with 3,582
2nd in Free Throws attempted with 4,462
9th in Offensive Rebounds with 1,102
9th in Defensive Rebounds with 2,464
9th in total Rebounds with 3,566
7th in Steals with 634
2nd in Turnovers with 1,726
7th in Personal Fouls with 1,693
3rd in Points scored with 13,970
5th in Minutes played per game with an average of 36.4
4th in Points per game with an average of 24.8
That is a heckuva list of statistical accomplishments for someone who wasn’t even 30 years old when he was traded to the Knicks in 2011.
The arrival of Anthony was instrumental in the resurgence of the Nuggets franchise from a wins perspective as well. In Melo’s years in Denver the team never had a record under .500 and won over 50 games in 4 of the 8 seasons he spent in a Nuggets uniform. The one knock on his tenure in Denver, and along with Melo, George Karl’s as well, was that they had trouble winning playoff series. The only time the Nuggets got out of the first round during Melo’s time in Denver was 2008-2009 when they had a roster that included the great Chauncey Billups running the show. But that was a magical year as the Nuggets whipped the New Orleans Hornets with Chris Paul and then torched the Dallas Mavericks on their way to a battle with the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Melo averaged 27.2 points and 5.8 rebounds during the 2009 playoff run and if not for a couple of errant inbounds passes, may have led the Nuggets to the NBA Finals.
Because Carmelo was just traded in 2011, I have many vivid memories of his time in Denver. The infectious smile, the joy to play the game, his ability to score from anywhere on the court, the alley oops from Andre Miller, Chauncey Billups and Allan Iverson among many others. He was such a pure scorer I thought he could easily average 30 points a game but has never done that in his career including his time with the Knicks. I remember his first 50 point game at Pepsi Center when he could not be stopped. I also remember that I was excited to hear that he had signed a Contract extension in 2007 to stay with the Nuggets after his rookie contract was up and thought that maybe this would allow Denver to no longer be a flyover city for stars in the NBA. But a combination of Melo’s desire to improve his brand, and his wife prodding him to get out of this cowtown, this was not to be. Carmelo requested a trade during the 2010-2011 season and General Manager Masai Ujirri ended up granting him his wish when he robbed the Knicks with a trade a couple days before the deadline in 2011.
Anthony has finally gotten what he has always wanted in this year’s free agent frenzy as he just recently re-signed with the Knicks at a Maximum Contract and is the biggest fish in the biggest market in the NBA, New York. I’m sure LaLa is extremely happy about this situation because I think she had a lot to do with Melo requesting to be traded out of Denver. Good luck to Melo in New York because no matter how it turned out at the end of his Nuggets career, Carmelo Anthony saved the Nuggets franchise!
So there you have my fifth greatest Denver Nugget of all time…….Carmelo Kyam Anthony! Let me know what you think of my choice for #5 on my list and look for #4 in the coming days.