Carmelo Anthony forced his way into the Big Apple in February 2011 ending the so-called “Melo drama.” Ever since then, he has brought hope to the millions of Knicks fans that have been disappointed countless times over the last 40 years. When Phil Jackson came to the Knicks in March, he promised the opportunity to contend in the Eastern Conference and re-signing Melo is the first step in doing so. Anthony signed a five year-$124 million contract to stay in New York until 2019 with an early termination option in the summer of 2018. He agreed to less than the maximum $129 million in order to leave some cap room for the Knicks to sign other free agents. But signing Carmelo to such a massive deal has inevitably limited the Knicks’ options for the remainder of the offseason. So, was signing Melo, in fact, worth the trouble?
There is no simple answer to this question. You can’t go wrong either way. Does he have the potential to bring a Championship to New York? From what we’ve seen thus far, the answer is a resounding “no.” The first indication of this was his inability to coalesce with Amar’e Stoudemire when he came aboard in 2011. STAT was second in the league in scoring behind only Kevin Durant prior to the trade that brought Anthony to Madison Square Garden. It was immediately evident that Melo is best in isolation. Unfortunately, the rest of the team suffers when the ball sticks and ball movement is limited. Anthony’s limited postseason success in his 11 year career is a definite result of his style of play. Yet, the Knicks are steadfast in their belief in Melo and believe he can adapt to a different game plan if given the chance.
We will see if Melo is willing to compromise his personal glory for the success of the team this upcoming season. With a new coach in Derek Fisher and the implementation of the Triangle offense, the Knicks are hoping they will not stagnate as much with the ball. If the game plan is phased in correctly, Melo’s usage rate will inevitably drop. Usage rate calculates the percentage of possessions a player uses while he is in the game and Anthony is fourth in the league in this category with 30.1 this past season. The next Knick on the list was Stoudemire who ranked 93rd in the NBA. The ball is in Carmelo’s hands an overwhelming number of minutes and the Knicks cannot possibly win when that holds true.
New York cannot afford any big name free agents this offseason, so they’ll have to make do with what they have. In their recent trade with Dallas, they dealt Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton and acquired Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington and Shane Larkin and Samuel Dalembert. There are a few important consequences of this trade. First, Jose Calderon fits perfectly within the Knicks’ new triangle offense. A seasoned veteran, Calderon will be able to adjust quickly to the demands of Coach Fisher and help elevate the aforementioned ball movement. Second, Shane Larkin can become the point guard of the future for the Knicks. With Calderon and Fisher’s mentorship in the new offense, Larkin can improve his game immensely. He was supposed to be a focal point of the Mavericks’ plans for the future, but only time will tell how he will fit into his new offense. Third, the Knicks get rid of Ray Felton and Tyson Chandler. Felton was plagued with off the court issues and ineffectiveness in his last season with the team. And Chandler was troubled by injuries, which ended up limiting him to 55 games. Phil Jackson will probably not make too many more acquisitions, as the team’s cash is strapped for this summer.
The Knicks are going into this season not knowing what to expect and will probably have their fair share of issues in the first twenty games. Those hitches are expected with a completely revamped coaching staff and entirely different offensive scheme with hopefully a new and more team-oriented Carmelo Anthony. Still, you cannot lose faith in Phil Jackson and Melo. The team will resolve their initial problems, which will most likely pertain to the the implementation of the Triangle offense. They could make the playoffs but it is certainly not a guarantee. Again, much of this depends on whether or not Anthony can fit within the new offense under Derek Fisher and his staff. Phil Jackson is only hoping the strategy works as effectively as it did when he was coaching the Bulls in the ’90s and Lakers in 2000s.
The Knicks have a bright future ahead with both Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire coming off the books next summer. With those contracts ending, $23 million will free up in cap space next offseason. Jackson and the Knicks will certainly court some big names including Goran Dragic, Roy Hibbert, Marc Gasol, Rajon Rondo, and Kevin Love if he doesn’t get traded and signs a long term deal in between now and then. Even if the Knicks land one of those names with Gasol being their priority, they can contend in the Eastern Conference. Gasol would fit well in the triangle offense and his ability to be the defensive anchor makes the prospective Knicks even more potent. There is a euphoria surrounding the franchise and all Knicks fans should be excited about the direction of the team.