Through six games in 2014, the New York Knicks are 5-1 and currently riding a four-game win streak. A lot of this has to do with a renewed focus on both ends of the floor and a sudden willingness to compete and give a maximum effort. However, what’s been noticeable as well is how the team has suddenly found chemistry, particularly on the offensive end where they’re getting solid contributions from several players.
Early in the month, Iman Shumpert exploded on the Texas road trip to the tune of 20 points per game on 69% shooting from downtown. Lately it’s been Amar’e Stoudemire, who in the last two wins has averaged 17.5 points on 69% shooting with 8 rebounds per game. Behind it all, however, has been Carmelo Anthony who is proving just how valuable he is to the Knicks.
For the season, Anthony is averaging 26 points, 45% shooting, 39% from downtown, 8.6 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. If the Knicks’ record wasn’t so poor (despite the recent win streak, they’re still only 14-22), Anthony would be in the MVP conversation. However, in January, while his scoring and rebounding is slightly down (25.3 points, 8 rebounds per game, respectively), Anthony is improving the Knicks in other ways. He’s shooting a scorching 48.3% from three-point range and his assists per game is up 4.2 for the month. He’s also averaging nearly 2 steals per game, indicative of an increase effort on the defensive end.
Of course, lofty per-game stats don’t always translate to increased team performance; however, Anthony’s advanced numbers prove how important he is to the team. According to NBA.com/Stats, Anthony is now one of three Knicks with a positive net rating, meaning the Knicks are beating their opponents when he’s on the floor. Entering this month, ‘Melo still had a negative net rating, and only Iman Shumpert and Kenyon Martin were in the positives. (Jeremy Tyler has a positive net rating, too, but he’s only played two minutes on the season, so with such a small sample size, it’s a misleading number).
Take a look at the Knicks’ numbers with Anthony on and off the floor:
The Knicks’ negative net rating as a whole isn’t surprising; this tends to happen to a team with a record below .500. The Knicks are slowly approaching league average in offensive rating where they currently rank 17th. However, one of the more surprising numbers is how much Anthony helps their defense. ‘Melo has never been known as a defensive player, and certainly never an impact player on the defensive end. Nonetheless, the Knicks are giving up nine less points when Anthony is on the court versus the bench.
Anthony, too, has discussed how he’s tried to take command of this team in the new year. Upon returning from injury to kick off 2014, Anthony spoke to the team about maintaining their composure and fighting back when they fall into holes in the midst of the games. Whereas the Knicks were prone to crumbling when other teams went on a run, thus far in 2014, they’ve showed grit and determination not to let those runs swell into opponent leads. For instance, in the Knicks’ big win against Miami this past Thursday night, when the Heat went on a fourth quarter run to cut the Knicks’ lead down to five, New york didn’t give in. Instead, they responded with a 16-10 run to take an 11-point lead with a minute remaining.
What this all means for Anthony’s future with the Knicks is uncertain, however. It likely means the Knicks aren’t going to explore any more trade options for him, but as far as his free agency is concerned, it likely depends on how the Knicks fair the rest of the season. One thing is certain, though: if Carmelo Anthony keeps up this play and keeps the Knicks winning, New York will be playing further into April than people expected just a few weeks ago.
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