Carmelo Anthony's Ultimate Training Camp Checklist for 2013-14 Season
The reigning scoring champ is one of the best offensive weapons of this era. He uses a devastating mix of footwork, jukes and shooting skills to notch 25 points per game throughout his career.
His 2012-13 campaign saw him register 28.7 points per game and a career-high 24.8 PER, leading the Knickerbockers to a 54-28 record.
'Melo often gets painted as a one-dimensional player who fails in the passing and defensive departments, but he's actually more talented in those areas than people give him credit for.
That being said, there are some specific things he should work on in order to maximize his all-around effectiveness. We put together a checklist of essential tasks.
1. Better Communication and Execution When Defending Screens
Anthony is more than capable as an on-ball defender when he puts full effort into it, but when it comes to working away from the ball, he's more inconsistent and error-prone.
According to 82games.com, New York surrendered more points when 'Melo was on the court (108.3) than when he was sidelined (105.7). A big reason for that was his shaky help defense and deficient screen communication and execution.
In some screen scenarios in the NBA, defenders are able to fight through and stick with their matchups. However, many off-ball screen situations necessitate quick switches. In both cases, communication is required.
A pair of plays against the Indiana Pacers in the 2013 playoffs exposes 'Melo's lack of focus and communication on baseline picks.
It's unacceptable to have such breakdowns early in a playoff game.
Obviously, communication is a two-way street, and it involves trust between both teammates defending a screen play. But Anthony is the unquestioned leader of the Knicks, so it's his responsibility to establish a culture of communication and then exemplify it during every contest.
Instead of being the one leaning on others to help and switch onto a cutting opponent, he needs to be the one doing the helping.
2. Focus and Finish Defensive Possessions
Closely linked to an improvement in communication is Carmelo's need to focus throughout defensive possessions and finish them strong.
All too often, Anthony gives praiseworthy effort during the initial sequence, but when his man keeps working to get open, 'Melo bites the dust.
ESPN New York's Ian Begley talked with an NBA scout about the forward's defensive shortcomings, and the scout noted Anthony's frequent concessions.
At times he just gives up on plays a little bit, as opposed to being locked in all the time. It's not that he can't do it. He can be a really good defensive player. He can defensive rebound, he can keep guys in front, he can pressure the ball. So when you see him [give up], you become a little disappointed because you know he can do that. He can do anything on the basketball floor. He sort of cheats the game a little bit in that regard.
If 'Melo truly wants to compete for a championship and be a high-caliber leader, he must commit to making stops. His effort will not only slow down opposing swingmen, but it will also set the tone for the rest of the Knicks and dictate a focused defensive culture.
Is it too late for him to change his ways? No, not if he wants to upend the best clubs in the Association.
3. Get Ball Deep in Post, Don't Settle for Mid-Range
Anthony will be spending a lot of time on the perimeter in 2013-14, especially if Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani log heavy minutes. However, Mike Woodson will still make sure 'Melo gets a healthy dose of touches in and around the paint.
When post-up or rim-dive opportunities present themselves, Anthony must work harder than ever to get position on the low block in order to complete a close-range attempt. There's a big difference between an up-and-under chance near the rim and a 13-foot turn-around jumper.
'Melo is already pretty good at jockeying for position and finding favorable opportunities, so I'm not highlighting this as an area of weakness. The low-post positioning is just something he should be thinking about and drilling this fall.
Consequently, when post-up scenarios occur, he will be able to torch opponents with low-post footwork, rather than getting pushed out to mid-range and settling for a turn-around.
It's no inside secret that close-range attempts are higher quality, and Anthony's 2012-13 shot chart reflects that.
Carmelo is as effective as anyone at maneuvering for mid-range jumpers, but that doesn't mean he should have the green light to settle for them constantly.
If he's going to play some power forward throughout the season, he might as well get as close to the hoop as possible.
4. Quickly Identify and Pass Out of Double-Teams
As both slasher and a post-up scorer, Anthony would do well to improve his early-recognition passing skills.
Not only will it bring his assist percentage back up (it went from 21.0 to 14.1 in 2012-13, according to Basketball-Reference.com), but it will also make defenses pay for converging with helpers or double-teams.
The key is to know where his options are and keep an eye on them while driving or posting.
'Melo did a great job of this against Orlando in 2012. Watch him make quick, efficient decisions to keep New York one step ahead of the Magic.
Anthony's training camp passing goal is to work with his teammates, especially the new ones, to know exactly where they like to shift while he has the ball.
The sooner he can diagnose help defense and get rid of the ball on target, the better equipped New York will be to burning over-aggressive foes.
It's clear that Carmelo has the wherewithal to be a significantly more complete player. He just needs to find that mental focus and personal commitment to detail on every possession of every game.
Training camp and preseason games are wonderful opportunities to build good habits and establish a sturdy foundation for a playoff run.
For more NBA coverage, follow me on Twitter: @DanielO_BR
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