The recent trade of the Big Diesel to the Phoenix clearly gave the Phoenix Suns a better shot to win an NBA title. It probably will cost them some wins in the regular season, but come playoff time he clearly makes them a more legitimate contender. Clearly Shaq Daddy is past his prime and his largest asset at this point will be on the defensive end. The Suns rank 30th in the league in allowing offensive rebounds, Shaq will change that.
I’m an NBA romantic and I can’t help but think about the 6-7 year span in Shaq’s prime when he was the most dominant player in the league. Sure there was the Hack-a-Shaq strategy, but the reality is that he was fouled every time he touched the ball and teams had to go out of their way to foul him. He was so much bigger and stronger than every other player at his position that he absorbed almost all contact from defenders, but any contact he initiated led to defenders falling down, dying, crumpling, insert destructive verb here.
The trade also got me thinking: Does this generation have a Shaq-esque player? By that I mean a player that unfairly draws offensive fouls, doesn’t go to the foul line nearly enough, and really is forced to back off when defending the post. Oh yeah the player also has to dominate despite facing constant double teams. My search for an answer led to a single candidate: Carmelo Anthony.
Say what you will about Melo, but his game is really evolving and constantly becoming more dynamic. This isn’t really about analyzing Melo’s all around game, but comparing him to Shaq. For a lot of you this comparison might be difficult since Melo is small forward and Shaq obviously is not. This is why the comparison works though. Melo is way stronger and plays way more physically than any other small forward in the league. He uses his body on the block and short corner to create space for domination. This inevitably leads to his doom. Because of his physicality small forwards defending Melo are often left scraping themselves off the floor. Before getting the ball these weaklings are hammering Melo trying to push him off the block. A lot of this contact gets ignored though because their feeble efforts are absorbed by Melo.
On the other end of the floor Melo always has to play soft when players try to post him because when they try to back him down he doesn’t budge, when he pushes back players hit the floor. Case in point, last week’s thriller with Utah. The game goes into overtime (only because Melo missed a wide open 18 footer at the end of regulation, bitch). On Utah’s 2nd or 3rd possession Andrei “My wife is cool with my wandering wiener” Kirilenko came off a set of stagger screens and tried to seal Melo off. Melo went over the screens and beat Kirilenko to the spot. Kirilenko rammed Melo in the back to try and get possession. Objectively this would be an offensive foul on most guys because the push was enough to send most defenders to the floor. Melo was knocked a couple of feet forward and then backed right into Kirilenko forcing Andrei the little bitch to the floor. Objectively this was a foul. It was Melo’s 6th foul and the Jazz hung onto win with Melo watching helplessly from the bench.
The bottom line is that rules apply differently to Melo than to most other players in the league, just like they did (and to a certain extent still do) for Shaq. Granted this comparison loses some viability when power forwards guard Melo because their strength is similar to his own. Since power forwards rarely guard Melo, I’ll stick with my comparison. If you don’t like this comparison consider that both of them have Superman tats. Enough said.