With less than two weeks to go until the start of NBA free agency, and just three days until Carmelo Anthony has to inform the New York Knicks about whether or not he will opt-out of his current contract, we are on the verge of a major fork in the road moment for the New York Knicks Franchise. Regardless of what road Carmelo decides to go down there will be major implications for the residents of 4 Pennsylvania Plaza. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what it would really mean if Carmelo Anthony decides to leave New York for greener pastures, or if he decides to tie his future to James Dolan and his jazz flute.
What will happen if Carmelo stays in New York?
While some people have suggested that the Knicks may be better off if Carmelo Anthony walks, this is not an opinion I generally agree with. Are there holes in Carmelo’s game? You betcha. Is Carmelo Anthony one of the top scoring threats in the NBA? Yes, sir. Have Carmelo Anthony’s shortcomings been wildly exaggerated by the culture of constant outrage that Twitter and the 24-hour NBA news cycle have helped create? Yes again.
The most common criticisms of Melo’s game come in two forms: He’s either a ball hog, or he doesn’t play defense. In regards to Melo’s defense I’ll urge you to keep one thing in mind – how many current NBA players are truly great two-way threats? The answer: very, very few.
With the likes of Stephen Curry, James Harden, Dirk Nowitski, Damian Lillard, and Kyrie Irving amongst slew of others being far worse defenders than Carmelo, I think it’s time people scale back the Melo hate and understand that Lebron James’ do not grow on trees. Carmelo Anthony IS a great player, and if the Knicks can keep him on the roster, they will.
While location will always make the New York Knicks a desirable landing spot for most free agents, having Carmelo Anthony in the fold come next summer will go a long way in helping the Knicks to recruit other big ticket free agents once the Chandler, Stoudemire, and Bargnani contracts come off the books. Another thing that I hope Phil and Co. are trying to relay to Anthony is the fact that despite popular opinion, the Knicks are only a year removed from winning 54 games, and may not be as terrible as you think. This is not to suggest that the current Knicks core can compete for an NBA title next season, because they cannot, and any notion that they can will only lead you to months of frustration, several broken T.V. remotes, and a possible ulcer. But the fact remains that after a putrid start to the 2013-2014 campaign the Knicks finished off the season by going 16-6, proving that they were much better than their 37 wins during the season would indicate. Now this may not mean much to Carmelo, who is looking to elevate his legacy by putting himself in a position to win rings. But the idea that the Knicks are going to perform as poorly as they did last season seems far-fetched to me. Even without any major changes to the roster I expect to see the current Knicks play around .500 ball next season.
We also should not discount how important a new voice in the locker room can be. Just look to what Jeff Hornacek did last year in Phoenix, or what Marc Jackson did in Golden State during his first season on the bench. Playing behind a coach that the players believe in means more than you would think, and whether you loved him or hated him the message former Knicks head coach Mike Woodson was preaching was being tuned out by a lot of players in the Knicks locker room.
At the end of the day the Knicks are still likely in for a lack-luster season with or without Carmelo, however having Melo on the roster will go a long way in making the Knicks path to success a shorter one.