If you try arguing that he should be even lower down in the rankings, then I have one prevailing question for you: Did the Knicks magically not appear on your television during any of their televised games last year?
'Melo is a top-10 player in the NBA.
There aren't any ifs, ands or buts that should be attached to that statement.
Just like Kobe Bryant coming in at No. 25, this is a travesty, especially because it's going to be played up so much that some fans who aren't willing to form opinions for themselves will consider the No. 15 ranking the gospel truth.
As B/R's Dan Favale wrote when tearing apart the placement of the Mamba, "rankings are predominately subjective." However, he continued by saying that there are "still acceptable and indefensible ranges, though. Placing Kobe outside the top 20 falls into the latter. So does ranking him outside the top 15. And 10."
This would be another one of those indefensible ranges.
Throughout the vast realm of the Association, there are only a finite number of players who can carry a team past the first round of the playoffs with a subpar supporting cast. And that's exactly what 'Melo did last year, as Tyson Chandler's back injury, Iman Shumpert's lack of a true breakout and Amar'e Stoudemire's knees prevented the rest of the roster from being anything more than subpar.
Anthony averaged 28.8 points during the postseason, literally more than the No. 2 and No. 3 scorers on the team (J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton) combined on a nightly basis.
And he did all that while being the sole focus of the defensive attention. That isn't easy, especially when the action slows down in the postseason and teams are forced to grind out each and every possession.
You know what it reminded me of? Michael Jordan.
No, not the version of Air Jordan that played for the Chicago Bulls—you have to actually win a championship or enter yourself into the G.O.A.T. conversation to earn that lofty comparison—but rather the one who played against the Monstars in Space Jam. The one who scored 44 of his team's 78 points despite being fouled incessantly.
Only top-10 players can claim that. Seriously: Point to a single superstar in the NBA who can say the same thing, and, without fail, he'll be almost universally considered one of the best 10 players in basketball.
Now sure, you can home in on a number of flaws in 'Melo's game.
He isn't a great defender—not by any stretch of the imagination—and the whole "passing" thing is a lost concept for him. In fact, I've heard a few strange rumors that he and Nick Young have started a club in which they spend hours with a dictionary trying to determine the true meaning of an assist.
Yep, those are flaws.
There's no point in denying them, although it is worth noting that Anthony exhibited more of a concerted effort on the less glamorous end of the court throughout the 2012-13 season. He still struggled, and the Knicks allowed 2.3 more points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor, per Basketball-Reference.com, but at least he was better than he's been in the past.
Also working in his favor is his newfound post defense. Now that he can successfully slow down players with their backs to the basket—Synergy Sports (subscription required) reveals that he allowed just 0.64 points per possession in those situations, the No. 16 mark in the NBA—Mike Woodson can tailor the New York defense around that.
And at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter.
Anthony's defense prevents him from truly climbing to the forefront of the MVP discussion and asserting himself as a top-five player, but his offense more than trumps the inefficiencies.
Beyond the sheer strength of his game, there's still one more thing that makes this ranking even more of a travesty:
According to ESPN's NBA Rank, Kyrie Irving > Kobe Bryant & Carmelo Anthony. Excuse me, I have to LOL for days right now.— Ethan Norof (@Mr_Norof) October 18, 2013
Oh, and Stephen Curry falls into that category as well.
Now I'm not denying the greatness of those two young point guards. In fact, I have Curry and Kyrie Irving ranked No. 17 and No. 18, respectively. But think about their styles of play for a second here.
Aren't they both offensive specialists, just like Anthony?
The biggest knocks on Curry and Irving always revolve around defense. They just don't play much of it, kind of like a certain player who was ranked at No. 15. But can you seriously argue that either of the two floor generals makes more of an offensive impact than Anthony?
It gets worse:
I know Melo's game, that's not the point. Explain to me how Blake Griffin & Paul George are higher based on the #NBARank voting criteria.— @KGTrashTalk (@KGTrashTalk) October 18, 2013
Paul George shouldn't be ahead of Anthony, but that's not as big a deal as Blake Griffin drawing a better score than him. The same Blake Griffin who completely disappeared in the playoffs once he ran into Zach Randolph. The same Blake Griffin who doesn't play much defense at all and is a rather limited offensive player.
The same Blake Griffin who doesn't even belong in the top 25. Seriously, I have him ranked at No. 30 in my own personal rankings, while 'Melo comes in at No. 8.
I can't even wrap my head around the logic that went into this. Where do you start? Is there even logic involved?
I'm going to lean toward a definitive "no."
Carmelo Anthony should be...
Anthony remains one of the more polarizing players in basketball, especially after he was the one player who drew a first-place vote in last year's selection of a league MVP, keeping LeBron James from becoming the first unanimous winner in NBA history. His game rubs some people the wrong way, and apparently a lot of them were on the panel that decided this ranking.
But for the Knicks fans out there, fear not.
It won't take long before your team's best player proves that this ranking is just as crazy as it looks during the closing portion of the offseason.