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Will New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony Ever Win a Title?

June 22nd, 2013 at 8:00 AM
By Matt Agne

New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony is an absolute superstar. He's one of the very best scorers on the planet. However, he's been criticized as a non-defender and a non-team player on the offensive end. With that style of play, will Anthony ever be able to win an NBA championship?

'Carmelo Anthony' photo (c) 2013, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Carmelo Anthony is an excellent scorer. With the basketball in his hands he is nearly impossible to stop. However, he very often fails to get his teammates involved and is very inconsistent with his effort on the defensive end of the floor. In order to win it all, the New York Knicks need more out of their superstar. With the Knicks or not, will Anthony ever be able to win a title playing the way he does?

Anthony has the ability to play more as a team player. We've seen it during his time playing for Team USA. He has the skill and ability it's just a matter of knowing and accepting that his teammates are as capable as he is on offense. Right now it's clear he doesn't feel that way with the Knicks roster.

Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe believes despite Anthony's scoring prowess his lack of teammate involvement will keep him from becoming a champion.

Who are the best NBA players who never passed the basketball? Larry Bird and Magic Johnson made teammates better with their passing skills. LeBron James is a great passer. Even Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant gave it up once in a while. Wilt Chamberlain — who averaged 50 points a game in a season — managed to lead the league in assists when he decided he’d done everything else. Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double over a full season. Tiny Archibald led the league in scoring and assists in the same season.

Not Melo. He plays like an only child. He cannot share the ball. He knows he’s better than all of his teammates and he plays like a man intent on doing it all by himself. He either has the basketball, or he’s demanding the basketball. The Knicks’ offense is Melo pounding, and four guys standing around watching.

Shaughnessy may be right. Quite frankly, isolation basketball isn't just something that causes stagnation for your team but it's plain boring to watch. What good is it to have four other teammates on the court if all they're there for is to set picks and rebound?

Many of Anthony's box scores demonstrate exactly how superior his scoring skills are and yet how limited he is mentally. He's not dumb. This isn't even an indictment on his basketball IQ. It's more a realization that Anthony's point of view, while right most of the time, restricts his success.

Anthony led the NBA in scoring this season with an average of 28.7 points per game. However, he also averaged a career low in assists with 2.6 a game. The fact that he's the best scoring option on the floor at all times isn't the problem. It's that he knows it.

'Carmelo Anthony' photo (c) 2013, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Having a player that constantly plays one-on-one is like a disease. That style infects the teammates that don't have the ball. They become watchers, fans with especially good seats who not only don't get the ball but don't expect to. Then whenever they are given the ball they're so cold and already taken out of the game they aren't prepared to contribute.

What ever happened to moving without the ball? Where's the basic pick-and-roll that seemingly works every single time it's used? V-cuts, backdoor cuts, double screens? How about hitting the open man?

In isolation basketball you get none of that. You get four guys watching one guy waste game clock and either shoot a jumper in the last few seconds of the shot clock or drive to the hoop against a defense that's more than ready.

Anthony may be very good at playing isolation basketball but it's unlikely that isolation basketball is very good for the Knicks. In fact, as good of a isolation player as Anthony is he's not terribly efficient.

Forbes reports that Anthony ranked number one in their top ten most overpaid players in 2012-13 season.

Advanced metrics show that in the NBA, scoring is overvalued. Stats compiled by David Berri, economist and author of "Stumbling on Wins," rates players' contributions to wins not only by scoring but shooting percentage, assists, rebounds and turnovers, all measured against opportunities to accumulate those stats (a faster paced game with more shots equals more rebound opportunities, etc.). Here are the ten players whose 2012-13 salaries are most out of whack with win contribution. Note: we omitted injured players like Amare Stoudemire, Derrick Rose and others, but not those who have played most of the season (Dirk Nowitzki) or whose performance has been in decline for awhile anyway (Hedo Turkoglu).
sources: thenbageek.com (David Berri website), ESPN.com (salary data).

Salary: $19.4 million
Wins produced: 0.7
Big time scorer who can really get on a roll at times – just very inefficient. Anthony shoots 44% and gets fewer than three assists per game. Forget LeBron James and Kevin Durant, Anthony doesn’t even measure up to former Knick Zack Randolph, who makes $3 million less playing in Memphis.

That basically means that as well as Anthony scores he doesn't do enough other things on the offensive end in order to justify his price tag. That doesn't even count his lack of defensive dominance. 

Fortunately for Anthony, he plays in an era where all people seem to care about is how many points you've scored. it's that way with the fans, with the players and with a lot of coaches. That's why most players are very good at scoring but lack other fundamental skills.

Anthony just so happens to be better than most at scoring. On top of that, he led the Syracuse Orangemen to a National Championship in his only year of collegiate play and so his expectations have always been high since entering the NBA. It's why a guy who’s never won anything as a pro is so beloved. It's why everyone in New York loves him and why a franchise that's been in a title drought since 1973 has put their championship hopes in his hands.

'Trevor Ariza, Carmelo Anthony' photo (c) 2013, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Now this shouldn't be taken as a bash on Anthony as a person. By all accounts he's a very nice man. He's a good husband and father as far as the public knows and he represents his franchise and the country properly and with pride. In fact, he's even very cooperative with the media which isn't easy when you play for James Dolan.

That being said, he's a selfish player on offense and unreliable on the defensive end. Shaughnessy may have said it best in April.

The true greats win championships. The overrated ball hogs do not.

Moving forward, Anthony is going to have to decide if he just wants to be popular or if he wants to play differently on both ends of the court in order to capture a championship. If he doesn't change the only chance he ever has at winning a title will be to remain healthy enough that when he's an older and less skilled player he'll be able to tag along as the second or third option on a title contender.

Tags: Basketball, Carmelo Anthony, NBA, New York, New York Knicks, Team USA

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