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Carmelo Anthony on cusp of reaching Top 10 all-time in scoring

Carmelo Anthony enters Monday needing 10 points to pass Elvin Hayes for 10th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.

Brian Martin, for NBA.com

Carmelo Anthony enters Monday with 27,304 career points.

Tim Duncan. Dominique Wilkins. Oscar Robertson. Hakeem Olajuwon.

Those are the players that Carmelo Anthony has passed in career scoring so far this season. After beginning the 2020-21 season ranked 15th on the all-time scoring list, Anthony enters Monday’s game needing 10 points to pass Elvin Hayes and enter the top 10 scorers in the 75-year history of the NBA.

In his 18th season, Anthony is currently averaging 13.6 points per game for the Portland Trail Blazers, who face the Hawks in Atlanta on Monday (8 ET, NBA League Pass), giving Carmelo an opportunity to put himself in the top 10 scorers club with just one more double-digit scoring night in a career full of them.

Top 11 Scorers – NBA History (entering Monday, May 3, 2021)

RANK PLAYER GP PTS PTS/GM TS%
1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1,560 38,387 24.61 59.2
2 Karl Malone 1,476 36,928 25.02 57.7
3 LeBron James 1,307 35,299 27.01 58.7
4 Kobe Bryant 1,346 33,643 24.99 55.0
5 Michael Jordan 1,072 32,292 30.12 56.9
6 Dirk Nowitzki 1,522 31,560 20.74 57.7
7 Wilt Chamberlain 1,045 31,419 30.07 54.7
8 Shaquille O’Neal 1,207 28,596 23.69 58.6
9 Moses Malone 1,329 27,409 20.62 56.9
10 Elvin Hayes 1,303 27,313 20.96 49.1
11 Carmelo Anthony 1,185 27,304 23.04 54.2

After leading Syracuse to the NCAA national championship as a freshman, Carmelo entered the 2003 NBA Draft, was selected by the Denver Nuggets with the No. 3 overall pick and began getting buckets from day one.

Anthony led all rookies in scoring in 2003-04 at 21.0 points per game, narrowly edging out Rookie of the Year winner LeBron James (20.9 ppg) in a star-studded class that also featured Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the top five selections.

Carmelo made an instant impact with the Nuggets, who went from 17-65 and 29th in the league in scoring in 2002-03 to 43-39 and fifth in scoring in Anthony’s rookie season. He spent the first seven-and-a-half seasons of his career in Nuggets blue and yellow and made the playoffs every season.

During his tenure with the Nuggets, Anthony amassed 13,970 points (third most in franchise history) in 564 games played (24.77 ppg), while shooting 45.9% (4,989-10,877) from the field, 31.1% (410-1320) from 3-point range and 80.3% (3,582-4462) from the free throw line.

Midway through the 2010-11 season, Carmelo was traded to the New York Knicks. While the scene changed from the mountains of Colorado to the streets of New York City, the buckets did not stop as Carmelo rang up points on a nightly basis while calling Madison Square Garden home.

In fact, the scoring rolled on at nearly the exact same pace as it did in Denver. After averaging 24.77 points per game with the Nuggets, Anthony would average 27.72 points per game with the Knicks. His scoring average changed by just 0.05 points per game between his first seven-and-half seasons and his next six-and-a-half season. In total, that’s 14 seasons of consistently being one of the top scorers in the league.

While Carmelo won only a single scoring title in his career (2012-13, 28.7 ppg), he ranked in the top 10 in scoring for nine straight seasons (2005-06 to 2013-14) and finished as the runner up for the scoring title twice in that span.

Following the 2016-17 season, the Knicks traded Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder, which essentially began the third phase of Carmelo’s career, which is still going strong in Portland as he is key reserve for a Blazers squad that has won four straight and is looking to climb out of the Play-In Tournament and earn a playoff berth for the eighth straight season.

Carmelo is Portland’s fourth-leading scorer at 13.6 points per game, but was relied upon more heavily earlier in the season while CJ McCollum was sidelined for two months with a foot fracture. Having a reliable veteran scorer that can hit open shots or create looks on his own off the dribble or in the post is a huge asset to have headed into the postseason.

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Let’s revisit the list of Hall of Famers that Carmelo has already passed this season and is set to pass this week – Tim Duncan (1997-2016), Dominique Wilkins (1982-99) Oscar Robertson (1960-74) Hakeem Olajuwon (1984-2002) and Elvin Hayes (1968-84). These five players span nearly the entire history of the NBA and represent different positions and eras. But what has made them special is the fact that their talents could have shined in any era of the game. And the same can be said about Carmelo Anthony.

The physicality of previous generations would not have bothered him – Carmelo is one of the strongest wing players in the game. He can play in the post, drive the lane, and finish through contact. He would not have been deterred by hand checking and hard fouls.

He is not overly reliant on the 3-point shot. Many of today’s top scorers depend so heavily on the 3-point shot to rack up their points. While Carmelo can shoot the three, it was never the primary tool in his scoring bag of tricks. As the chart above illustrates, the majority of his buckets came inside the restricted area (3,892 FGM) or in the mid-range (3,543 FGM). Those two zones account for 56.2% of Anthony’s total points, with another 23.4% coming from the free throw line.

He doesn’t have blazing speed, can’t jump out of the gym, and doesn’t shoot from 40 feet out (like current teammate Damian Lillard). Instead, Anthony uses his combination of size, a quick first step, and superior footwork to constantly keep defenders off balance as they try to contain him.

Carmelo Anthony's Best Footwork & Finishes this Season in Portland

Play him too tight, he can get by you on the drive and either get to the rim, draw a foul or hit a pull-up jumper. Play him too loose and he will make you pay by splashing a 3-pointer and running down the court tapping his temple three times as a reminder not to leave him open. And if the offense bogs down or it gets late in the shot clock and you need to get a shot up, find Carmelo in the post and let him go to work.

Whether it happens Monday or later this week, Anthony is set to join the top 10 scorers club soon and can set his sights on climbing even higher up the list. Next up is Moses Malone, who currently leads Anthony by only 118 points. Based on his current scoring average, Anthony would need nine games to pass Malone for ninth place. And the Blazers have nine games left in the regular season for him work with.

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