Prior to the January 10th showdown between the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers, New York sits atop the Atlantic Division with a record of 23-11—and a big reason for that record is Carmelo Anthony. He's arguably the best player on the New York Knicks, and he's putting up a monster fight for the NBA's Most Valuable Player award.
Quietly, Carmelo is putting together the best season of his nine-year career.
Carmelo is second in scoring in the NBA with 29 points per game, a career-best for the forward. This is an increase compared to last year's 22.6 points per game in a shortened season. The increase could be attributed to many things—from the ample time to work on his game during the Olympics to not sharing the court with Amar'e Stoudemire...yet.
He's shooting an amazing 47 percent from the field in comparison to the 43 percent he achieved last year. Anthony is taking about 21 shots a game, sinking about 10 of them.
Carmelo is also playing selfless basketball. He's averaging about two assists per game, but what the stats don't show is Anthony making the extra passes and getting the ball to his teammates to find another open teammate.
Melo is passing out of double-teams as well as well as I've ever seen him do. Countless times he's been double-teamed and passed the ball, whereas in the past he would've tried to prevail anyway. Don't get me wrong, that determination is still ever present, but it's been suppressed on some occasions—a sign of his maturation as this team's leader.
The biggest revision made to Anthony's game is his defense. He's guarding opponents closer, and he's not giving up any first steps. He's also not giving up on the ball—we've seen Melo jump into the stands too many times for comfort already in his 25 games this season. Finally, he's fouling as a last resort, only averaging about three a game.
Because of all the aforementioned reasons, the Knicks' forward has made those around him better. He's drawing those pestering double-teams and dishing to give others the opportunities to be the closer—just ask Jason Kidd and J.R. Smith, as both have hit go-ahead baskets during the year.
However, Carmelo's best game of the season came about a month ago when the New York Knicks crossed over into the Brooklyn Nets' Barclays Center. There, Carmelo Anthony scored 45 points, recording five rebounds and three assists. This was the same game in which Kidd hit the eventual game-winning shot.
ESPN.com's recap of the Knicks/Nets game that night had this to say:
It occasionally felt like a Knicks home game, with "MVP! MVP!" chants for Anthony -- which the Knicks think he deserves -- and a black-and-orange dressed Spike Lee sitting courtside and yelling at the referees.
It's hard to argue against this being Carmelo's team. He's earned the respect of everyone with the way he's been playing this season. He's put the Knicks in an excellent position to succeed further than they have in the last decade.
Night in and night out, Carmelo's confirming that he's the best player on the New York Knicks.
All statistics are accurate as of January 8, 2013.