New York Knicks: Why Carmelo Anthony Will Challenge for the MVP Award in 2012-13

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New York Knicks: Why Carmelo Anthony Will Challenge for the MVP Award in 2012-13
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Since moving to New York in February 2011, Carmelo K. Anthony has been one of the more heavily criticised players in the NBA.

After LeBron James and Dwight Howard, Melo has felt more heat from media and fans than any other player has over the last few years.

Among other things, he has been labelled as "selfish"; the main reasons being his style of play on offense and the way he dealt with the departure of Jeremy Lin.

This criticism isn't completely unfounded. Melo's volume scoring play on offense has, at times, been detrimental to his team, as has his often below-par effort on defense.

As talented as he is, Anthony's game needs to be changed in order for both he and the Knicks to reach their potential, but thankfully, it looks like he's ready to turn the corner:

I’m done trying to score 35, 40 points to win the basketball game. I don’t want that role anymore. I can do it. That’s what I do. But in order for this team to be successful, for guys we have right now, we need a more well-rounded team. If I have to sacrifice on the offensive end, I’m willing to do it. It’s easy for me to sit here and say it. But this year it’s going to be locking in and doing it as the leader of this team. (via the New York Post)

Though it may result in a slight drop in production, Anthony's comments can only be taken positively, as it seems he finally understands what he needs to do in order for his team to win.

If he can step up and be the leader that this team wanted him to be from day one, he should have no trouble competing with the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant for the MVP title in 2013.

Even with his more teamwork-oriented style of play, Melo will continue to put up MVP-calibre numbers from night to night, because he's still the team's best offensive player. As a result, he will naturally get the most opportunities to score on offense.

Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
At media day, Melo told reporters that he's willing to sacrifice his offensive production for the good of the team.

Defense could remain a problem for Anthony, but the same could be said about Durant, and besides, he actually made some pretty big strides on defense toward the end of last season when Mike Woodson took over as head coach.

Unlike last season, Anthony will actually be in a role that he can flourish. Instead of being forced to play the point forward role, he will be playing alongside point guards that are capable of running the offense themselves.

Though he had a horrible season in 2011-12, Raymond Felton should be just fine starting in New York, the city where he had a career year only a couple of seasons ago.

Behind Felton will be future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd, who despite his age is still very capable of distributing the basketball, if nothing else.

This will take the pressure off of Anthony to do something that he's not capable of, and will instead allow him to play a more natural role in the offense, rather than forcing shots after bringing up the ball himself.

Health should be another contributor to a great season for Melo as well.

Last year, Melo came into the season having had the first surgical operations of his career on his left knee and right elbow, which would have been particularly hard to deal with given that he wasn't allowed to communicate with team trainers during the lockout.

Throughout the season, Anthony struggled with nagging injuries all over his body, and couldn't cope with both that and his new role as a point forward.

Nick Laham/Getty Images
Raymond Felton's return to NYC to man the point guard position should help Anthony tremendously to play a more comfortable role in the offense.

So far in training camp, it's been clear that Anthony is already in shape and ready to go, having lost some significant weight over the summer.

Anthony's record-breaking performance at the Olympics in London only a couple of months ago is a key reason that he's already in shape and at the top of his game in terms of form.

His Olympic success came off the back of an impressive end to the regular season for the Knicks as well, where he led the team to the playoffs despite injuries to key players Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin.

In the playoffs, Anthony continued to be the team's standout performer, putting up 41 in Game 4 against the Heat to give the Knicks their first playoff victory since 2004.

Next season, the Knicks will be looking to achieve a lot more than just a single playoff win, but if Melo can keep up this level of play and mesh with his revamped supporting cast, it won't be out of the question for the team to become a genuine title-contender.

When taken No. 3 overall back in 2003, Anthony was expected to be an MVP-contender a little sooner, but it's better late than never.

Every player (even Darko Milicic!) who was taken in the top five that year has now won a title, which should only add to Melo's motivation.

He's already told ESPNNewYork.com that he believes his "time is coming." If he can keep up his form from the summer and make good on his media day promises, he may just be right.

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