Winners of three straight, the New York Knicks are greatly benefiting from the unselfish play of their star and leader, Carmelo Anthony.
Following back-to-back huge road wins against Atlanta and Miami, the ‘Bockers have won 18 games of 37, one more win than they amassed after all 82 games a season ago. At 18-19, the Knicks are right in the thick of the East playoff race, despite an overall improvement of the entire conference.
A common misconception regarding the Knicks is the whole “new-look” label.
Yes, the roster has been completely overhauled by the addition of seven free agents and two draft picks. The Knicks starting five has three new faces, the bench mob has five new faces. The defense of Robin Lopez, the scoring prowess of Arron Afflalo, the flare of Kristaps Porzingis, have all attributed to increased success for Derek Fisher’s team.
But there’s another aspect of the Knicks that is “new-look.” It also happens to be the longest tenured Knick on the roster. Star forward Carmelo Anthony has reinvented himself, and as a result, has led the way to reinventing his team.
Just look at the statistics. Anthony is taking 17.9 shots per game, and 18.6 shots per 36 minutes, both of which are his lowest totals since the 2004-05 season, his second year in the NBA.
His career averages in those categories? 19.7 per game, and 19.4 per 36 minutes.
Simply put, he doesn’t need to put up 20-25 shots per game. Why? Because his team is flat-out better than it has been prior.
Via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
“I probably wouldn’t have been at ease because I was the guy that always had to go out there and score 30, score 40 points to even have a chance to win the basketball game. Now, with the makeup of this team, I don’t really have to do that,” said the Knicks superstar.
We always expected his offensive usage to decrease in the triangle offense, a system that puts less emphasis on the star to create shots, excluding the last five seconds of the shot clock. But, With the addition of offensive weapons like Afflalo and Porzingis, paired with the return to health of Jose Calderon, the emphasis of Anthony to score on the offense has gone down even further.
Instead of sulking about a diminished role, which is typically what high octane scorers tend to do, Anthony has embraced his new responsibilities. He is averaging 3.7 assists per game, which is .1 away from a career high, and is averaging 3.9 assists per 36 minutes, which is a career high.
He is also playing less isolation basketball, which is considered to be a scourge of the triangle. Anthony is averaging 8.9 points per game off of assists, which is his highest rate since the 2013-14 season, when this statistic began to be measured. Anthony is moving off the ball, becoming patient offensively, and not forcing the issue.
Melo is also averaging 21.7 points per game, which is his lowest total since his rookie and sophomore years in the league. He’s also led the Knicks in scoring 29 times out of a possible 37, which shows how versatile the Knicks offense can be. His usage rate is at its lowest mark since 2004-05, and his rebounding rate is close to a career high.
Carmelo Anthony looks a completely different player this season. Not only is he more committed to defense, rebounding and passing, but his diminished offensive selfishness and lower tendency to go isolation have benefited the Knicks offense tremendously. There are still times where Anthony needs to heave up shots in order to keep the Knicks competitive, because he still remains one of the leagues elite scorers. But he is proving that the Knicks are a good enough basketball team to win almost half of their games without getting 30 points from Melo each night.
That in itself is a testament to the good work done by player, head coach, and the President of Basketball Operations.
We’ll have to wait and see how long this lasts, however.
If the Knicks need a string of big wins to remain in contention for the playoffs, they may rely on Anthony to lead the way offensively. But until then, Knicks fans can enjoy every aspect of their new look roster, including the new player their superstar has transformed into.