Carmelo Anthony is one of the most polarizing superstars in the NBA today. That’s an inescapable fact, even if it is unwarranted.
Now, I’m no fool. The way things have played out since his arrival in 2011 have certainly left plenty to be desired. Fans have every right to be disgruntled over last year’s premature postseason exit, as well the woefully underperforming 2013-14 Knicks squad.
But does Anthony truly deserve to shoulder the majority of the blame?
New York’s on-court leader also happens to be in the midst of a career year—and one of the greatest seasons in team history regardless of your standing on the enigmatic forward.
From a individual statistical standpoint, anyway.
Knicks All-Time Individual Seasons
The New York Knicks are a storied franchise with a storied history and a history of storied players. Players who’ve produced storied individual seasons, helping to earn them timeless plaques in basketball’s storied Hall of Fame. What Anthony has been able to do in spite of an especially weak supporting cast cannot be overstated.
Should he choose to remain the centerpiece of the Knicks’ organization, he’ll have the legendary Phil Jackson in his corner. What’s more, this season proves his game is as good as it’s ever been.
And what it has been, happens to have been pretty darn good by the way.
Once universally considered a top five player in the game, Anthony’s star has progressively fallen since bursting onto the NBA scene with the Denver Nuggets 11 years ago.
To many, championships are the be-all and end-all when it comes to determining a particular player’s value. NBA superstars are very often judged by the rings on their fingers and Anthony has none.
To many, he’s selfish. A one dimensional volume shooter with a me-first attitude and no desire to play any defense.
To many, he’s just not a winning player—statistical evidence be damned.
When Anthony declared for the 2003 NBA Draft he headlined one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory.
A class comprised of names like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh—all of whom were scooped up within the first five picks alone. A pool of multiple era-defining talents who would indisputably serve to alter the league’s very landscape.
Anthony’s stock was so hot entering the draft that not even high school phenom James’ spot as the consensus number one pick was completely safe come draft time.
Jim Boheim’s star had just polished off his exceptional resume, leading the Syracuse Orangemen to their first NCAA tournament title in the 2002-03 season. A freshman campaign in which he posted a robust 22.4 PPG on 46 percent shooting to go along with 9.8 RPG.
Considering his on-court success, collegiate or otherwise, does that sound like a player incapable of winning to you?
Anthony was on fire. A 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward with seemingly limitless potential.
And today—at the age of 29—the man affectionately known as “Melo” continues to redefine whatever that limit might be. Whether or not you’ve decided to take notice is another discussion entirely.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at the table below for some career perspective.
Melo: Career Splits
Anthony has done nothing but improve since his days in Denver. On close to a yearly basis, in fact. Melo’s offensive prowess is seemingly matched only by his unquestionable desire to perpetually refine his game and doing whatever it takes to help the Knicks win.
Basketball’s reigning scoring champion leads the entire league in minutes per game (38.8) during the 2013-14 season and his per-game averages are up across the board. This year, Anthony has established new career highs in 3P% (.411), FT% (.843), and RPG (8.2)—all while turning the ball over less than ever.
The only category presently trending downwards for Anthony seems to be public perception, ironically.
The Knicks’ recent struggles as a franchise are well documented, and they certainly don’t help Anthony’s reputation, but that could soon change with Jackson now in the fold. Surely, his track record for managing justified-egos like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant must count for something. Both players evolved into the complete players they were, and household names they are today under the tutelage of Jackson.
Why not the consistently advancing game of Anthony’s?
Anthony—the type of player detractors assume is stuck in his long-established ways—has already even proclaimed a willingness to change his style in any way Jackson deems fit. All in the the name of the quest to bring the mecca of basketball their first championship parade since 1973.
Anthony is what he is. What so many fail to realize, is that what he is to New York, is irreplaceable.
Still not buying it? Advanced metrics paint the same picture.
NBA—Advanced Leaders (2011-2014 Seasons)
The Knicks have a choice to make this offseason. A decision which is by no means cut and dry. Perhaps moving on from Anthony is the best course of action from a team-perspective. They could blow it up. Start with a clean slate and—oh, thats right—a slew of missing future draft picks including their 2014 first-rounder.
Instead, perhaps Jackson’s presence—a renowned superstar guru whose league-wide respect may be unparalleled across all of sports—is the first step in the prudent recruitment of complimentary talent to surround Anthony with, thus affording the Knicks their best shot at a title in the near future.
In Anthony, the Knicks possess a superstar in every sense of the term.
A well-oiled offensive machine capable of extraordinary feats he displays time and time again. A consummate professional and fearless competitor on an otherwise talent-starved roster.
A player, according to basketball-reference.com, on pace to become just the fifth player in the Shot Clock Era to average at least 28 points and eight boards while shooting 45 percent from the field and 84 percent from the free-throw line—joining the likes of Michael Jordan, Oscan Robertson, Rick Barry, and Larry Bird.
The type of player every team devoid of James or Kevin Durant would feverishly move mountains to acquire. It’s time to recognize that.
Especially you, Knicks fans.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com
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