NY Knicks Wasting Opportunity to Build Around Carmelo Anthony at Power Forward

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 24, 2013

The New York Knicks should be focusing on building around Carmelo Anthony at power forward, but the front office seems determined to push its superstar back to small forward. 

Signing Kenyon Martin, as Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported, was a great way to add more depth to the frontcourt, but it came at the wrong position—unless New York plans on playing the big man exclusively at center. 

With Martin on the roster, the Knicks have created a massive logjam at the 4.

Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani were already in place, but now adding Martin to the mix causes a few problems and ultimately prevents 'Melo from ever lining up at power forward with any semblance of consistency. The trio combined for 76.1 minutes per game last year.

Last I checked, there were only 48 minutes to hand out at any individual position during a typical NBA game. Unless the Knicks are planning on going to sextuple overtime each game, there simply aren't enough minutes to go around. That doesn't sound like a particularly appealing solution.

Another way to remedy this problem, as mentioned up above, would be to play Martin at the 5, but then you're cutting too far into Tyson Chandler's playing time. 

Regardless, that's not the main issue. 

It's all about Anthony for the Knicks. In fact, that should ring even more true than normal during a season that needs to be successful. If not, Anthony could opt out of his contract and do something crazy, like spurning his hometown to join the Los Angeles Lakers

Take a look at how Anthony fared at different positions during the 2012-13 season, courtesy of 82games.com

As 'Melo moved toward the bigger spots in the lineup, he became more effective as an individual. 

Now, I would never suggest that he play center for a prolonged period of time—4 percent in 2012-13 should be just about the upper limit—but he was quite good there. Anthony has the physical strength to bang around as an undersized big man, but asking him to do so more than sparingly would be asking for trouble. 

The same isn't true for power forward. 

That difference between small forward and power forward should be quite telling. He was significantly better at the 4 offensively and only marginally worse defensively. It was no fluke created by a small sample size. 

Anthony logged 48 percent of the Knicks' available minutes at power forward, far more than at either small forward (8 percent) or center (4 percent). Interestingly enough, he never spent even a single minute at the 2. 

But individual performance isn't enough. It's all about how the team does, after all. 

Therefore let's take a look at the five-man lineups that appeared together in at least 10 different contests, as provided by NBA.com (subscription required), and had a positive net rating: 

 NetRtgPoint guardShooting guardSmall forwardPower forwardCenter
144.4Pablo PrigioniJ.R. SmithSteve NovakCarmelo AnthonyTyson Chandler
238.4Raymond FeltonJason KiddSteve NovakCarmelo AnthonyTyson Chandler
326.9Raymond FeltonJason KiddJ.R. SmithCarmelo AnthonyTyson Chandler
419.9Jason KiddJ.R. SmithSteve NovakCarmelo AnthonyTyson Chandler
510.5Raymond FeltonJ.R. SmithRonnie BrewerCarmelo AnthonyTyson Chandler
68.9Pablo PrigioniJ.R. SmithCarmelo AnthonyAmar'e StoudemireTyson Chandler
72.8Raymond FeltonJason KiddRonnie BrewerCarmelo AnthonyTyson Chandler
80.2Raymond FeltonJ.R. SmithCarmelo AnthonyAmar'e StoudemireTyson Chandler

Notice a trend? 

The highest net ratings (points scored minus points allowed per 100 possessions) tended to come when Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler were the two biggest players on the court. 

In fact, the only lineups in which Anthony played small forward ranked Nos. 6, 8 and 14 out of 14. And yet, the Knicks seem intent on shifting him back over to small forward based on their personnel moves. 

Back in early July, B/R's Vin Getz wrote the following: 

Which brings us to the problem.

How do the Knicks stop Stoudemire, and now Andrea Bargnani, from eating up Anthony’s power forward minutes?

Let’s start with trimming the (to be) 31-year-old Chandler’s minutes from about 33 MPG to 28.

As of now, New York still has no backup center, so they have to at least throw Bargnani in there, though defense and rebounding will suffer.

That was before signing Martin. 

Problems are supposed to have solutions, but this one doesn't have any clear answer. The Knicks are wasting a golden opportunity to set up a situation in which 'Melo can play to his strengths. 

Having Anthony line up at power forward is the easiest way to hang tight in a steadily rising Eastern Conference, but that seems to be lost on New York's front office. Signing Martin to a cheap deal would normally be a positive move, but not given the extenuating circumstances. 

Even the Denver ties won't change that.