In the current state of the NBA, you can't win consistently without team chemistry and solid performances across the board. However, you also can't win consistently without a star to lead your team. As well as the 2012-2013 New York Knicks have played, their star, Carmelo Anthony, is still the main reason the team is the last undefeated franchise in the league.
In the four wins, Anthony has 27.3 points per game to add to his 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. Even more promising, all of this is coming from a 0.44 shooting percentage. Even more promising, Melo has shown defensive intensity not witnessed in a long time and is making big plays on both ends of the floor.
So, it has certainly been a positive start for New York and their star, but the work is far from over. Carmelo still has areas on which he can improve, and hence, improve his squad.
Carmelo in a battle.
It is hard to criticize all that much about Carmelo's defensive game thus far this season, but it takes a bit more than four games to convince Knicks fans. Four games does not make a season, so Carmelo is going to need to show defensive consistency for a while.
Not only is he going to have to do it every night, but also on every play. This season has been about the individual moments of hustle seen from Melo, but that won't be enough all year. Melo needs to crack down on his assignment every night on every play and use his strength to force shots.
Carmelo may just be the most skilled scorer in the league, if not the world, so if he's diving for every ball and fully focused on his man, his name will come up in MVP talk more than once.
The main reason New York has had a successful start this season is that everyone is contributing and everyone is playing as a team. Carmelo has certainly been the facilitator of this new mindset, but it seems like sometimes even he forgets.
Carmelo can still be seen occasionally taking an unnecessary shot or deciding to play isolation when it may not be the best choice. He needs to get used to trusting and using his teammates enough to give himself more space.
Isolation works because Melo is so strong and skilled, but it can't on every play. It needs to be used in order to break the pace of the game and alternate shot selection. It can't be used just to get Melo his touches.
No matter how badly Knicks fans want to just stay stuck in this perfect moment, the season is going to move forward and Amar'e Stoudemire is going to return. Both fans and players need to prepare for that.
Since his arrival at MSG, Carmelo has been plagued with questions as to whether or not he can create chemistry with STAT. Now that things are going well, the duo cannot afford to have the season halt because they can't play together.
Stoudemire has worked on his post moves and interior game this offseason, so his role will likely be underneath in order to give Melo more space to shoot. He will also be shifting outside to take mid-range jumpers which will give Melo room inside and spread the defense. Melo must begin to work with Amar'e now in order to create that chemistry this team can't afford to not have.
The last time Raymond Felton played for New York, the majority of his success came from the work he did on the pick-and-roll. In particular, it worked best with Stoudemire. Carmelo needs that to happen with him, too.
Melo has already been very dangerous on the perimeter since coming to New York, so having a pick-and-roll with Felton would only accentuate the danger. It would also liberate Felton to alternate between shooting and driving, both of which can work very well in proper doses.
It would also open space for Melo to take mid-range jumpers from the wing, which is commonly known as "his shot." Felton is a point guard, so having chemistry with his top scorer is crucial to his success, and Melo needs his ball-handler to be on top of his game.
This last item is equally about Melo's legacy as it is about the Knicks' potential this season. Whether it may be true or not, the perception is that Mike D'Antoni left because he couldn't figure it out with Carmelo.
It seems things are going swimmingly between Mike Woodson and Melo so far, but that absolutely needs to remain so. If Melo suddenly becomes frustrated with his touches and the performances of his teammates, things will go south very quickly.
Melo will be seen as a coach killer that has yet to win a title, and New York will have wasted yet another season. Everything is going well up until this point, but the belief in the system Woodson has implemented needs to remain alive if things don't stay as they are.