The New York Knicks Are Wasting Carmelo Anthony's Best Season

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The New York Knicks Are Wasting Carmelo Anthony's Best Season
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

"I don't think I'll ever be 100 percent," Carmelo Anthony said less than a year ago, seeming to hint at his athletic decline, per Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

Mr. Anthony, we beg to differ.

Multiple signs indicate that Carmelo Anthony is playing the best basketball of his career. He appears to be at 100 percent of his capacity, which is a shame since the New York Knicks are winning less than 40 percent of their games.

Anyone who has followed the Knicks in the past week or so can see that it would be hard for Anthony to raise his game to a higher level. Over the past four games, he is averaging 41.3 points on 53 percent shooting, including 19-of-36 from downtown.

Anthony's elevated performance goes beyond just his recent outburst, though. Below are a handful of measurements of his offensive production over the course of this season.

Conventional field goal percentage characterizes Anthony's current efforts as consistent with his entire career. But more advanced stats—the new darlings of basketball nerds—that take into account Anthony's increased three-point shooting, show how effective Anthony has been. Per Basketball-Reference.com:

 

  2013-14 Career Average Career Best
Points per game 28.2 25.3 28.9
Field goal percentage .454 .456 .492
True shooting percentage .562 .547 .568
Effective field goal percentage .505 .482 .511

 

Anthony has been more than a scorer on the offensive end of the court, as well. He's on pace to finish with his third most offensive rebounds in a single season, his third most assists and his turnover percentage of 8.7 percent is far below his career average of 11.2.

Anthony was labeled an apathetic defender early in his career, and he's had a difficult time shaking that reputation ever since. A more thorough dissection of his play with the Knicks shows that he has in fact improved his defense. Per Basketball-Reference.com:

 

  2013-14 Career Average Career Best
Defensive rebounds per game 6.4 4.6 6.4
Blocks per game 0.67 0.48 0.67
Steals per game 1.13 1.09 1.27
Defensive Rating 108 107 102

 

He has been more active on the defensive boards than ever before and is getting his hands on errant passes and attempted shots.

His defensive rating, which measures how many points opponents score for every 100 possessions that he has on the court, is slightly worse than his career average. But when you consider the context of the Knicks' poor 2013-14 season, it's apparent that Anthony is carrying his weight on defense. The 2013-14 Knicks are allowing 109.0 points per 100 possessions—the second highest of any team on which Carmelo has played. 

Plus, some measurements show that the leak isn't coming from Anthony's defensive assignments. The two forwards are the least productive positions amongst Knicks opponents this season. Per 82games.com:

 

Position Points per game Player Efficiency Rating
PG 22.7 16.8
SG 21.9 16.5
SF 20.3 15.5
PF 17.7 14.2
C 16.6 16.3

 

Even in an unsuccessful effort to stop Dirk Nowitzki from sinking a game-winning shot on Monday, Anthony played smothering defense against the future Hall-of-Famer:

Anthony is doing all this while averaging more than 39 minutes per game—the most of his career and the most in the league this season. Luckily for the Knicks, his knees have withheld the added workload thus far.

While it has been a joy to watch Anthony in his prime, the bitter reality is that his efforts will most likely be wasted. The Knicks are currently 11th in the Eastern Conference and six games out of the final playoff spot, with only 25 games remaining.

Anthony's success this year may do more damage than good. Teams hoping to snatch him away from New York during his free agency this coming summer are likely impressed by his current season. Moreover, Anthony may be convincing himself that no matter how well he plays, winning in a Knicks jersey is unfeasible.

In fact, he may already have arrived at that conclusion. After another tough loss to the Mavericks on Monday night, Anthony said, “It is tough. You score 40, 44, 44, 44, and all losses. You kind of ask yourself, ‘Is it worth it?’” via Peter Botte of the New York Daily News.

Nevertheless, many expect Anthony to resign with the Knicks this summer. He is in a position to make more money by doing so, and his wife hinted that he would stay in New York, per ESPN New York. Both ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk and the New York Daily News' Frank Isola expect the Knicks to retain him, despite the team's poor season and cloudy future.

Even if Anthony is still in blue and orange by next autumn, we can't be sure that he will maintain such a high level of play. By then, he will be 30, and the descent from basketball superstardom can be swift. Alas, Knicks fans might look back at this season as a squandering of their franchise player's greatest output.

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