Breaking Down How NY Knicks Can Get Carmelo Anthony Rolling

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistNovember 6, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 03: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks stands on court during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on November 3, 2013 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

So the New York Knicks announced that Tyson Chandler will miss up to six weeks, now what? Carmelo Anthony needs to step up.

To get rolling, he'll need a little help overcoming his early season jitters.

"That's where I'm second-guessing myself," Anthony said, per ESPN New York's Ohm Youngmisuk. "And I'm second-guessing my shot, and should I take this or should I pass this. I got to get out of that mentality quick."

You bet all of those rebounds Andrea Bargnani won't grab he does. Without Chandler, the Knicks are a sacrificial lamb on the defensive end. Opponents are scoring 13.4 points per 100 possessions more on New York when Chandler is off the floor, according to NBA.com (subscription required).

When he's on the floor, the Knicks have bordered on dominant. They're holding opposing offenses to 92.2 points per 100 possessions, the current equivalent of the second-best mark in the NBA.

For at least six weeks, the Knicks must live and die on offense, where they have struggled. Their offense presently ranks 23rd in efficiency, which is no surprise considering how pallid Anthony has been on that side of the floor.

Jump shots aren't falling, layups are near impossible to come by and passes are being picked off. 'Melo's shooting 37.1 percent overall and 30 percent from deep, averaging just 20.4 points per game.

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Anthony's 2013-14 shot chart.
Anthony's 2013-14 shot chart.

Though it almost goes without saying, the Knicks need his play to pick up. They need him to reprise his role as their offensive savior.

With no Chandler, a marginalized Amar'e Stoudemire and a roster laden with questions, the Knicks cannot afford for Anthony to be anything other than the answer. 

Hit Their Shots For Starters

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 05:  Raymond Felton #2,Iman Shumpert #21 and Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks wait as the officials review a call in the second half against the Charlotte Bobcats at Madison Square Garden on November 5, 2013 in New York Ci
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Seems simple enough, because it is.

"Maybe I'm a little bit passive out there, trying to do things that's out of the norm and trying to make people better at the wrong times," Anthony explained heading into New York's loss against the Charlotte Bobcats, per Youngmisuk.

That may be part of it, but you can't fault a denoted ball-stopper for trying to involve his teammates more. And to Anthony's credit, that's just what he's done.

Per NBA.com's statistical databases, 'Melo is averaging 8.8 assist opportunities, which are defined as "passes by a player to a teammate in which the teammate attempts a shot, and if made, would be an assist." Through four games, Anthony is dishing out just 2.6 dimes a night, meaning a mere 29.5 percent of his assist opportunities are resulting in an actual assist.

While unfortunate, this isn't so much an indictment of 'Melo's effort or passing acumen as it his teammates' shot selection and ensuing accuracy. Compared to Kevin Durant, a forward lauded for his playmaking abilities, 'Melo's numbers here are actually pretty good.

Durant is currently seeing 6.7 assists opportunities and handing out one per night, a 14.9 percent success rate. So the effort, on 'Melo's part, is there. But his teammates' efficiency is almost nonexistent.

We get on 'Melo for hitting just 39.1 percent of his two-point attempts, as we should. Those are unsightly numbers, even for someone who shoots as frequently as he does. Anthony is most effective, though, when players around him are hitting shots. It sets up more one-on-one opportunities and increases the value of those passes he's trying to make. 

Only two players on the Knicks are attempting more than eight shots a night while also drilling at least 45 percent of them (Metta World Peace and Iman Shumpert). And only two players on the team are shooting better than 33.3 percent from deep (Pablo Prigioni and World Peace).

The best way for the Knicks to help 'Melo is to first help themselves. Make the shots you're taking, otherwise Anthony's elevated cognizance will go to waste. And New York's season won't be far behind.

It's a SMALL-BALL Kind of World After All

Nov 5, 2013; New York, NY, USA;  New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) works against Charlotte Bobcats small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Putting 'Melo in a position to succeed starts with putting him where he does his most damage—at power forward.

Coach Mike Woodson has remained strangely loyal to running with bigger lineups this season, even though small-ball shepherded the team towards a 54-win season in 2012-13. The one time—opening night—Woodson has elected to start the always-effective dual-point guard lineup, the Knicks won. Since then, the team has started Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Anthony, Andrea Bargnani and Tyson Chandler and gone 0-3.

"I've just gotta be patient, see how this plays out, and then make a firm decision about which way I'm gonna go with it," Woodson said before the Knicks hosted the Bobcats, per The Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring.

There shouldn't be a decision. This misplaced obsession with traditional lineups has cost the Knicks three games already. I still wonder if the series against the Indiana Pacers ends differently if Woodson doesn't enter it as stubborn.

Even with Chandler on the floor, the conventional big-man alignment wasn't working. On average, the Knicks have been outscored by 29.2 points per 100 possessions when Bargs, Chandler and 'Melo share the floor together, per NBA.com. It's simply not working, and Woodson cannot will success into existence. He has to play the odds.

And odds are, 'Melo will steamroll the opposition as a stretch 4. That's exactly what he did last season, when he posted a career-high PER (24.8), shot a career-best 37.9 percent from deep and amassed a personal-best 9.5 win shares.

Look at how his production in key categories has varied from 2011-12 when he was strictly a small forward, to 2012-13 when he was predominantly used as a power forward, to now, when he's moving back and forth:

Then look at how the Knicks' offense has fared with him on the floor since 2011-12:

The verdict is in: New York is better with 'Melo as the starting power forward and it's not even close. Time for Woodson to abandon his time-honored ideals and go with what's best for 'Melo.

Time for him to roll with what works.

More Pick-and-Rolls

Mar 11, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler (6) sets the screen for small forward Carmelo Anthony (7)  against the Golden State Warriors during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

'Melo thrives within pick-and-rolls and the Knicks aren't using that to their advantage nearly enough.

"I want to continue doing that and figuring that part out, but that comes along with the territory and the game situation," Anthony told ESPN New York (via ProBasketballTalk's Kurt Helin) of using more pick-and-rolls this season in August. "It's all about just trying to tighten up those screws that you already have, and just having fun with it."

Plenty of fun was had for 'Melo in those situations. According to Synergy Sports (subscription required) his 1.07 points per possession as the ball-handler in pick-and-rolls ranked third in the league, and his 1.33 as the roll man were fifth.

Pick-and-rolls designed for 'Melo weren't used nearly enough last season though, a trend that's continuing today. Of the 114 offensive possessions he's had this season, one has come as a roll man. And guess what? He scored. 

With Chandler out, the Knicks need to see even more of 'Melo in pick-and-rolls. Done properly, they give him open looks he simply isn't used to, but most definitely needs.

Take his lone roll-man score of the season against Charlotte. 'Melo sets the screen for Prig:

Both Jeffrey Taylor and Kemba Walker commit to the ball-handler, because 1) neither are particularly deft defenders and 2) a player's first instinct is to go after the ball. Much like 'Melo's first instinct is to shoot, defenders are drawn towards the rock.

Recognizing that neither Taylor nor Walker are headed toward 'Melo, Prig slings a pass to the weak-side:

Notice how far away either defender is when the ball leaves Prig's hands. 

Now, look at how far away Taylor is when 'Melo inevitably catches it:

Taylor is quick and athletic, but no one's fast enough to erase that gap. By the time he gets a hand in Anthony's face, the ball already began its descent into the hoop:

Open looks like those come few are far between for Anthony, who is often tasked with creating his own offense. Hands are constantly in his face and his view of the basket clouded by one, two or more defenders.

See for yourself here:

And here:

Here, too:

Finally, here:

Very few players can match 'Melo's speed upon release. He doesn't need much space to get a shot off and that, in part, is why he's such a valuable scorer.

But the Knicks and 'Melo are doing themselves a great disservice by not using him where he was most effective last season. Clearer looks at the basket will allow his field-goal percentage to climb and help revive New York's presently anemic offense. 

Down Chandler, and with a supporting cast largely pieced together with medical tape, the Knicks need Anthony to be Anthony. What has transpired thus far won't work. They need to get him going and never look back.

Otherwise, they'll be looking back wondering where it all went wrong.

*All stats in this article were obtained from Basketball-Reference, NBA.com and Synergy Sports unless otherwise attributed and are accurate as of November 6, 2013.


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