With Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks have their best shot at winning a championship since their last finals trip.
He may not distribute the ball as well as LeBron James, nor rack up triple-doubles, but he is a solid rebounder (career average of 6.4 RPG), and an imposing scorer.
Last season, Anthony won the scoring title with an average of 28.7 PPG. He shot 44.9 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from beyond the arc.
Per Rotoworld.com, via Synergy Sports, Anthony was the third-most efficient pick-and-roll ball-handler in the NBA last year. However, those plays were only utilized in 10.6 percent of his total possessions.
For the Knicks to get the most out of their offense, Anthony will need to run the pick-and-roll with Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire more frequently.
In addition, Melo should be featured as the primary ball-handler for pick-and-pop plays involving Andrea Bargnani.
This new dynamic, which Anthony excelled at in limited doses in 2012-13—if ran in place of a few isolation sets—will prevent the offense from becoming stagnant, and push Melo closer to doubling the 2.6 APG he averaged last season.
Those extra couple of dimes will make him more of a complete weapon for New York.
Anthony is one of the most versatile scorers the league has today.
Aside from his catch-and-shoot expertise, when he can drain a three-pointer in transition, or catch the ball at the elbow, jab step and release over his defender, he can consistently score down low and bully his opponent in the post if a mismatch is present.
When defenses compensate with a larger defender to combat Anthony's post offense, he has the ability to pull his opponent to the perimeter and exploit the big man's lack of speed.
For a team desiring to be a championship contender, this kind of offensive versatility is a necessity for its star player. And if Melo can be a force as a ball-handler—creating off screens—some of the negative attention draped over his legacy will dissipate.
Any franchise could win a championship with Carmelo Anthony as its star, he simply needs to be featured in fewer isolation sets to shed the black hole reputation that has developed.
The Knicks had the fewest amount of assists amassed last season, a paltry 1,579, which is a reflection of the isolation-heavy offense Mike Woodson employed.
Anthony, although a premiere isolation scorer, is more lethal off the ball, catching passes foul line extended and shooting in rhythm, rather than consistently initiating his own opportunities.
Figuring he moves without the ball more, his efficiency will rise and turnovers will decrease (career average of three per game), which will boost the Knicks' offense.
Learning and Improving
Carmelo Anthony's player efficiency rating in 2012-13 was 24.83 which ranked him fourth in the NBA. The season prior, Melo ranked 28th with a PER of 21.15.
With each season, Anthony has evolved as a player.
There was a time when he barely played any defense, but now he isn't a vulnerability. Although, there are those occasional moments when he lacks enthusiasm and misses his rotation—something he'll work on this season since he's serious about winning.
"[Idan and I] are always trying to figure out what's that next move or how we're going to push this year. And I think we did a great job of just coming up with something and just running with it," Melo said. "Just certain dieting things, just taking chances with different styles of training -- not just doing stuff on the basketball court or in the weight room. I'm trying to just push the limit."
Ravin added the following:
"Among the many things that make him great is his willingness to evolve. We constantly look for ways to add new wrinkles to his game. Defenses and defenders become more sophisticated each year, so we always look for ways to counter this. He has been consistent and methodical with his training, as well as meticulous with his diet, avoiding the processed and refined sugars."
Melo has struggled at times with being in shape, so the rigid diet he is on should display some of the effort he's dedicated to better his team.
In May of 2012, via NY Post, Woodson—about Anthony—said, "I got to push him to be in better shape when you start the season. A lot of things that got to be changed. Not a lot of things, but…There’s got to be some changes to get to the next level."
Anthony has certainly strived toward making the changes necessary to elevate the Knicks. He is a reliable passer out of double teams now, frequently finding the open man or getting the hockey assist, and he doesn't force as many contested shots as he used to.
He's figuring out the subtleties that go into winning a championship.
George Karl, via NY Times:
I’ve said I feel that Carmelo is going to win a championship someday. He’s going to figure out that the numbers and the stats sheets aren’t important. It’s the scoreboard and the intangibles that make winners champions.
Matching the Competition
The Knicks—considering health doesn't become a factor—are on a level playing field with their competitors, aside from the Miami Heat.
While New York and Anthony may have been thorns in the sides of James and company, the talent levels are distorted—especially in 2013-14, with Mike Beasley and Greg Oden supplementing the Heat bench.
Miami has logged a lot of mileage, however. Their three straight trips to the finals has them totaling 313 games played since the 2010-11 season started.
The Heat could be susceptible to missing the finals, this season or next, considering how difficult making a fourth and possibly fifth trip out of the Eastern Conference is. The Knicks have a tiny window they could crawl through if they get a couple of timely clutch shots from their star.
Carmelo Anthony and New York's three-point shooting expertise will be enough to rise above the competition if there are any signs of weakness from their opponent.