I’ll be honest. I’ve never been a huge fan of Carmelo Anthony. I’ve got respect, sure. He is coming off what was probably his best season as a pro, is undeniably one of the best shotmakers in the league, an underrated passer, unafraid of big moments and a walking mismatch.
After Carmelo’s first scoring title last year, Slam ranked him as the 4th best player in the league.
But I have a week’s paycheck that says he’ll never win a championship.
It’s not because of some psychological bullsquat that people used to hold against LeBron James. I think Melo has the “clutch gene” or whatever. I think, like Kobe, he has “ice water in his veins.” Hell, if there is eight seconds left on the clock, Melo is up there with KD, CP3 and Steph Curry as the people I’d want with the ball if the Monstars came to play again and were up by 1.
But over the course of a game, a series, a regular season, Melo’s shine fades. Despite being the “best” player, I don’t think Carmelo is most important player on his own team. With this Knicks roster, isn’t Tyson Chandler more important? With the Knicks’ collection of guards (nicely diversified skill sets), Coach Woodson could manage a pretty successful offense without Melo, but the Knicks defense has collapsed without Chandler.
This isn’t the 90s anymore. It’s not enough to have good individual defenders and one unstoppable isolation player.
The rule change allowing zone defenses have made shooting and ball-movement more important than ever, and with this, defensive rotations have to be more quick and disciplined to keep up after the initial strong-side pressure.
The only franchise player who plays less defense than Melo is James Harden. Everyone else who wore USA at the last Olympics is regarded as a significant plus defensively (except maybe Kevin Love, but his rebounding is God-level).
Melo, though a solid individual defender because of his strength, isn’t quick enough to keep up with frantic rotations or sometimes is unwilling to put himself into foul trouble because of his importance to the offense.
Compare this to the other contenders in the East; LeBron often guards the other team’s best player and Dwyane Wade is a primary shot blocker for the Heat. On the Pacers, the entire starting line-up is committed to the defensive side of the ball, led by Paul George’s enormous wingspan and Lance Stephenson‘s manic ball pressure, all backed by Roy Hibbert’s looming shadow.
The only conceivable way that Carmelo Anthony wins a championship is a perfectly balanced roster with strong shooting and passing 1-5 and a defensive scheme where he is protected by a dominant shot-blocker and assisted by a pair of phenomenal wing defenders.
Something like… the 2011 Mavericks. The problem with using that team as a model is that it had to play essentially perfect schematic basketball with Dirk going nova for 2 months, and still only ended up winning because LeBron had an existential crisis.
And you can see that the Knicks are emulating that Mavs team. Melo as the lights out 4 spearheading the offense, Tyson Chandler protecting the rim, Iman/Metta filling the Shawn Marion role, JR as JET, Ray Felton/Prgioni/Udrih doing that J-Kidd/JJ Barea thing. Dirk shot 52% from the floor, 39% from 3, averaging 23 ppg that year.
Melo’s best year (last season) saw him average 28.7 points while shooting his career average from the floor (45%) but a career high 38% from 3. They both averaged 7 rebounds and 2.6 assists, with Melo averaging 1 more made free throw per game (6.3 vs 5.4). You could say this means Melo has what it takes to lead the Knicks to the chip.
The problem is that the rest of the league has gotten better. Last year’s Knicks squad was about as close to the 2011 Mavericks as there could be, and the now drastically improved Pacers squad handled them in an ugly series.
Sorry Carmelo. You may be the king of New York, but even if someone does unseat King James this year, it won’t be you. Royal succession will be passed on to the younger aspirants, who are less set in their ways and able to contribute in a broader variety of aspects.
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