Why NY Knicks' Triangle Offense Would Be Perfect for Carmelo Anthony

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Why NY Knicks' Triangle Offense Would Be Perfect for Carmelo Anthony
USA TODAY Sports

Some might see the triangle offense as a detriment to the New York Knicks' chances of keeping Carmelo Anthony around.

With the right sales pitch, the system could prove as crucial to New York's hopes as the bright lights of the city itself.

Anthony is built to dominate in the offense, and not in the high-volume, low-impact manner he has at times in his career.

Team president Phil Jackson and head coach Derek Fisher have the secrets to unlock new layers of Anthony's game, as well as the game of his teammates. The decision-makers also have a mountain of championship bling to help validate their methods:

Anthony has until June 23 to inform the Knicks whether he'll opt out of the final year on his current contract, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein. While league sources told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports that Anthony "is leaning toward leaving in pursuit of immediate championship contention," it's important to remember that nothing is set in stone.

He has long maintained thathis preference is to stay with the Knicks, a franchise he forced his way to at the 2011 trade deadline. The only way he'll stay, though, is if the Knicks can offer him a chance to win:

That might seem like an awfully tough sell, but Anthony seems more than willing to let them make the pitch.

He had what he called a "great meeting" in Los Angeles with Jackson, Fisher and general manager Steve Mills last Friday, via Marc Berman of the New York Post. Anthony added, "I like what Phil is doing," when asked about the hiring of Fisher.

All the Knicks need is Anthony's ear. Once they start talking triangle principles, he might forget about the greener grass—or whiter sand—that could be waiting for him elsewhere.

Some might see major conflicts in fitting Anthony's isolation game with a system so reliant on player and ball movement. Considering what Anthony's style has netted him so far (seven All-Star selections, six All-NBA honors, one scoring title), some fear he might be unable to change.

"I don't know if he can adjust because he's been set in his ways for 11 years in the league," an NBA scout told Fred Kerber of the New York Post. "The triangle is read, motion. If the ball always stops in his hands, it will be impossible to run."

There are a couple different ways to argue against that stance.

For one, Anthony is already on record saying he'll adapt however is needed to give his team the best shot at the title.

"I'm willing to do whatever," Anthony said after Jackson joined the Knicks in March, via ESPN New York's Ian Begley. "As long as it's gonna put me in a position to win, I'm willing to do whatever. I'm not sold or stuck on my play."

Sure, Anthony could just be saying the right things. However, embracing this offense wouldn't send him through as many hoops as people seem to think.

For one, Jackson's triangle offense featured two of the greatest isolation scorers in NBA history: Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls and Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Andy Hayt/Getty Images

Jackson had to convince those players to embrace patterned offense, but the pair still fired at will. Jordan launched 23.4 field-goal attempts per night during his time under Jackson. Bryant took 21.4 per game during his 11 years with the Zen Master.

Anthony has only averaged more than 20 field-goal attempts four times in his 11-year career. He's averaged 20.9 over his three full seasons in New York, a stretch he's largely spent with shot-chucker J.R. Smith as his second-best scorer—a slight downgrade from Jordan's "Robin," Scottie Pippen, or Bryant's bruising running mates, Shaquille O'Neal, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

There's more than enough room in the offense for Anthony to retain his volume. There's also a lot more setup ability coming from his end than he's ever given credit for.

Anthony's 3.1 assists average this season didn't turn many heads, but it wasn't for a lack of trying.

He tossed out 40.7 passes a night—more than MVP Kevin Durant or playmaker Lance Stephenson (38.9 each), via NBA.com. Those feeds led to 6.3 assist opportunities per game, passes that lead to a shot and would count as an assist if made. If his teammates converted those chances at a higher rate, perhaps perceptions would shift on Anthony's game.

He could have the chance to do just that within the offense.

The triangle, while there is an Xs and Os basis, is more philosophy than strategy. The scheme calls for floor spacing, balance and ball movement.

As perhaps suggested by the simple aspect of those pillars, the system is incredibly versatile. It's built more to control positioning as opposed to dictate actual movement.

"It's a system, and not set of plays," Bleacher Report's Dylan Murphy wrote. "There are basic rules and actions, with different plays evolving from there."

It can be manipulated to run almost anything: low-post chances, elbow isolations, pick and rolls, spot-up threes, anything. It's all about reading and reacting to the defense, a process that ideally becomes organic over time.

"The guys who struggled with the triangle were the ones who could not make the reads," a former player who had experience in the system told ESPN Insider Amin Elhassan (subscription required).

Anthony, one of the most complete offensive weapons in the league, has the intelligence to make those reads and the tools to execute the reaction. He needs to develop more trust in his teammates, and they need to prove themselves worthy of receiving it. The potential for him to thrive within the offense is incredible.

Barry Gossage/Getty Images

His possible new coach would agree.

"He is actually the prototypical triangle player because of his versatility," Fisher said of Anthony, via Berman. "We could use him at all five positions on the floor. That's the beauty of the system."

Anthony may never see that beauty up close.

He might seek out a clearer path to contention with the Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls or Dallas Mavericks, all of which Anthony "would consider" in free agency, sources told Stein. Or maybe he'll make his own Miami migration like his buddy LeBron James did four summers ago.

He has options, but sticking around to learn the nuances of a system perfectly suited for his skills has to rank awfully high on his list. Whether the Knicks can find enough other bargaining chips could determine if the triangle offense defines the next chapter of his career, serves as the what-if aspect of his basketball story or becomes a forgotten part of the narrative.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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