For all the hatred spewing from these so-called sports experts across the country that complain about Carmelo Anthony not being a franchise player, not being a superstar, not being a good fit in New York, not even being as good a signing as Deron Williams, Melo is (point of fact) the NBA’s best crunch time scorer, and he’s proving to be a hell of a signing for the New Look Knicks.
The Knicks are now 6-3 with Carmelo, and four games over .500 for the first time since January 7th, defeating the playoff bound Grizzlies, Hawks, Hornets and Heat in that span. Before the trade, the Knicks most likely would have lost at least half of those games, but with Melo they’ve shown an ability to play defense during stretches, that is extremely rare for a Mike D’Antoni coached team. The jump in defensive intensity for the Knicks is often understated, since most like to question Carmelo’s abilities. The issue with Carmelo Anthony’s defense has never been about ability though but about effort and he’s been showing that effort since donning the blue and orange.
However well he plays defensively it’s always going to end up as a side note to his scoring, and he hasn’t disappointed in that regard either. Melo has scored at least 25 points 7 times and grabbed at least 7 rebounds 4 times during his first nine games with the New York Knicks, despite sharing the stage with fellow superstar Amar’e Stoudemire. Melo’s importance to the team was highlighted in his first appearance as a Knick when he took the game over in the final 1:15, scoring two key baskets that allowed New York to overcome the loss of Stoudemire, who fouled out. It’s something he continued to show off in that game against Memphis, draining the tie breaker with barely any time left on the clock.
It’s those late game heroics that truly make Carmelo a superstar player. With the chance to tie or win the game, in the final 24 seconds, no active player has a higher shooting percentage then Anthony’s 48%. In fact, no player since the 1996-1997 season has had a better shooting percentage in those situations then Carmelo Anthony. Since being drafted in 2003, no player has had more go-ahead/game winning baskets then Melo’s 15. A total that only Kobe Bryant has been able to match during that period.
The signing of Carmelo Anthony has not just provided New York with an upgrade at small forward, a much needed clutch scorer, but it also netted them a true All-Star point guard in Chauncey Billups. Billups, though in the twilight of his career, is an upgrade as a floor general and three point shooter over Raymond Felton. Before his injury, Chauncey was showing not only Knicks fans, but the whole country, why it is that he’s called Mr. Big Shot.
The trade for Carmelo has also positioned the Knicks to potentially land another superstar player since this (reportedly) was all Chris Paul’s idea after all. Dwight Howard, the star center for the Orlando Magic, has also shown interest in pulling a LeBron, as has Deron Williams. So looking past his numbers, past his clutch scoring, past the upgrade at point thanks to Chauncey, the trade for Carmelo Anthony has positioned the Knicks to have a brighter future then they would otherwise have had.
As much fun as former Knicks Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov (losing our young center hurt) and Wilson Chandler were, do we really expect them to be better then Carmelo Anthony & Chauncey Billups? New York was 6-11 over their last 17 games before the trade, staring at a .500 record as recently as Feb 11th and in danger of falling out of the playoff picture altogether. Now they’re just 2.5 games back of Atlanta for the 5th seed. Before the trade every television analyst was writing the Knicks off as a team heading for a first round exit. Since the trade, they’ve been talked of as a potential threat to Miami, Chicago, Orlando and Atlanta. So tell me then. Who exactly pulled off the better deal during the trade deadline?
The Knicks will next face-off against the Dallas Mavericks, whom they lost to by 16 on Feb 2nd. The Knicks will still be without Chauncey Billups, while the Mavericks’ Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler will be dealing with injuries of their own.
Dallas’ superstar Dirk Nowitzki will (I suspect) be unable to guard the explosive Amar’e Stoudemire, though Amar’e will no doubt have a difficult time guarding Dirk and that lethal fadeaway of his. New York clearly has an advantage at small forward, something which Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle will likely try to counter with his zone defense, by trying to smother Melo whenever he gets to ball in isolation.
The Knicks need to not turn the ball over in this one, no more performances like at Memphis, and they must try to blow Dallas out because letting it go down to the last possession is dangerous since Dirk is a heck of a late game shooter himself, around 38% in those situations.
After the Mavericks the Knicks will have two against the reeling Indiana Pacers, who’ve lost 5 in a row. While Indiana was beaten in the first meeting between these two, I always worry about Pacers’ center Roy Hibbert giving New York fits due to their lack of size. So long as Indiana doesn’t go off from 3-point land, I expect the Knicks to win both games. IF however Indiana is feeling it from beyond the arch the result might very well be a knockout for the Pacers, because when a team that likes to stroke the 3 goes off, it’s very difficult to stem the tide and pull out a victory.