There is probably not a more scrutinized basketball player on the planet than Carmelo Anthony. The reigning NBA scoring champion will enter the 2013-2014 NBA season with title expectations on his shoulders, along with a looming opt-out clause in his contract. This will undoubtedly loom over the Knicks the entire season, but in the end how could Anthony turn down staying in Madison Square Garden? Not to mention the fact that the Knicks can offer him the most money to stay in orange and blue.
Carmelo Anthony is to the Knicks offensively what center Tyson Chandler is to the Knicks defensively. The Knicks go as ‘Melo goes. That’s not just media driven hyperbole either, after all it took 28.7 points per game to lead the Knicks to a 54 win season last year. Along with leading the league in scoring, Anthony arguably had one of the best statistical seasons of his illustrious career, adding 6.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 0.8 steals per game.
The biggest knock on Anthony has always been that for everything he brings to the court offensively he doesn’t match that on the defensive end, which most people say is his lack of effort. Last year Anthony proved people wrong. The defensive stats weren’t great, but the all out effort was there. From the power forward position Carmelo Anthony was able to use his active hands to force steals, he was blocking shots and even diving into the crowd for loose balls.
According to basketball-reference.com Carmelo Anthony’s PER (Player Efficiency Rating) was a 24.83, which was 4th in the NBA last season behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul. To me that says it all, Carmelo Anthony is a legitimate superstar. End of disscussion. He will never be a great one-on-one defender, but he can hold his own on that end without a doubt.
When examining Carmelo Anthony offensively, he’s clearly among the best in the league. His field goal percentage was 44.9% along with 37.9% from three point range. As the focal point of the offense, and for opposing teams to know it, it’s remarkable for Anthony to put up those numbers. Obviously it would be nice to see a three point percentage above 40% but beggars can’t be choosers in that regard. There are some forced threes that Anthony could have avoided taking, moving forward he should fake more and get into that 15-20 foot range where he is lethal.
Moving forward there are some adjustments that Carmelo Anthony and the entire Knicks team needs to make in order to grow as an offense. My biggest criticism on Anthony has always been the isolation style offense, because winning a championship requires a team offense with spacing and passing. Far too often teammates defer to Carmelo Anthony to bail them out of poor offensive possessions and hope he can make a difficult shot. With players like Andrea Bargnani, Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Metta World-Peace on the roster there is no reason for the Knicks not to spread the floor and get a ton of open threes moving forward. Also guys like Smith and Shumpert should be cutting to the basket more often so that Anthony can hit them for easy baskets around the rim.
I’m not saying the Knicks should abandon the isolation offense that worked so well for them last season, but moving forward let’s see some more conventional offense. Raymond Felton can be a solid pick & roll point guard, as seen in the Boston Celtics playoff series, but for too often the offense went stagnant and the only two players touching the ball were Anthony and Smith. Also Smith and Anthony need to bring the ball up way less next season, this is why you have point guards on the roster. There is also no reason for Anthony not to run pick & rolls, because coming off a pick he could be dangerous driving to the basket or kicking out to open teammates on the perimeter.
My final thought, and what I think will be most important for the Knicks next season in order to be successful will be Carmelo Anthony trusting his teammates more. Anthony has never been known for distributing the basketball, but 2.6 assists is far to low for a player who touches the ball on nearly every possession. He is obviously never going to be LeBron James in that regard, but there is no reason he couldn’t average 3.5 – 4.5 assists per game. Anthony is not all to blame, he is a willing passer, but there were times last year when his teammates let him down by missing wide open looks.
Moving forward it will be important for the other pieces on the Knicks roster to improve in order to alleviate some of the pressure from Carmelo Anthony’s shoulders. No one player can win a title by himself, not even the best of the best. The Knicks will need to have better balance offensively and play solid team defense in order to stay among the top teams in the Eastern Conference and compete with the Heat.