In past years, Carmelo Anthony has always been known as a one-dimensional, perennial superstar who cannot play in any offense that doesn't run through him. He currently holds the worst playoff record in 20 years, stationed at an abysmal 16-36.
Up to this point, stating that Melo has struggled in the playoffs is an understatement. He and his teams have qualified for the playoffs every year he's been in the league but have been eliminated in the first round in eight out of nine trips.
Melo was already known as having one of the most polished offensive skillsets in the game, but he has taken his offensive game to a whole new level this season. Not only is he registering his highest scoring average in his career, but he's doing it way more efficiently.
Through 28 games played this season, Melo has a PER of 25.9, over three points higher than his closest previous season rating of 22.2. His true shooting percentage and three-point percentage are both career highs so far as well.
Melo isn't just taking better shots—he's taking more shots in areas that he's more comfortable in and has a better chance of hitting.
Looking at his shot chart, he has taken more mid-range jumpers, attempts in the restricted area and elbow threes than any other area on the floor. Those are also the same type of shots that Melo is hitting at a scorching pace and well above the league average. That's efficient.
Let's be honest, Melo has never shown any desire or passion to play defense on a regular basis before this season. It's not like Melo is naturally a bad defender and consistently out of shape; he just lacked the effort to play on this side of the floor.
Uncharacteristically enough, Melo's game is finally coming together in his 10th season in the league. Not only is he the constant motor that drives the whole Knicks' offense, but he has committed himself to sticking with Mike Woodson's defensive schemes.
Coincidentally, this turning point in Melo's career also takes place after his long-time friend and rival, LeBron James, recently won his first championship. Maybe Melo felt like he had something to prove as the gap between the two superstars widened even further, with James being considered the best player in the world and Melo coming off arguably the worst season in his career.
When a team's best player is determined and working as hard as Melo, it can't help but rub off on the other players on his team. He's truly leading by example, and his work ethic is paying dividends for the Knicks this season.
This is actually more of a team accomplishment rather than an individual improvement from Melo. By allowing Jeremy Lin to walk in the offseason and with Amar'e Stoudemire noticeably declining, the Knicks have made it clear that Melo is the franchise centerpiece they're destined to build to around.
Last season, it was unclear if the Knicks wanted to keep and build around the briefly sensational, but unproven, point guard in Lin or stay the route with Melo even though he had a pedestrian season.
From the looks of it, the Knicks made the right choice in sticking with Melo and constructed a championship-caliber roster through his strengths.
As one of basketball's biggest superstars, Melo has displayed everything necessary to take the next step to the realm of championship contenders. This is probably the most complete Carmelo Anthony the world has witnessed thus far, and there shouldn't be any surprised faces if he leads this Knicks team to the promise land.
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