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Carmelo Anthony Is Not the Right Guy to Lead the New York Knicks to the Finals

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Carmelo Anthony Is Not the Right Guy to Lead the New York Knicks to the Finals
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Last night, Carmelo Anthony put on a shooting clinic at the American Airlines Arena, going for a career-high 50 points as the Knicks pulled away for their ninth consecutive victory.  

And while most fans were in awe of Carmelo's performance (conveniently forgetting that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers all sat out with "injuries"), a more glaring issue for the Knicks surfaced: Anthony did not attempt ONE shot in the paint.

Outside of his seven free throws, Carmelo scored 43 points purely on jump shots and three-point attempts.  Anybody who thinks this is a recipe for prolonged success also must think that Mike Rice should have kept his job at Rutgers.

There's a lot to like about Anthony.

He's the second-leading scorer in the NBA, probably the best isolation scorer in the league, and is in noticeably better shape than he's been in years past. That has led to more energy throughout games and a defensive intensity often lacking in his first season-and-a-half in New York.

But for all the positives Knicks' fans love to heap on Anthony, a closer look at Carmelo shows there's little chance of him leading the Knicks to a championship. 

Will Carmelo Anthony ever lead the Knicks to a championship?

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Since the 1979-80 season, the first year the NBA implemented the three-point shot, there has only been one team to win a championship with its leading shooter hitting worse than 45.5 percent from the field over the course of the year.

That team was the 1989-90 Pistons led by none other than Isiah Thomas (he always finds a way to work himself into the conversation when it comes to the Knicks), who shot 43.8 percent for the season.  After last night, Carmelo is at 44 percent, just nudging ahead of Thomas. 

So it's possible—not likely, but possible.  But let's take into account that Thomas averaged 9.4 assists per game that season and averaged only 16.3 shot attempts per contest.  That Pistons team featured five players who averaged double-figures, and a sixth in Vinnie Johnson, who averaged 9.8 points per game.

It also featured three future Hall of Famers in Thomas, Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman, and all-stars Mark Aguirre and Bill Laimbeer.

 

Outside of Amar'e Stoudemire, who has appeared in only 29 games this year and is effectively out for the remainder of the regular season and potentially playoffs, only three other Knicks average in double figures.  

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

After that, the next closest is Kenyon Martin (who's played in 16 games) at 7.9 PPG and Chris Copeland (who's played in 47 games) at 7.2.  There aren't enough consistent scoring options on the Knicks to offset a bad shooting night from Anthony.

The trio of Carmelo, JR Smith and Raymond Felton average more shot attempts than any other triplet in the NBA, all while shooting at a low percentage. 

There is little ball movement, and it's no surprise that as a team, the Knicks rank 29th in the NBA in assists, just ahead of the Charlotte Bobcats.  And to hammer the point home, the Knicks average 1.1 assists less per game than the 28th-ranked team, and only .1 assists more than the Bobcats for worst in the NBA.  

Since the 1979-80 season (a total of 33 champions), only two have finished outside the top-20 in assists: the Spurs in 2003 and the Heat in 2012. Twenty-two teams finished in the top 10 in assists with half of those finishing in the top five. 

Four. That is the amount of games this season that Carmelo Anthony has surpassed five assists.  Four also is the amount of double-digit assist games Carmelo has in his entire NBA career.  When you think of isolation, don't-move-the-ball-offense, you should think of Carmelo Anthony. 

But Carmelo is such a great shooter!  Well, no he's not.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Anthony should take a cue from Nowitzki if he wants to enjoy postseason success

As I noted, only once since the three-point ball was adopted has a team won a championship with a leading scorer who shot so poorly.  In fact, last night's explosion ended an unspoken run of 17 consecutive games in which Carmelo failed to shoot better than 50 percent.

This season, he has shot better than 50 percent in three consecutive games only once and only 12 times all season.  That accounts to one-fifth of his games played this season, meaning that the overwhelming majority of the time, he misses far more shots than he hits.  

 

A pure ISO scorer has never led his team to an NBA championship in the modern era, and to believe that Carmelo Anthony, a statistically average shooter, is the man to do so is foolish.  

Some have compared this Knicks team to the Dallas Mavericks championship team in 2011, with Carmelo playing Dirk Nowitzki.  That's a nice thought and all, but a look at Dirk's stats show he altered his style of play that season.

His 16.2 shot attempts per game were his fewest in a season since 2001, and it should come as a surprise to no one that the 2011 season also saw Dirk shoot far and away the best percentage of his career (51.7 percent).

Melo has taken the opposite approach and has chucked shots up at an alarming pace  (21.7 attempts per game), the highest since he's been a Knick, and the third-highest of his career.  

Do you remember when I said how it's great that Carmelo is the second-leading scorer in the league?

Even that's flawed—he leads the league in a landslide in field goal attempts per game, safely ahead of Kobe Bryant (20.4 attempts), the only other player to average more than 18.7 attempts per contest.  To make it simpler, there is only one player in the NBA who doesn't average at least three fewer shot attempts per night than Carmelo. 

I've heard every excuse on why Carmelo Anthony has the worst playoff winning percentage of any player in NBA history (minimum 50 games).  Some are valid—his first few years, the Nuggets weren't exactly a deep team. But if he is such an elite player, it would be safe to presume he would get out of the first round more than once in nine tries. I mean, has his supporting cast ever been worse than that of LeBron in Cleveland?  Or Dwight in Orlando?  

Melo isn't the only reason the Knicks aren't built to make a run deep into the playoffs.  

As Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once said, "One man can be a crucial ingredient to a team, but one man cannot make a team."  The problem with Anthony is his style of play makes it tough for others to get involved on the offensive end, leading to little fluidity or ball movement. This essentially makes the Knicks a one-dimensional team that is incredibly reliant on three-pointers (which they lead the league in) and jump shots, neither of which can be counted on night-in and night-out. 

 

Take a look at how players such as Jeremy Lin, Landry Fields and Amar'e Stoudemire performed with and without Melo.   Advanced metrics show that Anthony has been essentially the exact same player in Denver as he was in New York.

As Einstein famously said "Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results."  Melo's shtick ran out of steam in Denver; why would it work with a new jersey and ZIP code in New York?

But the most damning stat of all is that the Nuggets without Carmelo have been much better than the Knicks with him. Since the blockbuster deal, the Nuggets have gone 106-59 while the Knicks have gone 97-70.  

While neither team has enjoyed much playoff success, the Nuggets have won four games.  The Knicks have won only one.  And to remind everybody, the Nuggets have done that in the Western Conference, which is much tougher than in the East.

If I'm picking a guy for 1-on-1, Melo is on my short list.  But when it comes to winning rings and making deep runs in the playoffs, stats and history simply don't support Carmelo Anthony.

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