The Oklahoma City Thunder (25-20, 5th in the West) is on a three-game winning streak, and it might be because of Carmelo Anthony finally embracing the role of spot-up shooter behind reigning Most Valuable Player Russell Westbrook and two-way terror Paul George.
"Once you accept something, regardless of what it is, I think you become comfortable with it. You start putting your all into it, you start working on that role and on that acceptance, and it becomes fun," he was quoted in ESPN.
He added: "I think right now, after accepting that role, I think early in December, the game is starting to become fun again for me, fun for us as a team. Any time you get to making shots and winning basketball games, it makes it that much more fun."
The Thunder has failed to live up to the hype so far, despite having one of the most stacked rosters in the NBA with three All-Stars; one day they're beating the Warriors, the next they're getting manhandled by the Magic. And the offensive superstar buying into the system and accepting a lesser role might just be the key for Oklahoma City to hit their stride midseason.
With the advent of superteams, it isn't uncommon to see a guy like Melo, who has the ability to carry a team (okay, maybe a few years ago), reduced to something less of the guy. We're not saying they're worse or less important than the two coming before them; these players were able to be effective from the backseat. So, where does Anthony rank among the league's best third options?
8. Otto Porter/Jusuf Nurkic
Porter: 13.7 ppg 42.5 3p% 6.3 rpg 1.5 spg
Nurkic: 14.4 ppg 7.8 rpg 1.3 bpg
One is the Washington Wizards' all-around perimeter Mr. Do-it-All, the other's the Portland Trail Blazers' versatile paint presence. Both have yet to fulfill their third-option potential, which explains the low ranking, but Porter and Nurkic have the makings of franchise cornerstones.
7. Andrew Wiggins
17.5 ppg 4.1 rpg 1.2 spg
Wiggins could've placed higher if he was able to do more than put the ball in the hoop. He has yet to meet two-way player expectations, even with Tom Thibodeau as his coach. How far the Timberwolves go depends on how the 2014 top pick expands his game.
6. DeAndre Jordan
11.8 ppg 14.9 rpg 1 bpg
Despite being outside the Top 100 in scoring, DJ gets the job done in other areas at an elite level (rebounds, blocks, field goal percentage). You can see why he is at the forefront of trade rumors—who doesn't want a rim-running behemoth on their team?
5. Eric Bledsoe
17.5 ppg 3.8 rpg 4.1 apg 2 spg
The only drawback to the acquisition ohf this disgruntled Ex-Sun is him soaking up the minutes that are meant for Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon. But if the Bucks want to win now, while slowly reintegrating Jabari Parker, starting Bledsoe is the answer.
4. Jrue Holiday
18.6 ppg 4.4 rpg 5.1 apg 1.4 spg
The past few seasons have not been kind to Holiday. He suffered multiple injuries, then had to be away from the team to take care of his wife. Now, the Pelicans combo guard can focus on returning to his All-Star self, alongside the best big-man duo in the NBA.
3. Eric Gordon
19.7 ppg 3.2 3pm 2.3 rpg 2.6 apg
Guess which Rockets guard has played the most games this season? It's neither James Harden (36) nor Chris Paul (26) but rather Gordon (41). The reigning Sixth Man of the Year has revived his career after not being able to complete a full season in New Orleans.
2. Carmelo Anthony
17.6 ppg 2.2 3pm 5.9 rpg
No other player on this list had a more drastic change in role than Melo; he went from being the main man to the "other" guy. And when someone of his caliber is okay with taking the fewest shots per game of his career, the rest of the league should be scared.
1. Klay Thompson
20.9 ppg 3.4 3pm 45.4 3p% 4 rpg 2.5 apg
People tend to forget that he is a Splash Brother, Golden State's legitimate secondary option—sometimes even primary—before Durant arrived. Thompson can easily be the face of another franchise, but he chooses to make the game unfair with the defending champions.