COMMENTARY | The New York Knicks are coming off their best season in over a decade, winning the Atlantic Division title, finishing 2nd in the Eastern Conference, and beating the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs before bowing out in the semi-finals to the Indiana Pacers. They were led by their superstar, Carmelo Anthony, the NBA’s regular season scoring champion. However, despite being the NBA’s leading scorer, he was highly questionable during the playoff run, and at times was a liability on the court. Many consider him one of the game’s top players, so why would the Knicks even think of trading the scoring champ?
Carmelo Anthony has always been one of the most dynamic scorers in the league. He has redeveloped himself now at the power forward position after playing much of his career as a small forward. Melo creates a big mismatch for opposing teams trying to guard him with their own power forwards. He can create his own jump shot just as well as anyone in the league. Even though he does not choose to drive as much as he probably should, defenders have to always look out for that from him. Anthony is not afraid to bang bodies and smaller defenders struggle to hold ground against him when he goes inside. This physical play has helped Carmelo become a strong rebounder throughout his playing career. However, scoring and some rebounding are just about where the positives end when talking about the player many considered a top five NBA talent.
When on the floor, there is no doubt Carmelo is an elite talent, but that’s only when talking about his offensive scoring ability. Overall, on offense, Anthony is one of those players who will win you plenty of games, but will also lose you numerous games. Many times in his career, Melo has been called out for playing extremely selfish basketball, taking awful shots over multiple defenders and forcing his shots. Heading into game two of the NBA finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, Carmelo Anthony still led in the playoffs for shots attempted, while playing as many as eight more games than some players. Carmelo shot a lowly 40% from the field this postseason, while only hitting 45 percent of his shots on the season. He beat out Kevin Durant for the scoring title by .7 PPG, but averaged five more shot attempts a game than Durant. After all of these problems Melo has encountered, it doesn’t even begin to shine light on his defensive issues. Understand that not every superstar can do everything, but the lack of defense and more importantly, the lack of willingness to attempt to play defense has frustrated many of the Knicks faithful. Melo has shown that he is not an effective defender by any stretch of the imagination, while struggling to perform against bigger power forwards, and just too slow for quicker forwards. So this begins to beg the question of what kind of team you can build around Carmelo.
Playing in the mecca of basketball, Madison Square Garden, the Knicks are expected to win. We have seen some awful years, but the team is on the rise. Carmelo has no doubt been a huge reason for this success, but can he deliver the elusive championship all Knicks fans are eager to see? The simple answer is, “no” he cannot. The Knicks have a Defensive Player of the Year in Tyson Chandler, who many consider the perfect piece to compliment Carmelo Anthony. He doesn’t need many touches on offense, and he picks up serious slack for Melo’s lack of defense. He has been known for being an excellent teammate, yet even he showed his frustration with the offense this year, which everyone can rightfully assume was directed at Carmelo. Carmelo has always been on successful teams through his 10 years, but has only made it out of the 2nd round twice. In the regular season there is no doubt he is a superstar and his scoring covers for his lack of defense, but the playoffs are a much different style of basketball, and Melo struggles with the change. In New York, finishing 2nd and getting knocked out of the postseason early is not a trend we like to see, and in my opinion, that is not going to change with Carmelo leading the way.
The final piece to this is Melo’s trade value. If the Knicks were to in fact look at trading him, the biggest obstacle would be getting a suitor that could convince him to either agree to sign an extension with, or at least accept his player option for the 2014-2015 season. We saw this drama scene when the Denver Nuggets traded him two years ago, and we would most likely see it again. What would be a good enough return for New York? Ideally, a team would convince Carmelo to play for them, and in return the Knicks get a player such as a Kevin Love, who has one more year than Melo’s contract, and at this point doesn’t look like he will return to Minnesota when that deal expires. Lamarcus Aldridge would be another solid option given the latest rumors that he wants out of Portland. If the Knicks were able to swap for one of these players, with the cap room they have in the summer of 2015, they would be on the right track to building a championship team. One that Carmelo Anthony will not be able to provide, and one that any Knick fan continues to dream about.