The arrival of Carmelo Anthony and Paul George in Oklahoma City was expected to make the Thunder a legitimate title contender in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, the combinations of three ball-dominant players in the starting lineup has proven to be a huge problem for the Thunder. George somewhat managed to perform well playing alongside Russell Westbrook, but the same thing didn’t happen for Anthony.
The Thunder are currently on the verge of being eliminated by the Utah Jazz in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. If they want to force Game 7, they need to make the perfect battle plan before heading to Vivint Smart Home Arena on Friday night. In an appearance on ESPN’s The Jump, Tracy McGrady suggested that the Thunder should bench Carmelo Anthony in Game 6.
“I think you have to force Melo to go to the bench. You have to play Grant. You have to play Abrines,” McGrady said. “If Melo goes to the bench, I think he gives you scoring power into that second level.”
Carmelo Anthony has not been his usual self since being traded to the Thunder before the start of the season. In 82 games he played, he posted a career-low 16.2 points per game on 40.4 percent shooting from the field and 35.7 percent from beyond the arc. Those numbers went down in his first five postseason games with the Thunder where he averaged 12.8 points on 36.9 percent shooting from the field and 21.4 percent from beyond the arc. He’s also almost non-existent on the defensive end of the floor.
The main reason behind his struggle and poor performance is the presence of Russell Westbrook and Paul George on the team. When he shared the court with the two superstars, Anthony is only considered as the Thunder’s third option on the offensive end of the floor. Anthony was definitely aware of what role he will play when he waived his no-trade clause for the Thunder. Still, playing off the ball is not what the All-Star forward is known for.
If the Thunder want a sure victory in Game 6, they should consider following McGrady’s advice and use Anthony off the bench. Being the lone superstar in the Thunder’s second unit, Anthony could become a better contributor for the team. Using younger wings like Jerami Grant and Alex Abrines will boost the Thunder’s defense which could greatly help them in countering Jazz head coach Quin Snyder’s offensive strategy.