I’ve been thinking about Charles Barkley’s 1996-1997 season a lot lately, in response to the discussion regarding the Rockets’ imminent acquisition of Carmelo Anthony. I read another article this morning explicitly stating that Anthony is most likely washed up. While concerns regarding his defensive limitations are absolutely warranted, I’ve found it very odd how thoroughly his offensive abilities have been written off. Anthony, of course, was very recently one of the best pure scorers in the game and is just a year removed from averaging over 20 points per game with New York. Just a season later, after playing in what is widely considered one of the worst situations for a supporting player in basketball, Anthony is being talked about like he’s 38 and completely finished rather than 34, his actual age.
It’s made me think back to just how damn effective Barkley was for the Rockets in his age 34 season after being acquired from Phoenix. Like Anthony, Charles was an injury prone defensive liability. But he was undersized, overweight, and not nearly as skilled offensively. But he was still a major threat that season, helping the Rockets win 57 games and pushing them past Seattle.
This isn’t meant as a direct comparison. Barkley had a God-given knack for getting boards that made his age irrelevant. But Barkley, at age 34, was the second best player on a championship contender. It’s bizarre to me that there are opinions out there that ‘Melo can’t even provide help in a limited role. He’s a flat out steal at the veteran’s minimum.
Note: the clip above is from the game during which Matt Maloney earned the contract which we are still paying off.