Melo was destined to be one of the greats. Armed with a knife of a jab step, a buttery jumpshot, and two first names (think: Michael and Jordan, Kobe and Bryant, LeBron and James) Melo could score like few other players in the history of the game. In what was probably his most successful year individually, 2012-2013, he hung a cool 50 on LeBron James’ Heat, nearly exclusively scoring on jumpshots. That game finds me as his crowning achievement. He shot the shots he wanted, and he was so good it didn’t matter that they were all well-defended. He was a master artist who came of age a little too late, like a ragtime drummer born just at the tail-end of jazz’s heyday. I can’t say I’m an unabashed Melo fan. I’ve long criticized him, including getting into a fight with my high school point guard about how Paul George was better because he played defense. I eventually conceded my point out of deference to the Knicks, but deep down I still thought I’d rather have PG. Blemishes will stain Melo’s career when it’s all said and done, which is increasingly appearing to be closer to fruition than I expected. And that’s okay. It’s what he deserves.
Three years ago, the eighth seed in the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors, edged out the Memphis Grizzlies by one win to capture the last spot in the NBA playoffs, at a total of 51 wins. Now, the once deep western conference faces a downshift in competition, with the likes of the Thunder and the Spurs, a combined 122 wins between the two, definitely loosening the concentrations of victories to a number of up and coming franchises.