Next season presents an opportunity to Carmelo Anthony in that the Knicks (and most rational observers) have discovered his true role. Melo is a power forward who has spent half a career not optimizing his skill set.
When Amar'e Stoudemire went down with an injury, New York was forced to play Anthony in the frontcourt. It was a revelation that resulted in Melo claiming a 29.5 PER from the 4-spot (via ESPN), versus the 17.3 mark he garnered as a 3.
When playing on the perimeter as a wing, Melo is more inclined to take far, contested jumpers. His sometimes poor offensive decision-making is further compounded by worse defensive decision-making around the perimeter.
He is not especially adept at tracking wing players who move around. Few are worse at chasing opponents through a maze of screens. The results of Melo's small-forward defense were often depressing (and a little hilarious).
When guarding power forwards, Anthony's defensive deficiencies are mitigated. He's closer to the hoop, less inclined to move around and more inclined to use his size. At power forward, Melo could become—dare I say it—a plus defender.
So the Knicks have pulled up their couch cushions and discovered a diamond. Their max-contract star is even better than they realized when the trade was made. The future is wonderful, right?
There is one small problem here: The Knicks are paying another guy $100 million dollars to play power forward. So long as Amar'e mans the four-spot, Melo will be somewhat wasted. Shifting Amar'e to center also isn't an option because Tyson Chandler provides much of New York's defense from that position.
So the question of, "Will Carmelo Anthony silence his critics?" likely depends on what happens with Stoudemire. If the Knicks—by some miracle—are able to trade Amar'e, we could see Melo's best season yet. If Amare comes down with injuries (a more likely scenario), we could see Melo at his real position.
But so long as Anthony and Stoudemire share the floor, Melo will provide fodder for critics. Anthony is a superstar power forward trapped in a small forward's role, likely constrained for at least another season.
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