NY Knicks Must Play Carmelo Anthony at Power Forward Next Season to Flourish
There is never any shortage of expectations surrounding the New York Knicks, but those expectations will be all the more unyielding in Mike Woodson's first full season as head coach.
This organization has assembled plenty of talent, and that's never really been in question.
The unknown variable is whether it's the right blend of talent and whether Woodson can engineer a game plan that makes the most of it. Mike D'Antoni tried to integrate the star tandem of Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire into his run-and-gun approach, a system in which Stoudemire excelled during his years with the Phoenix Suns (and his first season with the Knicks).
Anthony never quite fit in, though, and the Knicks never quite played enough defense.
That's where Woodson comes in. He just might have stumbled upon a solution to the Knicks' offensive quandaries during his stint as interim head coach last season.
When Amar'e Stoudemire was sidelined in April, Anthony moved to power forward and once again looked like the franchise player for whom Knicks fans had been waiting. In fact, his reemergence was so dramatic that he was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month.
As it turns out, the experiment's impressive results probably weren't a coincidence as one scout explained to ESPN New York's Ian Begley:
"I like him at the power forward," the scout, who is responsible for observing Atlantic Division teams, said of Anthony. "I think he's much more effective; he gets it in the post and the mid post where he likes it on the left side and he can step out and stretch the defense with his outside shooting as well. It gives him more freedom and he faces guys that he's quicker than at the 4."
The same scout went on to note defensive advantages as well, pointing out that Anthony was strong enough to handle bigger guys in the post and slow enough (laterally) that avoiding quicker small forwards also had its benefits.
Of course, as Begley goes on to ponder, it won't be easy for Woodson to make the minutes work.
In theory, Stoudemire could slide over to center so that Anthony could spend the lion's share of his playing time at the 4 spot. Unfortunately, that's unlikely so long as Tyson Chandler and Marcus Camby are both manning the middle.
Both Chandler and Camby defend the paint far better than Stoudemire, and it's hard to imagine them accepting demotions to second- and third-string role players.
Nor would Stoudemire be at his best dealing with opposing centers. That might have been more viable with D'Antoni's tempo, but it's harder for Amar'e to body up against legitimate seven-footers in half-court sets where big guys are constantly jockeying for position.
Trading either Stoudemire or Chandler would be one solution, but their contracts make them difficult to move.
How would you get 'Melo minutes at PF?
And, from NYC's standpoint, trading away that kind of size always feels a little bit wrong.
Chances are Anthony won't be able to play most of his minutes at power forward. The key will be developing a rotation in which either Anthony or Stoudemire (and we're guessing Stoudemire) subs out of the first quarter at maybe the six-minute mark so that they spend as little time as possible on the court together.
When they are on the floor together, it would also be ideal for Stoudemire to play some minutes at the 5. That might mean both Chandler and Camby sit for the last five minutes of the first and second halves.
In other words, Woodson will just have to get a little creative.
So long as Anthony and Stoudemire are both happy with their playing time, we should see 'Melo spending more minutes in a role in which we can better exploit his quick first step and space the floor with his versatile scoring ability.
The Knicks aren't going anywhere without Anthony succeeding. Now, the only hurdle is putting him in a position to succeed.
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